Last Night’s Class

A huge thank you to all the ladies who attended my Italian cheese making class last night at the wonderful Cooking Spotlight. Such a great group of people, including the fabulous host Vicky. Stay tuned for a Greek cheese class in April!

Getting ready for class! Part of my mobile cheese teaching.

A Big Thank You to Berks Homebrew!

Thanks so much to the Berks Homebrew Club for letting me do a demo February 11th! I had a wonderful time talking about beer and cheese with everyone! If anyone wants to check them out, here’s there site: www.berkshomebrew.org/

So much milk! I love the chance to use so many gallons of milk. This went into cheese curds for sampling and ricotta for the demo.

So much milk! I love the chance to use so many gallons of milk. This went into cheese curds for sampling and ricotta for the demo.

Quick Fix – Milk too Hot

If, while making cheese, you accidentally heat the milk too high there’s a quick fix – add a few ice cubes. Only add a couple cubes at a time, and keep checking the temp as you go. If you add them too quickly you might drop the temperature too much. Don’t worry about the extra water the ice cubes are adding – this small volume will simply be expelled with the whey. Only do this if the milk is too warm by a reasonable amount – this isn’t a good solution if, for example, you went 60F over your mark. For a large temperature discrepancy you’re better just letting it cool or using a cool water bath.

Pickled Garlic

Pickled garlic is a great intro to lacto-fermentation – it’s easy, tasty, versatile, and hard to mess up. Garlic has natural anti-microbial properties which inhibit the growth of mold and other undesirables, helping to ensure a successful batch. That’s not to say mold won’t/can’t grow on it, or that you don’t need to be watchful, but in my experience it’s less fickle than more delicate vegetables like cucumbers. Like all lacto-ferments, it’s important to use a proper brine to prevent dangerous microbial growth.

My local grocery store sells clearance vegetables, so I buy up any garlic that looks decent and make a batch before it starts sprouting. I can usually get 5+ heads for less than a $1 – such a bargain! This is also a great way to preserve home grown garlic, particularly varieties that don’t store well long term. If you’re fermenting with any regularity, keep a batch of brine in your fridge so you’ll be ready whenever the mood or sale strikes. I ferment my veggies wildly (i.e. don’t add a starter culture), but if you’re nervous about wild fermentation you can always use a vegetable starting culture. Veggie cultures can be purchased from many sites including Cultures for Health.

garlic

The leftover brine is infused with a lot of garlic flavor and pro-biotics so don’t chuck it! I like to add it to soups and homemade bread to give them a garlicky kick. Just remember there is salt in the brine, so reduce or eliminate any salt in your recipe. I haven’t tried this yet, but I think I’ll ferment a batch of other veggies in the garlic brine to add even more flavor. In this recipe I did not add a source of tannin (lack tea, grape leaves, etc.) to ensure crispness. Garlic is a lot more fibrous than other frequently fermented veggies, so I didn’t think it would much of a problem, and instead might make cooking with it easier.

Here’s an outline for making pickled garlic. You can do any volume you want as long as the you don’t change the brine ratio. Use kosher or sea salt, just not table salt for the brine. You can also add other herbs or spices to the jar. The garlic will absorb liquid and expand so don’t over pack your jar. If possible, add a weight on top of the garlic to keep it submerged. If garlic is poking up mold will grow on it! If this happens you can either chuck the offensive pieces (do this if they’ve become mushy!), or, if you caught quick it enough, you can just wipe it off and re-submerge it. I recommend using glass jars with screw on lids because they do not retain flavors and are easy to sterilize. For even better, more consistent results invest in, or make, a modified lid with an airlock. The speed of fermentation depends on several factors such as heat, present cultures, etc., so it’s hard to give an exact timeline. 

  • Several heads of garlic peeled and trimmed.
  • Enough brine made at a ratio of 1 qt water/2 table. salt to cover garlic.
  • Sterilized jars and lids.
  1. Pack garlic in jars and fill with brine. Ideally you want the garlic to be covered by 1-2 inches of brine. Do not overfill – leave 1-2 inches of head room for the garlic to expend and bubbles to pop.
  2. Loosely screw on lids. As fermentation happens gas is created and needs somewhere to go, so don’t screw them on tightly or you risk an explosion. Store in a dark cool place like a cupboard.
  3. After several day you should start to see bubbles forming – that means it’s working! Let ferment for 2-3 weeks, checking periodically.
  4. Store your refrigerator. That’s it! It keeps a long time, but you’ll most probably use it up pretty quickly.

garlic2

Quick Tip – How to Plug a Drain

I have a beautiful, but old, enameled cast iron sink. I love it, but it can’t hold water. No matter how much I fiddle with with the stoppers there is always a slow leak that drains the sink in a few hours. If you’re using your sink as a hot/cold water bath or trying to soak equipment, a leaky drain is a death knell for productivity. I’m sure I’m not alone in this problem so here’s a an fix.

  • Cut a small piece of cling wrap – big enough enough to cover the drain with a little extra. If you cut the piece too large (like in my picture) it will float and you might accidentally snag it while working which will break the seal and start to drain the sink.
  • Place it squarely over the drain.
  •  Put the stopper in and fill the sink. No more slow leak!

 

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Switching to Animal Rennet

I need to place a new culture order soon, including rennet. While I haven’t been disappointed with my double strength vegetable rennet, I feel it’s a little lacking. It just doesn’t seem to coagulant quite as efficiently as I would like, and I think the animal rennet might do a better job. Also, it will be an interesting comparison/experience for the cheese nerd in me.

I’ve been using vegetable rennet out of deference to any vegetarians in my classes. But, so far no one has said they were actually vegetarian or asked about making 100% vegetarian cheese, so I might have imagined a problem where there wasn’t one. Of course, in my classes I explain where rennet originated from and that most cheese is not technically vegetarian (I say technically because it’s such a small amount.) Also, I use lipase, which has no vegetarian alternative, in a number of my cheeses so, to some extent, it’s an unavoidable problem.

If my theory proves correct, I’ll of course make a post about it. If you have any personal experiences or opinions about the difference please share in the comments!

Veal Rennet at Get Culture.

Fool Proof Home Made Ricotta at a Glance

 

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• 1 Gallon whole raw or pasteurized milk
• ¼ White vinegar
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• Salt to taste (optional)

1. In a 6qt+ non-reactive pot slowly bring 1 gallon whole milk to between 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. This should take 15 minutes or more.
2. Add ¼ cup white vinegar.  Stir once and let stand for 10 minutes. You should see the curds start separating from the whey. Check periodically. If the curds are not separating enough add 1 tablespoon of vinegar at time until whey is not milky looking.
3. While you’re waiting, line a colander with damp cheesecloth (depending on the weave you may need to fold it a few times) and set colander over a pot or in a sanitized sink.
4. Drain ricotta into colander. Don’t scrape the bottom! It will get scorched bits in your beautiful ricotta. Let drain briefly – the longer it drains the thicker and drier it will be.
5. Transfer to container and whisk in baking soda.
6. Add salt if desired, then refrigerate.

Washing Cheese Cloths

I plan on doing a more in-depth look at cheese cloths (types, where to buy, etc.) in the future, but since I often get asked “how do I clean them” in my classes, I thought I’d post on the topic now.

I only buy hemmed flour sacking. If your cloths are not hemmed, the flowing method may destroy them. However, it is THE BEST way to get them truly clean and also the least labor intensive. Which, long story short is why I recommend flour sacking.

  1. In cold water rinse all the cheese bits and gunk off (or at least as much as you possibly can.)
  2. If you are not washing them immediately, store them in a pot with a generous squirt of dish soap, a generous splash of bleach and top with water until cloths are covered. If you do not wash them with in 3-ish days they will get funky!
  3. Wash them in your washing machine. That’s right! Strictly speaking a metal drum is better, but for the home cheese maker plastic is fine.
    1. Put the size setting on 1 larger than your load. Usually cloths only equal a small load but to wash them set it on medium so there’s plenty of water and agitation to thoroughly clean them.
    2. Use the hottest water setting.
    3. Add a small amount of dye and perfume free detergent.
    4. Add 1 cup of bleach.
    5. If your machine has an extra rinse cycle it’s good to use, or, particularity  if your clothes were fairly dirty, manually run the rinse+spin cycle again. This helps ensure your cloths and machine are totally clean. Depending on the load I don’t always do this as it’s no very eco-friendly.
  4. Dry the cloths in the dryer, without fabric softener, on the highest setting until dry.
  5. Fold and store clean cloths in a clean covered container.

Home Cheese Making

Private classes & parties available.

For tips, recipes, and class updates visit http://www.fermenton.wordpress.com

Goggle Works: Reading, PA                                   www.goggleworks.org

Greek Yogurt & Cheese           2 Days: Tuesdays, April 29 & May 6, 6-9pm

All About Chevre                                   1 Day: Monday, May 5, 6-9pm

The Cheese Maker’s Pantry: Cultured Sour Cream   June 11, 6-9pm

Cheeses of Italy                            2 Days:  Tuesdays May 20 & 27, 6-9pm

More details and registration with their spring/summer catalog.

Cooking Spotlight: Phoenixville, PA                   www.cookingspotlight.com

Art of Cheese Making — Italian Style         February 25– 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Learn to make two simple and delicious Italian cheeses in your own kitchen using mostly supplies you already own! We will cover how to make a heavenly ricotta and a decadent mascarpone, then show you how to use them in two different dishes. Register early as space is limited. (Online enrolment on their site.)

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