April 6, 2012

3 Cheeses

I already told you about the Indian Food I made last weekend, but my real kitchen triumph were the cheeses.  I made a paneer cheese on Thursday, which I used in the Saag Paneer. The directions here are good and, if I remember correctly, they are the directions that I used. I had to use about four times more lemon juice than the recipe called for to get a curdle.  My paneer turned out more grainy and crumbly than I expected.  Either I used too much weight to weigh it down (a large stack of dinner plates and a dutch oven) or I weighted it for too long. I still used it and it was good in the Saag Paneer.

I had planned to make Ricki Carroll's 30 Minute Mozzarella with Grace on Sunday, but she had no interest in it, so I did it myself. It was probably better that I did it myself, because while the end result is pretty amazing, the procedure is mostly waiting and checking the temperature of a pot of milk.  (I think I need one of those cool thermometers that beeps when it gets to a preset temperature.)  I found both of these posts helpful. Though both write-ups gave me the impression that I would be stretching cheese for a while, I wasn't.  The bulk of the recipe was just waiting on the milk, first adding lemon juice (I googled it and found out that 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice is equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon citrc acid), then adding rennet ($8 at S&S for a small tube).  Then the milk coagulates and you pile the solids in a strainer, add salt, and the work is almost done.  A little reheating and folding, and, incredibly, it has turned into mozzarella cheese.

I ate some right then, but practiced restraint and saved the rest for the family.  We ate it on a pizza (so good), on french bread pizza, and we served the last of it to some friends as a try-this...-isn't-it-the-coolest-thing?!-I-am-da-bomb-hippie-mom kind of thing.

Now a gallon of milk (picture that, a gallon) makes about a pound of mozzarella cheese (picture that), so there is quite a bit of whey left over.  It was late, but I'd read that you could make ricotta cheese from leftover whey, so I googled it, found this recipe at Cultures For Health and I did it, leaving it to drain in the fridge overnight.  The cold made it drain slowly, so I removed it from the fridge in the morning and it finished up at room temperature for a half an hour.  At first it resembled a failed attempt at yogurt, but the finished product was nothing like runny yogurt.  The curd is so small, I thought it would all drain through the kitchen towel I was using, but it didn't and I was left with about 8 ounces of fresh, creamy ricotta. Supermarket ricotta is great in lasagna, but it is hardly inspirational.  This was different, creamy and homemade.  I had to find some way to use it quickly.  We ate some with strawberries, and most of the rest of it went on our pizzas with a bottled pizza sauce and some herbs from the garden (sage, thyme and garlic chives).  It was delicious.

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