Better Late than Never

Hmmm. I have a sinking feeling that I may have used this post title before. I am the first to admit that I’m in the running for World’s Worst Procrastinator, but today’s post is a victory – just because I don’t get to something right away doesn’t mean that I can’t close the deal. Well…. sometimes, anyway.

But enough of that. Here is the Big News: I am a cheesemaker! I have made cheese!

First, though, a little something that you may not believe…

Compost Heap Jelly (!!)

Seriously! It’s about time, wouldn’t you say?

In making apple-y things (a future post, I promise), I had a big bowl full of cores and peels.

What to do, what to do? Compost Heap Jelly, of course!

I scared up two ageing lemons that were hanging out on the counter, as well as some ancient dried orange peel I had in the spice drawer (once part of a mulled spice endeavor that did not end well). I zested the lemons and put those in the pot, as well as some generous shakes from the orange peel bottle. Then I juiced the lemons and set that aside for later.

Covering everything with water, I let it simmer gently for about an hour. Somewhere I’d read that if you boil too hard, you’ll break down the natural pectin in the apple. So, I tried to keep things pretty mellow in the pot. The steam smelled wonderful – fruity, with just a hint of bright lemon and a tiny note of low orange.

After letting that simmer, it was time to strain the juice for jelly. After last year’s decidedly make-shift methods of straining, I bought a ‘real’ jelly bag earlier this spring. When I took it out of the box, however, I realized it was t-i-n-y. So I decided to strain the pulp twice because there was so much volume; once through a mesh-net vegetable bag to get juice – let that one drip overnight.

Then I put that juice through the jelly bag to catch the sediment –  I let that one go for just over an hour.

Mmmm. Smelled delicious.

Next I added a full box-worth of pectin, but since I was using only half the sugar recommended in the no-pectin original recipe, I used half ‘low-sugar’ pectin and half regular pectin.

The flavor is wonderful. Very delicate and not too sweet. You can definitely taste the sweet-tart apples and just a hint of citrus. Like unsweetened apple cider mixed with marmalade.

CHEESE!

Holy cow the cheese kit things have been sitting in my fridge for nearly a year.

Tom and I wanted to make our favorite Prenzlow Pizza, and I really wanted to make fresh mozzarella for it.

A few days ago I bought a quart of beautiful, non-homogenized milk from PCC. I was SO ready to make cheese! Unfortunately, and more typical than I want to admit, when I sat down to refresh my memory on Ricki’s cheese-making methods, I realized I had: 1) 3/4 gallon too little milk, and 2) ultra-pasturized milk, which won’t form curd.

Great.

Therefore, all four Prenzlows piled into the 4Runner and drove back to PCC to get the right type of milk, and enough of it:

I ♥ Smith Brothers. I remember driving past their dairy in the Kent Valley when I was little. Local = Awesome.

Back home I had 1 gallon of awesome milk ready to become CHEESE.

I had the unusual forethought to weigh the milk before I got started. Nine pounds exactly. the recipe said that the yield would be ¾- to 1-lb of cheese. I wondered where the 8 pounds went during the process. (Note – foreshadowing)

I started out slowly heating the milk, to which I’d added citric acid (if I remember correctly – and I didn’t refresh my memory before getting started yesterday – this is to accelerate the souring process for sweet milk). The milk became very foamy on the surface at the start.

It seemed like I was stirring forever while the milk heated, but things progressed just as they should.

After the milk reached 90°, I added the rennet. I wasn’t sure if the rennet would still work after sitting in my fridge for a year. Thankfully, it did! After the prescribed amount of time, the curd had begun to form and was as solid as a very soft custard. The whey was mostly clear.

I let it percolate for a few more minutes to get a better ‘set’. Then I cut the curd.

More heat, and then a few minutes later, and voila! Recognizable cheese curds!

And a monster gallon of whey. There’s the 8 pounds I was wondering about…

In the method I was using, these get heated in the microwave a few times to help the whey continue to separate. Eventually you pull the mozzarella like taffy and end up with these lovelies:

After you form them, you drop them into ice water to immediately halt the cooking. Ohhhhh, I can’t convey to you how much I simply wanted to stuff one of these in my mouth.

And then there were four.

The texture was perfect – soft and not stringy. The flavor was good – very fresh, just a tiny hint of salt, and very creamy tasting. I think on the next batch I will use just a bit more salt and an additive mentioned in the book to strengthen the flavor.

We had to make pizza before we ate all that fresh cheese straight off the plate. Oh my, but my cheese performed perfectly! We cut slices and laid them on the top of the pizza; we let the heat of the oven be responsible for melting and distributing the gooey goodness.

Perfect!

I will definitely make mozzarella again, it was so easy. I wish I didn’t let myself get so worked up about how difficult things might be. Making cheese is EASY, and I can’t wait to make more and to try different types.

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7 thoughts on “Better Late than Never

  1. Katie Ann says:

    You made CHEESE!!! And it looks AWESOME!!! 😀

    I’m so inspired. About how long did the whole process take, do you think?

    • Shawn says:

      The recipe is “30-minute Mozzarella”, so that gives you a clue! I think it took me a little longer, about 45 minutes, but that’s because I was (intentionally) using my super-low functioning stove burner so I had total control over the heating process. Next time I’ll use my other burners that heat more quickly and I’m sure it will shave off a lot of time.

      Seriously – this was crazy easy, and it was fun, and it was GOOD.

  2. MOM says:

    Wow! My daughter has long surpassed me in the canning/cooking/cheesemaking arena. I haven’t even ever tried to make cheese. My daughter has surpassed me in the boat fixtures sewing. My daughter has surpassed me in the knitting/spinning her own yarn arena. I’m beginning to think I’ll have to start learning from my daughter!

    • Shawn says:

      I hope you appreciate how hard I am working to hold my tongue! 🙂 But I seriously doubt I will ever have the chops to sew a suit or a wedding dress – you will always have me beat there!

  3. Michelle says:

    Ok now that I’m a married woman, I need lessons Aunt Shawn! Your fruit jellies look amazing and how fun to make cheese! I’m having a blast learning to cook already so all this would be so fun to learn… maybe you can teach me some day! 🙂

    • Shawn says:

      Hi Michelle!! Seriously – that would be so much fun! You invite me to OKC some time and we will cook up a storm! Love to you and Jake!

  4. Jean says:

    My dear Shawn!!!

    YOU ARE AMAZING!!! Your pictures and descriptions make what you are doing sound so fun!

    I am a big fan!!!

    xoxoxo
    Jean

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