Our First Cheese Class!
What a great class with local Artisan Cheese Maker, Valerie Trojan! We covered the most basic of cheeses and moved to some tasty, aged soft cheeses like brie, learning some great tips and techniques along the way!
The Easiest Cheese of All!
We started with a brief intro to cheese making and an incredibly easy start of simply putting fresh, raw milk (this one cannot be done with pasteurized milk) on the counter in a mesh covered jar for two days. The milk is then strained and the remaining product is a delicious soft cheese called clabber cheese!
This Old World cheese has a myriad of uses. It is phenomenal for breakfast with sweetener, fresh fruit, granola or muesli cereals. (I like to use honey with mine.) The longer you strain it, the thicker it will be. Try mixing herbs into thick clabber and spreading it on crackers for a snack. Clabber is also the first step in making naturally cultured sour cream or cottage cheese. Use less strained clabber as a substitute for milk or buttermilk in recipes for extra deliciousness and texture. An internet search will lead you to many uses for this easy, gratifying cheese! Easy steps to make clabber are at the end of this article!
My ears pricked right up when Quark was mentioned! We have exchange students who love to show off their homestyle cooking and guess what one of the ingredients they are constantly asking for? Quark! My internet search indicated that quark is not easy to find in the U.S. super markets and we found ourselves substituting plain greek yogurt.
But here it is – a staple of the cheese making enthusiast! Quark is nearly as simple as clabber. The biggest difference is you can use pasteurized milk as you have to warm it up and add a culture to it. Because of this, quark has a tendency to be naturally sweeter than clabber cheese, but it is even better with the farm fresh milk bacteria. Quark has the texture of yogurt – without the sour taste – and is used in Germanic countries for everything from breakfast, lunch & dinner to deserts. It is the cheesecake cheese 🙂 Quark instructions also follow this article, although there are many variations! Explore Cheesemaking.com and experiment for that perfect taste for you.
Sidenote about cultures
At this point, we got into a necessary discussion about cultures. Two main cheese cultures are mesophilic and thermophilic. So, which to pick and when? Well, the biggest difference between these two cultures is the temperature at which you warm the milk. Mesophilic cultures are used for a majority of the cheeses and will grow from room temperature to 102ºF. Thermophilic cultures (used for yogurts and a few cheeses) loves heat and can be used up to 130ºF. There are lots of names for the cultures, but they all fall into one of these two groups and the individual strains of bacteria are what affect the flavors, not it’s heat sensitivity. Some bacteria are sweeter and some are more sour.
Next, we tasted and talked about provolone, a soft, stretched and aged cheese made with both mesophilic and thermophilic cultures. Valerie’s homemade provolone was delicious! Cheesemaking.com walks you through the process of making provolone.
.Valerie opened a sealed Sterlite container to show us a brie that was in the process of molding. The container held in the cheese’s moisture and allowed the special molds to form that give the brie its characteristic outer shell. It had been aging for a couple of weeks. She had another one with her that was fully aged, which we tried and it was amazing! Brie uses mesophilic culture plus some surface “ripening” cultures. It will need to age in a 54º cheese cave inside a container to preserve the moisture. Great instructions for making brie can be found here. (A brief discussion on where to find a cheese cave can be found in the shopping list at the very end of this article.)
As we finished our discussion on the soft cheeses and cultures, Valerie teased us with some incredible aged, hard cheeses that she had made. The tastiest one was the truffle cheese.
After enjoying the wonderful cheeses that she made at home and brought for samples, we all headed to the kitchen to try our hand at mozzarella! There is an excellent recipe for mozzarella here. We followed the suggested recipe and, unfortunately, ours flopped – which sometimes happens in the cheese making world. But in this instance we learned to make lemonade from lemons, or, as it were, ricotta from flopped mozzarella! And, the ricotta was delicious. Turns out, you can make lots of ricotta from the leftover whey of many cheese recipes!
Speaking of Whey…
Don’t throw out that whey! It has lots of great uses too! Stick it in the refrigerator and then use it to replace water or milk in many recipe’s for enhanced flavor and texture! You can make yummy ricotta, Scandinavian cheese and butter from sweet whey. It works great for soup stocks and is a wonderful feed for both garden plants and some livestock, like pigs! I have to say, my dogs love it too! Cheesemaking.com has a nice article with recipes for whey and you can use your search engine to find many, many more!
While our mozzarella didn’t turn out as planned, Valerie brought a beautiful Caprese salad with very fresh mozzarella that we all enjoyed! Everyone took samples of stuff home with lots of recommendations, referrals and a book list! Clabber and Quark recipes follow along with a shopping list for beginner cheese enthusiasts.
If you missed this class, don’t worry, there will be many more! Keep an eye on Farm-to-Table pages for upcoming classes and workshops.
How to Make:
- Take raw milk (do NOT do this with pasteurized milk), open the container and put cheese cloth over the opening.
- Put is a cool place on your kitchen counter out of direct sunlight.
- Wait two days.
- Pour soured milk into a colander with cheesecloth in it. Cover with more cheesecloth. Allow the clabber to drain for a day. Stop the process at the thickness you desire – you decide how creamy or thick it will be. For very thick, spreadable clabber, hang in the cheesecloth another 10-12 hours to allow more drainage.
- Warm milk only to 86ºF
- Sprinkle the culture power on the top of the milk and allow to rehydrate for 2 minutes
- Stir in
- Let covered milk sit for 12-24 hours (length of time affects sweet/sour flavor and thickness)
- Drain off whey. Enjoy!
To get you started…
Cheesecloth: There’s regular cheesecloth, but take the word of our expert who discovered Plyban and says it’s the next best thing in cheese making! Although you still need the old fashioned cloth for bandaging cheese. This stuff can be found at Hoegger’s Supply, another one of our favorite sites!
Rennet: Rennet, a coagulating agent, comes in several varieties and choices. Many experienced cheese makers prefer the liquid rennet. But, again, there’s a new product that is gaining rave reviews – Renco Natural Calf Rennet Powder.
Cultures: Keep a staple of both mesophilic and thermophilic cultures.
Dried herbs and fruits: To add into the cheeses.
Milk: Lots of it! Raw milk for clabber. Store milk will work for most other cheeses.
Cheese molds: The dollar store has a plethora of containers that make great cheese molds! The image on the right and further research on the internet should give you lots of ideas for molds. Drainage is important!
Thermometer: Valerie has us all hooked on the thermal “point and shoot” thermometers that you can buy at hardware stores, Harbor Freight and Tractor Supply.
Colanders, strainers and large plastic bowls: I hate to say it, but Walmart is your friend here! Load up on these things. Once you get started, it seems like you never have enough – especially these scoop colanders! All of these items are Walmart run between $2-5.00.
Good quality pots: This was one of our mozzarella issues – my wonderful Cuisenart stock pot had just recently been damaged and any oddness at all in the pot will cause the mozzarella to fail. Heavy, thick-bottomed stainless steel or enameled pots work best. And be sure to sterilize it before making your cheese.
Book recommendations: Valerie recommended two books in addition to the cheesemaking.com website:
For more fun…
Cheese press: You can make your own (search “DIY cheese press”). There are lots of plans and ideas out there. Or, you can purchase them.
Cheese cave: Before you get into the aged cheeses, you want to make sure you have a cheese “cave.” A wine refrigerator works best for this and they can be found in abundance on Craig’s List for very reasonable prices!