Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's So Easy Being Cheesy

Don't even listen to what Chester the Cheetah says. Being cheesy is actually pretty easy. I read Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making several months ago. I was really interested in hard, aged cheeses, but upon reading, they did look pretty intimidating to try, plus there's that whole waiting for two months before it's done aspect. I think we all know how patient I am (not very). Plus, if I wait 60 days for food I made to be done, and it turns out poorly, I'm liable to get violent. There were recipes for quicker, easier soft cheeses, but I wasn't terribly interested in that at the time, so I put the book aside.

Then, more recently, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which, let me just say, BEST BOOK EVER), and found her singing the praises of Ricki Carroll and her "30-Minute Mozzarella" recipe. Mozzarella had never really captured my fancy before--I mean, sure, it's great on pizza, but kind of bland and rubbery on its own. Why would I want to make that? But in her book, Kingsolver just does NOT let it go, and writes over and over again about the joy of making fresh Mozzarella and eating it still warm. I think it was the "still warm" part that got me, and I pulled out the book again.

I looked at the recipe. Hmmm. It DID look easy. And hey, I can make yogurt. I can make kefir. I can make soap, for crying out loud. I decided to take the plunge, and after pricing hard-to-find ingredients individually, I finally just went straight to the source and ordered everything in one kit from Ricki Carroll's website. That was simpler than chasing around trying to find butter muslin, vegetable rennet tablets, citric acid, cheese salt, and a dairy thermometer separately.

I got my kit, found a gallon of milk that had NOT been "ULTRA pasteurized" (this is easier said than done around here, unfortunately), and went to work. And you know what? Not only did it just take 30 minutes to make a pound of Mozzarella Fresca, but most of those minutes were spent waiting, not working. And better yet, the stuff was HEAVENLY. Even my very first effort--absolutely delicious. The only resemblance it bore to that shredded stuff I've been buying at the grocery store all these years is that it was white.

stretch and shine, by Bella

Wow, this cheese is good. We've used it on pasta, in a veggie quiche, and of course, on pizza. Not only did we make pizza with fresh, homemade Mozzarella on top, but we used the whey that was left over from making the cheese...to make the pizza dough! Yep, making cheese gives you a byproduct that you can also use, pretty much in any recipe where buttermilk would work. You can also use whey to make buttermilk and Ricotta. I have over a half-gallon of the stuff in the fridge right now, and I'm gonna use it to make some pancakes tomorrow. You know, since I can't go to BlogHer. What, the next best thing to BlogHer isn't pancakes? Shut up.

I've put a more detailed account of the cheesemaking over here, but I'll show you a couple of things Bella and I made with the finished product.

We were really proud of this pizza, because it was truly from "scratch," from the ground up. OK, so we didn't grow the tomatoes. But we made the cheese. We made the sauce. We made the crust. None of it was hard, and it felt like a real accomplishment!

squash mozzarella thyme quiche
For this quiche, the main ingredient is squash sauteed in butter, with thyme, so I blended thyme right into the cheese while I was kneading it. I used the leftover thymed cheese the next night, over wholegrain pasta with pureed squash-tomato sauce.

You can't lose. Do it!


Dear Internets, family, friends, all of the above--thank you so much for your outpouring of sympathy, support, and assistance in the wake of the tragic loss of a well-loved pet yesterday. You'll never know how much it meant to us to be on the receiving end of such kindness. Bella has had a couple of crying spells, but she's handling it better than I am. Alex found a backhoe operator and had a grave dug for Magic here at home, and I've promised Bella that we can try to plant a little tree or some flowers on that spot.

And I think that the time has come for me to pass along to my daughter the most valuable treasure I've ever owned in my entire life: My Misha. He won't replace her lost pony, but I know that he will carry her with the same loving care he has always shown me. I've loved him for 17 years now, and I hope that someday she will realize what an honor it is to know such a horse, much less to ride him.

favorite treat


  1. Oh Belinda~~~~ All cheesiness aside (!), what a wonderful thing to do for Bella. To give her the gift of such a beautiful animal after losing Magic. I hope Misha means as much to her as he has to you.

    You are a very good Momma.

  2. Ditto what Avalon said. And Misha looks like such a nice boy (I have a soft spot for roans).

    Was the moz stringy and stretchy or was it more like fresh buffalo moz (more creamy)? Your cheese adventure sounds like a LOT of fun.

  3. I came by yesterday and read your post but just didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything. The news just shocks and devastates me for you and for Bella. I hate it so much that you lost such a special pet. I think that giving Misha to Bella is awesome and that she will cherish him as much as you do.

  4. I hope that Bella finds Misha to be as good a friend to her as he's been to you. I'm sorry about her pony.

    And thanks for this cheese post. It's back up to the top of my projects list.

  5. I will have to look for those books as the cheese looks yummy and fun to make.

    Bella will enjoy Misha. Our old guy Mingo was a great baby sitter for the little nieces until he passed away at 32 yrs old. I wish for Misha to last that long and see Bella grow up with him.

  6. THis cheese looks fantastic. I would love to learn how to do this.

  7. This is the easiest cheese to make--we did it in culinary school, after we'd sat around and ate cheese samples for about 2 hours, and then we ate of all what we made as well! Never can get enough cheese!

    (Still sending warm thoughts your way about Magic)

  8. Wow, your home-made cheese makes me want to re-think my bachelor living of just eating frozen dinners all the time and actually try - gasp - cooking for once!

    And very sorry to hear about the pony...