Cheesepalooza Challenge 4 – Mozzarella

Well the month started with good intentions. We planned on making mozzarella and one of the optional cheeses, braided string cheese. We wanted to make braided string cheese – and we still will – as it is a traditional style of cheese for Armenians, and since my lovely wife is Armenian, it was a must. Plus if we do a good job it may provide “bonus points” with my mother in law, as she won’t have to bring it back from trips to Montréal ( I jest a bit as she has not done this for a few years as you can get it in Edmonton in a few places now).

For November, we ended up making the junket mozzarella, some chèvre and some crescenza, but no braided string cheese yet (my excuse is that I was not able to find ph test strips).

We chose the junket mozzarella, as it did not require the ph testing that the traditional required (although I did try and figure alternative testing ways, including using an aquarium test kit) and slightly less time which is a good thing when your assistant almost 7!

We used the modified recipe provided on A Canadian Foodie with Addie’s adjustment to replace the junket with rennet. We also used Vital Greens whole non-homogenized milk.

I know we always start by pouring milk in the pot, but for some reason this is one of Js favourite parts of the process, not sure why though….

We followed Mary Karlin’s recipe, with the minor alteration for having no junket, and after the resting period we ended up with some nice looking curd and lovely whey.

We cut the curds, let them rest, and then brought them up to 108 degrees F.

At this point they are stirred for awhile and the left to rest for a few minutes until they are springy and stretchable.

We then scooped them out of the whey to drain.

The curds were wrapped in cheesecloth, and left to rest on a cutting board for about 20 minutes. We had a nice slab of curd that was then cut into strips in preparation for the stretching.

We had 8 nice strips, so we stretched two strips together to end up with 4 nice mozzarella balls. The first step in the process is to dip the curd strips into the heated whey to warm them up and make them pliable.

After they are heated they are massaged into nice ball.

To keep the curds pliable requires placing them back in the 180 degree F whey once and awhile, the rubber gloves worked great for both J and dad.

Once we had a nice ball, the curds were stretched into a rope folded over and molded back into a ball. This can be done a few times, but not overworked too much otherwise you will end up with a curd puck! After they were formed, the curd balls were chilled in ice water.

We ended up with 4 nice mozzarella balls. We made the whey into a brine to add the salt to the cheese and also for storage.

We ended up with a very nice tasting mozzarella. This particular recipe suggests eating soon, or storing for up to a week in brine. I would definitely agree with eating as soon as you can, as the surface becomes softer the longer in the brine and by day 5 we removed about 1/3 of the cheese to get to the firmer area. If I had a vacuum sealer I probably would have air dried the cheese after the initial brining, and then sealed.

The following photo shows the cheese after 5 days of storage.

We ate some raw, but also wanted to test it doing what mozzarella is so great at – melting! The initial test was simply on some pita bread heated under the broiler, simple but very tasty. A couple of nights later we made some chicken parmigiana, that was very tasty.

For the November cheesepalooza tasting, we simple served the mozzarella with fresh basil. In the middle is the crescenza, which was a fairly simple cow cheese that was great with crackers.

Mozzarella Tasting Notes

Appearance: Very nice white colour

Nose: No strong aroma

Overall taste: Very pleasant, tastes like mozzarella

Sweet to salty: slightly salty

Mild to robust: mild

Mouth feel: Good mouth feel, not rubbery at all

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Cheesepalooza Challenge 3 Part 2 – Halloumi

The other cheese for Challenge 3 was halloumi, a cheese we had never tried. It is very similar in approach to the feta, but does not contain any starter culture, and does add a few new techniques.

As always, we assembled all of our ingredients, and carefully sterilized all of the equipment that we would be using. For our first batch of halloumi we used 100% cow milk.

So now that we have everything assembled we begin by putting the milk in the pot, we then slowly heat it up to 90 degrees F (a little higher than the feta).

After getting the milk to temperature we remove from the heat and add the lipase (diluted in some water) into our pot and stirred, we let it rest for a few minutes.

We then add the calcium chloride, mix it in then add the rennet (both also diluted in some water). We let it sit for another 30-45 minutes for the curds to form, again keeping it at 90 degrees F.

We have a nice clean break, so we then cut the curd.

Then we let it rest for 5 minutes and then we heat it up to 104 degrees F, and keep there for about 20 minutes. This is one of the differences from the feta. During this time it is stirred and the curds become more rounded and will eventually fall to the bottom.

After the 20 minutes, some of the whey is removed, with remainder whey and curds being drained in cheesecloth lined colander, keeping this whey for later use. There is an option to add mint, which we did. It is then drained for a short while.

We did not have a “5-inch tomme mold”, so as happens in home cheese making we improvised with a steamer.

We paced the curd in the cheesecloth into our mold and placed 8 pounds of weight on top to press the cheese it was rested for 6 hours and flipped at the halfway mark.

We ended up with a “wheel” about 1 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

This was the cut into cubes.

We heated the reserved whey to 190 degrees F, then added the cubes and cooked for about 30 minutes. The cheese initially sunk but was floating by the end.

We then removed the cheese and air dried or about 45 minutes.

We placed the cheese into medium heavy brine and refrigerated. I did give a quick test to the cheese before brining and it was quite bland with a hint of mint, and chewy.

After about two weeks we tasted the halloumi. First “raw”, which is not advisable or at least it was not enjoyed by us. Very salty and rubbery, like chewing on a minty eraser. I did not much like it this way, but was eager to try it fried. We fried it in a clean non-stick pan, and served it itch a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. I was the only one that liked it to any degree, but it was still on the rubbery side, but the flavor was great!

Appearance: smooth and white
Nose: Minty aroma
Overall taste: Not a strong flavour, but the mint was very pleasant.
Sweet to salty: salty
Mild to robust: mild
Mouth feel: rubbery, or squidgy.

I think we will give this another try, but perhaps with a mix of milks.

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Cheesepalooza Challenge 3 Part 1 – Feta

We are still on Chapter 2 Beginning Cheese Making in Mary Karlin’s Artisan Cheese Making at Home with the third Cheesepalooza challenge but the cheeses are the last two in the chapter – Feta and Halloumi (J and I are excited to be moving onto Chapter 3 Intermediate Cheese Making in November with the joys of mozzarella, provolone, fontina, gouda, and many more).

As we were going down to Calgary for Thanksgiving and our family there has heard about our cheese making adventures, and we wanted to share our experiences, we technically made our first batch of feta in September, since it had to age for at least 5 days. As there are two options for aging the feta we did do another batch in October – so we hope this is not outside of the official Cheesepalooza rules!

Since both methods are the same except for the aging process, I have combined them here except for the last steps and the tasting.

As always, we assembled all of our ingredients, and carefully sterilized all of the equipment that we would be using. We usually buy goat feta, so we stayed with the goat milk for our feta too. As we progress through making different cheeses, each one is bringing slightly different ingredients and approach . For feta this includes adding some lipase powder. What is lipase powder you ask? Well not sure if I want to tell you since you may not want to eat cheese. It is an enzyme that is extracted from a lamb or calf, freeze dried and used for a variety of applications such as cheese and yogourt making. I am actually not certain if the lipase we used is from a calf or lamb, but I am sure someone will let me know. What it does is give the cheese a stronger flavour. Another slight difference is this is the first time that we are “cutting the curds” and “cooking the curds”, which are not done in the ricotta or the chevre.

So now that we have everything assembled we begin by putting the milk and lipase (diluted in some water) into our pot and stir, we then slowly heat it up to 86 degrees F (or just slightly higher).

After getting the milk to temperature we remove from the heat and then add the Aroma B mesophilic starter culture (this is actually something new to, as this is the first time using one of the starters for us, as we used buttermilk as the starter in the chevre). We let it sit to rehydrate for a couple of minutes then stir it into the milk.

We now let it sit and ripen for 1 hour and try and keep it at 86 degrees F. this is easier said than done, and after making a few batches it does become easier. However for this first batch I did have the temperature go up the mid 90s, and of course below 86 as I was trying to adjust the water bath. For the water bath we improvised as is often done in home cheese making by using a large roasting pan as the water bath.

After the hour of ripening, not much has changed; it still looks like a pot of milk. We then add the calcium chloride, mix it in then add the rennet (another enzyme critical for cheese making, and comes from a calf stomach, although there are non-animal types – I always wonder how some things are discovered as they do not always seem obvious). Again we let it sit for another hour for the the curds to form, again keeping it at 86 degrees F.
There is always anticipation at critical steps, wondering if it will work, and we are pleased that it did. We uncovered the pot to see the light colour whey with the beautiful mass of curd. We insert a spatula to see if we have a nice clean break and we do!

Now we get to cut the cheese, no I mean cut the curd! We let this rest for about 10 minutes. Again keeping it at 86 degrees F.

After the short rest, we then had to stir the curd for 20 minutes to keep the curds from glomming together. J was quick to volunteer to stir as that seemed like more fun than just watching the milk sit for hours. I was quite impressed that he stirred for about five minutes, and came back stir again later for a bit, but most of the stirring was left to dad.

After the 20 minutes of stirring the curds changed from having “sharp” edges to being more pillow like. Another period of rest but only for 5 minutes.
After the rest J transferred the curd to our cheesecloth lined colander.

We then tied it up to let it drain for a few hours.

We then unwrapped our treasure to find what looks like feta – which is good since that is what we are making.

We sliced it into 1 inch cubes for the aging process.

It is at this stage we have two options. Sprinkle with salt and let age for 5 days, or sprinkle with salt and age for 1 day, then transfer into brine for 21 days. For the first batch we took the 5 day dry aging approach.

After the 5 days we placed the cheese in a light brine for the trip to Calgary!

For the second batch we also sprinkled with salt as in the first but only let it age this way for 24 hours.

Then it was placed in but did do the 21 day aging too.

So now we had some feta!

For the first batch, the first taste was that it was too salty, but had great texture and to quote my wife “It tastes like feta!” We soaked some in plain water for about an hour and this did remove some of the saltiness.
The feta was a big hit for Thanksgiving but like Valerie A Canadian Foodie, we found that with the 5 day salting then storing in brine, the feta became soft and gelatinous, not at all appealing. I wonder if we need to cut down on the rennet a little bit.

We served it with just a little olive oil drizzled on top. Some of us also had it with basturma – a dry aged beef tenderloin with various spices, we sometimes call it Armenian prosciutto!

We also had it J’s favourite way on tomato with some fresh basil, always a hit.

Appearance: Nice white colour, with a few “holes” or “cracks” as in commercial products
Nose: Not a lot of aroma, just hints of the goat milk, does have good “sea” smell (not sure how else to describe the smell of salt)
Overall Taste: Has a nice tangy taste
Sweet to Salty: This is defiantly a salty profile, even after soaking in plain water
Mild to Robust: Mild with a slight goat flavour
Mouth Feel: Slightly grainy on the tongue but a bit of a creamy texture

For the second batch, it seemed less salty right out of the brine but was still fairly salty, so prior to serving we stoked in plain water for a bit. We tried it a few different ways. We found it quite delicious crumbled on one homemade vegetarian chili.

We also rolled some Alberta prosciutto from Valbella Gourmet Foods tat we picked from Sunterra. This was quite delicious.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks this batch also became soft and gelatinous, like the first.

Appearance: Nice white colour, with a few “holes” or “cracks” as in commercial products
Nose: Not a lot of aroma, just hints of the goat milk, does have good “sea” smell (not sure how else to describe the smell of salt)
Overall Taste: Has a nice tangy taste
Sweet to Salty: Salty
Mild to Robust: Mild with a slight goat flavour
Mouth Feel: Slightly grainy on the tongue but a bit of a creamy texture

We do like feta, so we will make it again and experiment to try and not have it turn soft and gelatinous. Also wondering about larger blocks of cheese , say 2 or 3 inches square.

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Cheesepalooza Challenge 2 – Chèvre

After completing the Ricotta, my son (J) and I were very excited to take on the chèvre. I personally like the tang and the versatility that it has, and I must confess that in the past I would buy it at Costco (it was such a good value!). J was not necessarily keen on it in the past as he tends to prefer stronger cheeses.

We were away in Calgary when challenge 2 came out and J was insistent on making it straight away! In reading the recipe I realized that I forgot to order the C20G mesophillic starter, but luckily there was the alternate buttermilk recipe from Valerie A Canadian Foodie As soon as we came back we headed to Planet Organic to get some goat milk and buttermilk (technically we actually went and got haircuts first, but I digress).

We assembled all of our ingredients and went through the sterilization process to have everything ready to make the chèvre.

We used Fairwinds goat milk and ‘D’ Dutchmen buttermilk. My faithful assistant carefully poured the goat milk into the pot then stirred in the buttermilk.

And there was no spilling this time! Next we heated up the milk to the desired temperature, that was sure a lot faster than the Ricotta! (of course it was a much lower temperature).

We then added the rennet that we had already diluted (thankfully we had some bottled water). My assistant stirred it with the appropriate up and down motion.

This is actually a nice recipe to make in the evening as it was now bed time for the young one (parents too!) as the milk had to be covered and left for 12 hours. When we got up in the morning it was almost like Christmas, as J came bounding into the bed “Daddy we need to check the cheese!”. We went down and took the pot out of the oven lifted the lid and voila!

We had custard! A very nice separation between the curds and whey around the side of the pot. We carefully, well J carefully, started to place the curd into the cheesecloth lined colander to let it drain.

We let the whey drain away a bit.

Then we tied it up to drain for about 6 hours.

Again it was like Christmas as we carefully opened up the cheesecloth to see what kind of delicious goodness would unfold.

We opened it up and were very pleased to see cheese!

We actually used sushi matts wrapped in cling wrap to help roll the cheese into the logs. We rolled two logs in fresh basil leaves and left two plain. We left the basil whole but did wonder if we should ave chopped it.

A couple hours later I decided to roll one in cracked pepper too. They all tasted great. We tried plain that night and let the pepper and basil sit for another day. J really enjoyed this cheese particularly the basil rolled one, he said “This one tastes way better than the other one – it has flavour!”

We also made another batch of ricotta, both ricotta and in particular chèvre were a big hit with the extended family and they eagerly await the next creation. J wants to take some chèvre down to Calgary to his cousin at Thanksgiving.

Below is the plain chèvre, ricotta Boursin and basil lemon ricotta.

Appearance: A nice white , grainy and dry
Nose (aroma): not much, is tangy an aroma
Overall Taste: nice mild tangy goat cheese, basil wrapped had nice basil taste, pepper rolled was peppery and favourite of J
Sweet to Salty: sweet
Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): mellow
Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): very creamy

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Cheesepalooza Challenge 1 – Whole Milk Ricotta

Well this started at the end of July when I noticed a tweet from Valerie @ACanadianFoodie on cheesepalooza. I was intrigued read about it and immediately signed up. Why may you ask? Well a few reasons, but before I get into those my partner in this is my 6.5 year old son who is very passionate about food. So we both love food (my wife does too!), and of course cheese in particular so this seemed natural. I should note that two of my sons favourite stores are The Italian Centre Shop and Everything Cheese where he gets to taste all of our purchases. Our cheese making journey actually started a while ago, when my son and I watched a show on making bocconcini, and he said “Dad that looks like fun can we do that?” and of course I said “Sure, it can’t be that hard. ” So on a trip to the Italian Centre Shop I noticed boxes of rennet sitting on the deli counter, knowing we would need this we added this to our cart. Well that was many months ago, and with a very busy work and travel we never got around to it. However, with cheeseaplooza we had something to keep us on task and others to share our experience so here we go!

We were off on some vacation when the first challenge on Whole Milk Ricotta came out so that gave me a chance to start reading Artisan Cheese Making at Home. When we got back we gathered our ingredients and for the milk we used Avalon whole milk we picked up from Sunterra.

My trusty assistant poured the milk into the pot with just a little spilling. It was at this point it dawned on me that I forgot the cream! Oh well, it will be a lower fat version. We also decided to use lemon juice since I had not picked up any citric acid, plus we thought we probably would like the flavor of lemon (random thought while writing this, I wonder what adding lemon zest would do during the heating process, must try next time).

So we started the heating process which was suppose to take about 20 minutes, but ended up taking over 1 hour! Well this part was not overly exciting for my partner so he went off to do something else more fun than watching milk heat! Although he did come back to give it a stir once and awhile and make sure I was not doing something without his involvement.

I was not absolutely clear when to add the lemon juice, so I added at about the 140 degree mark. Nothing happened when the milk got up to the 185 degree mark, so we let it warm to 195, still nothing. I knew we could not let it get warmer so we added more lemon juice and voila!

Time to remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes.

After the rest we placed the curds in the bag we purchased from Glengarry Cheesemaking Supplies so they could drain.

We let it drain for about 30 minutes. As we started this after dinner my helper had gone up to get ready for bed, so I emptied the cheese into a bowl and gave it a first try but also took some to my partner who was being read to by my very understanding wife.

Our tasting notes:

Appearance: It looks like cream cheese, with fine curds but fairly dry. Next time we may drain it less to leave it wetter. Partners comment “it looks like mushy cheese”.

Nose: No strong aroma, but faint lemon scent, partners comment was “it smells delicious!”

Overall taste: Not a lot of strong flavour, hint of lemon and creamy. Partners comment “can I have it for breakfast, it is really good!”

Sweet to salty: sweet

Mild to robust: mild

Mouth feel: thick but creamy

The next day we decided to spice it up a bit with some fresh basil, parsley and crushed garlic. Very tasty. I think this will be a great go to recipe for making various spreads and dips.

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“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.”

Captain James Cook