My darling little 8 year old had a severe allergic reaction to penicillin this week. Most parents would have been terrified (I was, deep inside); Most parents would have rushed to grab the Benedryl (I did, eventually); Most parents would have comforted their kid (I did, after I grabbed the camera). I am not most parents. I am a wannabe cheesemaker. So the only thing that popped into my twisted head was “I wonder if she can still eat Blue Cheese?”.
This got me thinking about food allergies and how difficult it must be for parents with kids who have them. Peanuts? Wheat? Corn? Soy? The list is endless and the dangers are real. I have kids with chronic health issues but I am not sure I could successfully manage food allergies. Kudos to those of you doing it!
The kids were a little stir crazy after two half days at school this week. One was sick so we couldn’t really leave the house and their making forts out of my furniture was starting to get on my nerves. So, I decided to come up with a kitchen project for the 3 of us to do while the little one gorged on Pedialyte popsicles and watched TV in the guestroom all day. I always have stacks of recipes, notes and cookbooks lying around. The note about making butter had been waiting for me for weeks, but I never had time to do it. Today, we had nothing but time and since I have been prepping all week to teach a cheese making class, I just happened to have 2 pints of heavy cream.So, the kids rallied and washed their hands. We poured the cream into my KitchenAid and measured the salt. Unfortunately, I started the mixer a little too high and suddenly everyone in a four County radius ended up splattered with cream. The kids thought that was hilarious. I kind of did, too.
Kneading the Butter
After about 5 minutes of mixing, I lost my sous chefs. They went back to ransacking my house while I waited for my cream to stop looking like whipped cream. Had it not been for the salt, I might have stopped the mixer and grabbed a spoon. I love whipped cream. But, I was committed to this little project even if my helpers were not. After about 10 more minutes the cream broke and suddenly I had beautiful yellow butter sloshing around in buttermilk. My 8 year old decided she had to see that I actually made butter so she came back and helped me knead the butter to release the rest of the liquid. We cannot wait to make buttermilk pancakes tomorrow.
A lot of people are interested in my cheesemaking. Everybody loves cheese and turning everyday grocery store milk into something so delicious and amazing seems like magic. I guess it is a form of magic, actually. The problem is that cheesemaking is also a lot of work. It takes patience, time and a lot of trial and error. If you are up for the challenge, I highly recommend it. What I do not recommend is doing it without a friend or a more experienced cheesemaker to show you the ropes. Most cheesemaking recipes are fairly vague. They assume you know what it means to “rehydrate the innoculants” and the rennet and that you cannot do it with chlorinated water; that you know the proper size to cut curds for various types of cheese and you know what a “clean break” is, that you have “dairy wash” on hand and that you can tell the difference between the beautiful necessary molds required to properly flavor your cheese and the ones that popped up because you did not sanitize your workspace well enough. The best part about homemade cheesemaking is that it is very rewarding and once you learn the basics, they sky is the limit to what you can do with a few simple ingredients. So, do not let me scare you. Anyone can make cheese.
For the beginner, I would recommend starting with chevre. Chevre is a creamy fresh goat’s milk cheese. Goat’s milk is easy to work with and fairly easy to find in a non-ultra pasteurized form. Most milks will not coagulate properly once they have been ultra-pasteurized without adding calcium choride. Since, chevre is a fresh cheese you do not need to worry about aging the cheese or growing proper mold. It is also easy to flavor with herbs to make delicious treats.
The basic process for most cheeses including chevre involves heating the milk to the proper temperature, adding innoculants and rennet, cutting the curd and then draining the whey. I hope to be posting some step by step lessons here in the future, but if you are really excited to get started, everything you need can be found at these two websites: http://www.cheesemaking.com/ or from my good friend, Steve Shapson at http://www.thecheesemaker.com/. Steve is even having a Cyber Monday sale and it is good through tomorrow.