Monday, May 10, 2010

Say Cheese!

Dixie’s milk has yielded some rather delicious chevre.

Cheese making: Curdling milk. Separating the curds from the whey. Viola.

It is amazing to me that I have spent my entire young life assuming things like butchering and cheese making were impossible things for the average person to accomplish. How is it that we have come to live in an age which convinces all of us that the simple acts which provide for our needs are beyond our abilities to bring to fruition. It is a dangerous state we find ourselves in! Not just because it renders us infants when it comes to food, shelter, and clothing, but because it robs us of so many joys and beauties! When you knead your own bread, salt your own cheese, and grind your own sausage, your hands are holding livelihood, your are meeting with tactile pleasures all but lost in our button pressing world.

Cheese yields so much that is fascinating to study, but like a worthwhile and delicious things, it is also generously open to the forays of the curious novice. There are such things as Direct Set Starters which provide the exact bacteria needed for a certain cheese, and take a lot of guesswork and long experimentation out of the process of putting something good to eat on the table. And you needn’t kidnap a cow to get started! Try making some at home with supermarket milk….or find a farmer who can sell you some raw milk from off their farm. The results, with crackers and a nice warm pot of tea, will make you and yours very cheery indeed!

CHEVRE (From Ricki Carroll's Recipe)

1 gallon goat's milk
1 package direct set chevre starter (available through the New England Cheese making Supply Co.)
Cheese cloth (the real kind. Not the cheap stuff from the grocery store!)
Stainless Steel pot. (I use my regular old pasta pot.)
You can choose to pasteurize or not. To pasteurize heat the milk to 140 degrees and keep it there for 30 minutes. Then proceed to step one:
Heat milk (or let it cool down to) 86 degrees.
Stir in direct set starter. Stir thoroughly. Cover Pot.
Let sit till it coagulates and curd forms (12 to 20 hours.) Try to keep it at 86 degrees. Sometimes I place the pot into a bath of warm water in the sink which I refresh from time to time. Other times I just let it sit where it stands, keep it covered, and hope for the best. With a freeze dried starter, the results are always delish!
Then gently ladle the curds into the cheesecloth (placed in a strainer) and gather the ends up to either tie together, or rubber band together and hang from a spoon handle over a tall bowl or water pitcher for overnight.
Salt the cheese to taste. I just sprinkle its surfaces all over one, and then let it sit in the fridge till the cheese absorbs the salt....Wonderful on bagels-like cream cheese!

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