Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feta


Close your eyes and cast your mind back a few thousand years. You're stirring a vat of milk over a fire, and someone walking by accidently drops in the stomach from a just-slaughtered calf. (I'm sure you could make up an interesting if implausible story to explain that.) And a miracle happens: cheese is born!

There were no calves or camp fires here this week, but I am happy to announce the birth (or coagulation?) of the first Mucky Boots cheese. Yes, we made cheese! Goat's milk feta, to be precise.

Our interest was piqued by our friend Rebecca who began making hard cheeses a few months ago. She has had us over for a couple of cheese-making experiences in the last few weeks, and we came out of them with the confidence to try it on our own.

So I ordered a couple of different cultures (one for feta and one for chevre) and some rennet from Glengarry Cheesemaking, and sourced some local goat's milk just in time for a visit from my dad. Put a Math teacher, a Science teacher and an engineer in the kitchen with pots and thermometers and bacterial cultures, and for sure something interesting will happen!

We followed a recipe from here, but basically this is what happens:

Step #1: Gently heat the milk, add the culture, and let it sit for an hour.

Step #2: Add the rennet, stir, and let it sit for 40 minutes. [Our rennet came as liquid in a dropper bottle, which made me wonder how folks a hundred years ago would have done it. If I remember Laura Ingalls Wilder's account correctly, her ma got a piece of calf's stomach from a neighbour. But does that mean people only had cheese when a calf was slaughtered? It turns out people would dry pieces of the stomach and reconstitute it when it was time for cheese making. Go figure...]


Step #3: Cut the curd and let rest for 10 minutes. During this time the curds will start to release the whey.


Step #4: Hold at a constant heat and stir gently for 45 minutes. This "cooks" the curds and makes them a bit tougher.


Step #5: Pour into a cheesecloth-lined colander and hang to drain for 24 hours. After a few hours we turned the cheese in the cloth, so we would get a more uniform ball.

Step #6: Cut the ball into manageable pieces and let sit covered at room temperature for 2-3 days. Then cover the pieces with brine and refrigerate for 1-4 weeks. 

Step #7: Eat!

We're in the middle of Step#6, so it will be a while before we know if the cheese is any good. Even if it's fabulous, this experiment isn't likely to be repeated soon, since we used about $28 worth of organic goat's milk to get a ball of cheese the size of a large grapefruit. Not so cost effective, but worth the experience. One time, anyway!

8 comments:

Shim Farm said...

It's funny, but I was on Glengarry's website the other day. They're practically down the street from us (well, down the 401 from us!), and I'd love to take a seminar with them. Our dairy-farmer neighbour makes her own cheese curds and they are amazing. (Poutine anyone?) We got some fresh cheese from their farm last week and it got my wheels turning. Now, here comes your timely post...

Paula said...

Wow! that almost sounds like a Master Card commercial- you know, rennet $3, organic goat milk $26, time making cheese with your loved ones- priceless.

Just remember that if you guys decide to start keeping goats, that cheese is going to get a lot more expensive!

Alison said...

Lol, I was gonna say, I see goats in your future. :) That's a good-looking cheese though; Miss Chef has had a few disasters with curds that were too soft, so it looks like you did well.

jeanives said...

Back to a few thousand years ago for a minute: why was I heating the milk?

backyardfeast said...

I too was going to comment that getting your own goats might be cheaper, but maybe not! We have neighbours raising dairy calves and we're sure hoping to end up with a regular source of milk to make butter and cheese with...Looking forward to hearing how it tastes!

Doc said...

You would probably only need one milk goat and they are cheap to feed because they mostly eat brush, so you would only have to supply it with supplements to keep it healthy. I'm sure glad I'm allergic to dairy ;o/

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I love making cheese. Absolutely love it.

I haven't done any hard cheeses, just stay with the soft, but there is so much diversity just in soft cheese.

That's so cool that you all could make cheese together! Hopefully you get to chow down together, too...

Lyssa said...

Yum! I haven't made any rennet cheeses, but I used to make a soft farmer's cheese with vinegar fairly often. It was delicious with garlic and coarse black pepper.

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