Monday, April 16, 2012

Easy peasy cheese

I love reporting on Montana food producers and farmers markets, but you know what, you can be a food producer right in your own Montana home -- or wherever else you live.

Last week I made cheese! I've tried to make mozzarella before, a recipe that is advertised as: easy! make in 30 minutes! use your microwave!

Well, first of all, I don't have a microwave, so I followed the "easy!" steps to making it on my stove. I got curds, but they never formed into recognizable cheese.

I even tried twice -- with the same result.

When I e-mailed the cheese help desk (yes, there is one), I was told it was probably the milk I was using. Well, I don't know how milk could get any better than Lifeline's nonhomogenized whole milk, freshly produced in Victor, Montana, but I had to leave it at that. I'd already wasted 2 gallons. I'd rather drink it.

Then in February the Darigold plant in Bozeman began producing their own nonhomogenized milk, or as they call it, "cream-on-top" milk.

It's usually a good idea to stay as close to the original form of food as possible, so some folks say nonhomogenized milk is more healthy for us to drink (that is, if you believe in drinking milk at all). I must say I love the taste of nonhomogenized milk; it's somehow cleaner, or fresher -- hard to describe, but delicious.

When I found a recipe for Fresh Chive Cheese on A Good Appetite blog, I thought I'd gamble with another gallon of milk. At $3.99, not such a bad risk.

And I won! After a few easy steps, I had a pound of cheese that tasted slightly like mozzarella, though crumbly. It's more like Indian paneer, if you've had that. (I love paneer chunks in spicy spinach -- a frozen dinner I sometimes find in the organic foods section of the supermarket freezer).

One note about the recipe: my KitchenAid mixer did nothing to the curd except crumble it into a million bits. I ended up taking small handfuls of the bits and squeezing them until they were "dough-like, silky & not grainy at all" per the instructions and then combining and rolling each handful into one big log. This step is as meditative as kneading bread dough and not terribly time consuming.

This cheese does not melt well. When I tried to broil it on bread, it bubbled and browned but just got more crumbly.

Still, it is real cheese. I have eaten it on crackers and crumbled it into salad and even eaten a piece straight up alongside an orange. The last bit of the cheese has been in my refrigerator for a week now, so it does last that long at least.

If you are skeptical about being able to make your own cheese, I suggest you give this recipe a try. Since the recipe does not specify using nonhomogenized milk, if that is not available to you, why not try whatever you do have on hand.

I am flushed with victory. I plan to try making mozzarella again.


  1. I've been making cheese too, this winter, and I am using raw goat's milk. I have mozzarella down to a science and make a pretty good chevre. I will bring you some to the Big Timber market this summer, for you to try. Look forward to seeing you and this market season. Lynn Phipps - Beaverhead Ranch Products LLC, Reed Point.

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing you, too at the market, Lynn! I want to taste that cheese!