Cheese Day: Little Miss Muffet and her Curds and Whey – Day 36

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese – so no more whining about the price of cheese.
  • A top from an opened can be used as a ‘diffuser’ by placing it between a pot and a flattop burner to prevent burning – particularly useful if you are simmering something that has heavier pieces that will sink to the bottom of the pot and burn.
  • If the health department shows up to your restaurant, immediately put the can-opener in the dishwasher. It’s guaranteed to be dirty, and you can just tell the inspector you were in the process of cleaning it.
Chef Jeff stretching his curds!
Chef Jeff stretching his curds!
Stewart spooning out the curds into the cheesecloth
Stewart spooning out the curds into the cheesecloth

CHEESE DAY: NOW I know what Little Miss Muffet was actually eating when the spider sat down beside her as she ate her Curds and Whey. Today was cheese day, so we tasted all sorts of cheese and actually made some Ricotta. To be honest, the whole “milk – sour cream – butter – cheese” thing and how they all interrelate has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but it all came into focus today. We took a pot of milk, heated it up, added a ¼ cup of lemon juice and some salt, took it off the heat and let it sit. Sure enough the milk started to split into its two component parts: Curd (solid) and Whey (liquid). We took the solid curd, and sat them on a cheese cloth (it’s the first time I’ve actually used ‘cheese’cloth for cheese). After about an hour of sitting/draining we had Ricotta cheese! It was that simple!

Mozzarella balls we kneaded into shape
Mozzarella balls we kneaded into shape

The cheddar cheese we all know isn’t that far from this. The curd is just taken and pressed down on itself (a process called cheddaring), aged, and voila – cheddar. Now, of course there thousands of variations to making cheese, but it is all based on this simple principle. “Whey” had really been a waste product of the cheese making process, but the fitness revolution has changed all that. Now cheese makers can get a pretty penny for their whey, which is sold as “Whey Protein” at a local fitness store near you.

We then went through an exercise of making mozzarellas, by taking pre-made curd, putting it in hot water where it gradually became the consistency of soft playdough, which we kneaded/molded into big Mozzarella balls. We are going to use both of these cheeses in pasta dishes tomorrow.

Getting ready to "cheese taste"
Getting ready to “cheese taste”
A can lid being used as an 'diffuser'
A can lid being used as a ‘diffuser’

We also did an interesting cheese tasting exercise. It started with tasting cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk. Then a yogurt from each, a soft cheese from each, and increasingly aged and stronger cheeses, ending up with Roquefort. I liked the strong Roquefort the best. As humans age, the average 60yo will have lost half of their taste buds, so its no wonder we older folk like the stronger cheeses, while some of the yungin’s in the class could hardly bring themselves to smell the Roquefort, let alone taste it. Prior to the tasting, we were told to finish any drinks, so as not to interfere with the tasting, but several of us were thinking a nice glass of wine would be nice.

Tomorrow is pasta day, so we also pre-made a meat sauce and a tomato sauce, but I’m going to talk about those tomorrow.

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