I have been M.I.A in more ways than one of late. No bloggs; shame on me! Not at work, under house arrest due to a really silly stress related palsy. I've barely been in the kitchen; I have been lazy, tired and generally getting back into the swing of the year. I saw a meme recently that brilliantly summed up how I have been feeling. "I decided my 2016 starts on the 1st of March. February was a trial month too." I hadn't seen my sisters and nephew since January either, so we all decided a get together was necessary.
Plans were made. Date's set and meet up times agreed. Kate and Hadyn live in a beautiful village in Hampshire and have a great piece of land with fruit and vegetables growing, chickens running around the garden and some great local produce available to them in the surrounding villages. Their local butchers, Parsonage Farm, recently featured on Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feasts for their British charcuterie. We had a delicious fore-rib of their beef at Christmas, but this is not the time to go into that right now. Being a foodie family, all three of the girls had received food related gifts for Christmas 2015. Kate had been given a cheese making kit and was keen to use it. So it was decided, we'd make cheese, have dinner, drink wine and catch up.
Kyle, Kate and I trundled off to Peak House Farm, Cole Henley, Whitchurch, Hampshire for some raw milk. From what I understand the Stevens feel that all the processing that happens to our milk before it even gets to us does the milk no justice. If you think about it the milk we get in supermarkets could already be more than a week old when we get it. At Peak House Farm you can walk into the dairy "shop" between 07:00 and 19:00 on a daily basis, pop your coins in the slot and fill up either 1 litre or 2 litre bottles of delicious, creamy, raw milk. "Our milk is simply filtered, cooled and voila! It’s ready to drink. No heavy processing and no food miles. The milk from our vending machine is never more than 48hrs old. We hope you enjoy the difference!" With 8 litres of milk in hand we set off back to the house prepared for our cheese making session. Not all the milk was for the cheese, some of it was coming home with me. Kyle has a massive love for raw, whole milk.
OK, so all I am going to say now is make sure you have everything you need to hand before you start. We didn't really think it through properly and it took us a good 35 minutes longer than it should have to get started. That could also have something to do with the fact that it was Elijah's dinner and bed time and we were nattering away at 100 miles an hour and generally enjoying sister time. Kate and I were dancing around, Shelby was trying to keep us all in line. Good luck with that!
You will need the following all of which is available at various suppliers on-line:
4.5 l of raw/whole milk - you need whole milk, don't even think about semi skimmed or skimmed!
1/4 rennet tablet
1 1/2 tsp citric acid
1/2 tsp organic sea salt
100 ml boiled water at room temperture
A large glass, heat proof bowl
2 small ceramic dishes
A large plastic slotted spoon
A long knife
A pair of clean plastic gloves
A large non reactive pot
Preserving or cheese thermometer
Clean all the services and utensils that you will be using before you start.
Dissolve the quarter vegetable rennet tablet in 50 ml of the room temp water and set aside. Dissolve the 1 1/2 tsp citric acid in 50 ml room temp water. Pour your milk into the large pot and slowly bring to a medium heat. Add the citric acid mix and stir into the milk in an up and down, cutting motion, not round and round. Bring the milk up to 32 degrees Celsius or 90 Fahrenheit. Keep stirring in an up and down motion so that the milk doesn't catch and burn.
Remove the milk from the heat and add the rennet mix, again stirring in an up and down motion. Put a lid on the pot and leave to stand for 20 minutes. At this point the curds and whey will separate. After 20 minutes you should see the whey which looks like a light yellow or pale green, watery substance coming away from the solid curds.
Using the knife cut the curds in the pot into small-ish cubes. Put the curds and whey back onto the heat and bring up to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit. Keep stirring the curds. The curds should stay separate but if they lump together keep going, it's not really a train smash. Once at temperature remove the pot from the heat.
Scoop the curds out of the pot and into the heat proof glass bowl. Get all the curds and leave the whey in the pot. Drain as much of the whey from the curds as possible.
Now comes the hands on part: put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Put on your gloves. Remove from the microwave and start to knead the curds, like you would do bread, in the bowl. Pull and stretch the cheese. Add the salt, knead in well and return to the bowl. At this stage you can also add finely chopped herbs like basil, thyme, or rosemary for an additional flavour. Place the bowl for a further 30 seconds into the microwave. Remove and knead the curds again until they are silky, smooth and pliable.
At this stage you can form your Mozzarella. Either into 1 large ball, 2 medium balls or little bocconcini. Making sure you shape them like bread dough with the folds on the bottom of the cheese balls. You can eat the cheese straight away or you can put the balls into iced water to help hold its shape until you are ready to eat it. The cheese will hold for about 3-5 days in the fridge but do not store it in water, store in an air tight container.
What about all the left over whey you ask? Well, you can use this is a number of ways. Excuse the pun. It makes great creamy soup stock or as the stock base for risotto. Use whey instead of water to make bread dough. Kate made bread that night and it was delicious the next morning. Really soft and creamy and scrumptious. Whey makes great pancake batter instead of buttermilk or milk. Or you can make Ricotta, if you are feeling super productive. Whey also freezes really well until you need it for something.
To serve our beautiful Mozzarella I marinated some ripe, sliced tomatoes in salt, pepper, olive oil and home made raspberry vinegar (see one of my previous bloggs from November 2015) with fresh, torn basil. Sliced up some delicious and creamy avocados. Then layered the tomatoes with avocado, basil and thick slices of the mozzarella. As I took it to the table I tossed and we ate like kings!
To top it all off Shelby had made the most delicious honey glazed duck breasts with roasted carrots and chilli fried broccoli. Needless to say all 5 of us rolled away from the table after dinner.