Patience. I should work on establishing at least a passing relationship with patience. The more I read and prepare for these posts, the more I realize cooking takes a lot of work and … that word that begins with “p”. Patience. For example, the next journey just happens to be cheesecake. Out of all of my culinary skills, baking is the least of my talents. But cheesecake… is everyone’s favorite. Everyone knows it. Aresty writes, “The poor man probably hungered most for cheesecake.” Thousands of recipes. Thousands of years. Progress. Convenience. All so I can go down to the grocery store and pick up a block of Philadelphia cream cheese.

But no…

I’ve decided to make my own cream cheese. And not with cow’s milk, either. No. I’ve decided to make cream cheese out of goat’s milk. I’m bucking the system, I’m taking rennet into my own hands, I’m squeezing curds together, I’m raking in the molds! All right, I’m just making cheese for God’s sake. Thanks to Crystal Miller, mother of 8, wife to one.

Ingredients

Yield: approximately 2 1/2 cups

1 gallon goat’s milk (store bought cow’s milk will work too!)
¼ t. direct set mesophilic-m culture
2 T diluted rennet (add 1 drop of rennet to 5 T cool water)

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, making one’s own cheese isn’t such an arduous undertaking. But in my convenience-laden body, I could have made and posted this recipe yesterday, and joined the countless other people who make and enjoy cheesecakes everyday. But, I suppose, if I wanted things to be easy, I would not have started this journey. As my partner says, “If you wanted things to be easy, you would be cooking through Betty Crocker.”

Dissecting the ingredients

Mesophilic-m: It’s alive! Alive!! “A mesophile is an organism that grows best in moderate temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, typically between 15 and 40 °C (77 and 104 °F). The term is mainly applied to microorganisms.” (from our friend, Wikipedia)

Rennet: It’s science! Science!! “Rennet is a natural complex of enzymes produced in any mammalian stomach to digest the mother’s milk, and often used in the production of cheese. Rennet contains a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The active enzyme in rennet is called chymosin or rennin (EC 3.4.23.4) but there are also other important enzymes in it, e.g., pepsin or lipase. There are non-animal sources for rennet substitutes.” (Also from our friend, Wikipedia, albeit a little on the TMI-side)

I could also make my own rennet: “Presumably, the first cheese was produced by accident when the ancients stored milk in a bag made from the stomach of a young goat, sheep or cow.” But I just won’t go that far, people. I just won’t. I would do anything for love… but I won’t do that. Hm, I wonder if the ancients had some kind of meatloaf. Well, if I find out, I’ll post it.

Sourcing

Both the mesophilic-m culture and the rennet came from a very modern source, http://www.leeners.com/ They sell “kits and supplies for everything from beer to bubble gum to wine and cheese!” I think a cook in Antiquity would have really enjoyed a website like this. They would have said, “You mean, I don’t have to touch goat’s stomach anymore??”

But they probably didn’t have reliable internet access back then. And they might have trouble reading the page. But other than that, I think they would have liked having access to all of these supplies. It’s also possible a friend of theirs would have introduced them to a 24 hour Wal-Mart and told them about Philadelphia cream cheese. But I digress. If it’s not too late, let’s cheese it up!

The making of the cheese

Ms. Miller’s method of making cheese uses an old pillowcase instead of cheesecloth. I didn’t have any old pillowcases lying about, but as life has its subtle, lovely ways with me, I received some flour sack towels from a friend of mine, which she uses when she makes cheese. Other than that modification, direct from Crystal Miller’s methodology, here is what I did:

In a large pot (I use a 6qt) add goat’s milk. Heat your milk to 80 degrees. Remove from heat and add the mesophilic-m culture and stir well. Add the rennet and stir. Cover the pan and let sit undisturbed at room temp for 12 to 18 hours.

After your time is up what you have in the pot should look like very thick yogurt. Now you will drain and drip your cheese.

Line a colander with your clean pillow case. I set this colander in a large bowl to catch the whey. Now drain your thick yogurt looking cheese into this cloth. Gather up the cloth and tie it tightly. Now you need to hang it somewhere. I have handles on my kitchen cupboard that work perfect for this. Whatever you hang it make sure it is up high enough to allow the whey to drip through the cloth into a bowl below. Now let your cream cheese drain for about 6 to 8 hours. You can speed this process along by stirring your cream cheese up about halfway through the time and you can do it again if you need to.

When it is completed what you have left in the pillow case is your cream cheese! You can salt it a bit or not, that is up to you.

Saaaaay… Smile!

This, I might add, came out beautifully! If you ever want to make cream cheese, I highly recommend the goat cheese. All of the things I love about chevre come out in the taste of this finished product. The texture is that of fresh creme fraiche.

I decided not to salt the cheese, as I wanted it as plain as possible so the whole sweetness and taste of the honey in my cheesecake would shine through.

Next up: cheesecakes!

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