My first attempt at making mozzarella cheese just ended in (near) complete disaster a few minutes ago.
“I think it was ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.'”
Apparently the problem was that I didn’t realize that the milk I was using was ultra-pasteurized rather than just pasteurized.
Fermentation’s a hell of a thing, isn’t it? Seems like without it and the processes associated with it, humans wouldn’t have gotten far once we got past our hunter/gatherer days. Pickling, turning milk into all kinds of cool stuff like yogurt or cheese, salting, smoking… we’ve got so many ways of preserving food and making it last through what must have been some really scary winter months.
You have to wonder who the first person was to encounter milk soaked in an animal stomach till it curded up and then say, “Hey, I’m totally eating that.”
And you have to wonder who decided to then go on and make all the thousands of different kinds of cheeses there are in the world. Whoever started the idea, we think humans have been at it for some 4,000 years. The Bible itself even mentions cheese a few times. (Ickily enough, one of those references is often used by forced-birthers to justify anti-abortion activism.) Americans do love our cheese, too–according to that dairy-farming site, more than 1/3 of our country’s milk production goes toward cheesemaking.
I’ve been fascinated by the process ever since reading about Laura’s mother making it in the Little House on the Prairie books. A few years ago I began seeing kits for cheesemaking available in fancy cooking catalogs like Sur La Table and whatnot–always fairly easy types of cheese. I’ve been making my own ricotta for quite a while as it is too. It’s rewarding and fun to do, and the end results are tasty. What’s not to like? But if anything’s more dependent upon chemistry and perfect proportions, it seems like it’s cheese–so I was always a bit hesitant to do more than ricotta.
But the other good thing about learning new stuff like this is that once I got a look at the final results, I realized I’d just made ricotta cheese the hard way. So we’re having lasagna instead of caprese salad tomorrow. Sometimes you just have to laugh and be flexible.
Lord Snow, of course, approves.