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thursday--further adventures in cottage cheese land

Thursday, November 14, 2013

good morning! well, the cottage cheese experiment continues. the recipe I have is kind of vague (to quote capt. Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean) "they're more like guidelines, really". but here is the upshot:
I made a gallon of milk from the powder. you can use any kind of milk--even whole milk. powdered milk isn't really any cheaper than milk when you extrapolate the cost out. I just wanted to see what using it would result in, since the premise of the recipe is that you can make this if you don't have access to milk. it gets a bit more complicated than that as I will explain in a minute.
anyway--I put the milk in a big stockpot, and slowly heated it to 90 degrees. while that was going on I put a whole tablet of rennet in about 2T. of slightly warm water and mashed it around with a spoon until it was dissolved.
my understanding is that rennet is a product of a young ruminant animal's stomach--that causes the milk to coagulate that it drinks from its mom so it can digest it. this is extracted during the slaughtering process for meat animals. there are also vegetable rennets available if you don't like the animal source idea.
after the milk was heated, I had to inoculate it with some bacteria--there are two sources for this--either yogurt or buttermilk. so you have to have some form of "milk" product available to you. I doubt that powdered buttermilk or yogurt would work because the bacteria would no longer be alive.
so into the 90 degree milk went the dissolved rennet and a pint of buttermilk (2c). I stirred this up gently, covered it and moved it to the back of my stove so it could sit overnight. I have no idea what the time frame is, really--I started this process about 3 in the afternoon and when I peeked at 11 pm I could see the curd forming. didn't know if I should do anything about it then or not--so I just went to bed.
got up at 5:30 to find the curd completely formed (it appeared to be smaller than what I saw last night--I am just guessing it wasn't completely firm last night, but firmed up and shrank in the night). as per the instructions I took a silver knife (just my shiny silver bread knife--figured it was chemically inert) and sliced the curd up, down and through the middle as best I could. there was a lot of whey sitting on top, and as I cut the curds came free and began to float around in the whey.
now I had to become a little inventive--fortunately the first thing I tried worked. at this point you have to put the pan of curds and whey--which was one of my two big stockpots--in a water bath and gently heat it to 110 degrees. since the pot containing the curds and whey is one of the biggest pots I have, it took a minute of thinking to figure out what to do.
my lodge dutch oven came to the rescue. I put some water in it, began heating it and then lowered the stockpot into the warm water. clipped the thermometer to the stockpot and let it all slowly warm to 110. this took about 20 minutes.
then I poured the whole conglomeration into a colander that I had lined with cheesecloth. at this point my "thrifty" mindset failed me--because I should have recovered the whey to give to the chickens. but I didn't think about it until a lot of it had gone down the sink drain.
finally--I tied the cheesecloth "hobo style" and hung it from an S-hook on my cabinet, suspended over the stock pot. the rest of the whey is draining off now.
at that point I think you mash it and add back in cream or milk if you want--salt if you want and then eat. don't know how long the draining will take. it looks like I am going to get the equivalent of about 2 large containers of cottage cheese from this process--maybe slightly less--won't know until its done draining for certain.
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