Back in the homemade cheese saddle

Posted Mar 10th, 2012

Back in the homemade cheese saddle

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My homemade goat's milk cream cheese with tomato jam.

Get me a cigarette.

I've just had a really satisfying experience.

And it happened in the kitchen, first on the stove, then the counter, before moving to kitchen table where I've been nibbling a buckwheat crisp slathered in cream cheese with The Good Earth's tomato jam — a fantastic snacking experience, yes, but it was something else that made it so.

I made the cream cheese myself.

It has been about a year since I last made what is the freshest tasting, creamiest yet light, snow-white spreadable cheese using goat's milk from Hewitt's Dairy in Hagersville, which dairy goat farmers here in Niagara supply.

This post isn't to brag about being a cheesemaker. Really, it's to encourage everyone to try making cheese themselves because if I can, you can.

My first foray into cheesemaking was in November 2010 when I took a workshop in Niagara Falls dedicated to curdling milk, growing mold and ultimately engaging in what has been one of my most satisfying culinary coups.

After setting myself up with the beginnings of Roquefort and Brie cheese and heading home for weeks of nursing my milky masses to become ripe rounds of oozing, rich goodness, I pledged with my friend who joined me at the workshop that we would continue making cheese together on our own.

So we did, once we had emboldened ourselves enough to eat our workshop homework, discovered it was seriously swoon-worthy stuff and lived to tell about it.

Being newbies and on our own with our cheesemaking supplies now, we tried our hands at cream cheese. The recipe looked less intense and time consuming than our guided efforts at our workshop. Heat milk to a specified temperature, add bacteria and non-animal rennet, let sit for about 17 hours to curdle, then drain into spreadable magic.

It seemed less risky and a guaranteed confidence boost compared to weeks of surgeon-like handwashing just to flip our fermenting fromage every day until the right mold started to blanket it, before wrapping it and waiting another six to eight weeks for it to ripen fully.

My goat milk cream cheese.

Cream cheese and the subsequent ricotta made from the leftover whey seemed like instant gratification in comparison to our all-consuming Camembert and offered less chance of food poisoning-inducing error.

As we sampled our spreadable handiwork last year, we vowed to do it again soon but then life and conflicting schedules threw an unsanitized cheese ladle into those plans.

But last weekend, we finally reconvened and reminded ourselves over a glass of wine and watched-pot of (good) bacteria-riddled warm milk why homemade cheese was in a league all its own when it comes to food feats.

A date has already been set aside for our next attempt, our confidence soaring just high enough to try another round of Camembert on our own. So psyched up we are, plans are afoot for other D-I-Y food escapades. We're going to tap my friend's maple tree next year and make syrup. Old hat for her, but for me, a prospective feather in the cap of truly satisfying eating experiences.

In the meantime, pass that cigarette. Or a canapé knife.


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