Last summer I read the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It completely changed the way that I view food. She is a strong advocate for local, seasonal foods that support the farmers and the environment. In the book, she makes her own cheese.
I know what you're thinking...why in the world would you go through all that hassle to make something you can buy at the grocery store? She made the decision to make her own cheese to support local dairy farmers and to avoid eating "cheese product". You know the stuff...the cheese that is unnatural colors, could survive in the fridge for a year or two, and that doesn't quite taste like the milk it came from.
So, after finishing the book, I decided to try it. My dad and I ordered The Cheese Queen's 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit. (Thank you, dad, for being such a good sport!) Here's her link...
Cheese Making for Beginners
One very happy fall day, the cheese making kit arrived! It included all that we needed to make the cheeses, minus the milk. I quickly ran to the store, bought the first gallon of milk I saw, and whipped up a batch of what should have been mozzarella cheese. It ended up more like a drier version of ricotta...so, we added some fresh oregano and basil from the garden and spread it on crackers. Tasty, but not exactly what we were hoping for.
After some research on The Cheese Queen's website, I realized I was using the wrong type of milk. And that there's a link on her website that lists all the good brands of milk to make cheese. They were the local, not overly pasteurized ones. Ahhhh...
So, after another trip to the grocery and another gallon of milk later, I had homemade, fresh mozzarella! Actually, it wasn't that hard to make (after finding the right milk). It only takes about a half hour, as the name implies, and it is SO worth the time. Even with the starter kit considered, each batch of cheese only costs about $3, about what it would cost to buy packaged, not-so-fresh mozzarella. Plus, you can add as much or as little salt as you like (we try not to have too much in our diet, so I halved the recommended amount and it still turned out great) or you can even add fresh herbs to the mozzarella before it solidifies.
I know it sounds crazy, but it's delicious and so rewarding. Here's a photo guide to show what it takes to go from a gallon of milk to a warm ball of cheesy deliciousness that can easily be turned into caprese salad, an authentic Italian pizza, a cheese stick for the kiddos, or stuffed pepper filling.