Saturday, August 21, 2010
Homemade Feta & Food 'n Flix
This month, after dipping my toes into the proverbial "kiddie pool" by making (what was almost too easy) Ricotta Cheese, I was feeling adventurous enough the attempt Feta cheese. And with the help and guidance of Heather over at Girlichef, who is a self-proclaimed "cheeseslut," and member of the fabulously inspiring team behind Forging Fromage, I knew I was in good hands. However, being as stubborn as I am...There, I said it. I stubbornly ventured to go-it alone and, to no surprise, wasn't very successful. My first attempt resulted in what's known in the cheese making world as a "bad batch," and an entire gallon of milk going down the drain.
The following day I was left with a half gallon of milk--enough for a half batch, new resolve, some valuable lessons learned and a willingness to try again. I reserved a couple of the tips I found helpful from other blogs and web sites, but stuck, for the most part, to just one recipe.
This time, I successfully made my very first piece of feta, albeit half the size I originally intended. I was, nonetheless, very proud.
I won't let you make the same mistakes I made.
1. Don't panic! Trust the process and stay the course.
2. Sterilize your equipment; Fill the the pot you're using with water, add measuring cup, spoon, knife and boil for five minutes. Carefully drain water from pot along with your tools. 30-60 minutes before cutting and draining cheese curds, boil cheese cloth in smaller pot. Drain, allow to cool enough to handle and squeeze out the excess water. Line colander with a double or triple layer damp cheesecloth.
2b. Wash surfaces with warm soapy water: Counter/ Table, your hands before handling cheese.
3. Some web sites suggest cutting the feta into slices (like I did), before salting, but to prevent over salting, only cut the feta in half. That's what I'll do next time.
4. Don't be discouraged; Anything you attempt for the first time (or 2nd or 3rd, in some cases) is bound to have some kinks. It's important to exercise patience and know that practice will pay off.
5. Let's do this!
Recipe courtesy and Adapted from Girlichef, via 'The Home Creamery' by: Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
Ultra-fine cheesecloth (Or butter muslin, Or sterilized unused hankerchief)
Table (butter) knife
Dish/Bowl that can hold feta and be covered
Yield: 1 lb. Make at least 24 hours before needed.
1 gallon milk
1/4 c. cultured buttermilk (Or 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt with live cultures)
1/4 tsp. liquid rennet (or 1 half rennet tablet)
1/4 c. cool water (55-60 degrees F)
1/4 tsp. calcium chloride
*Note: I subtracted 1/4 cup milk from the gallon I was using to make homemade UN-cultured buttermilk (made with vinegar)and, much to my surprise, it worked out just fine.
This is what a clean break looks like.
After cutting lengthwise and crosswise into 1-inch squares.
Stir to break curds and carefully pour into cheesecloth.
1. In large heavy-bottomed pot, heat milk to 88 degrees over low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent milk from scalding. Heating milk to correct temperature will take about 10 minutes. Once the milk has been heated, stir in buttermilk OR yogurt. Place cover over pot and turn heat off. Leave pot undisturbed for 1 hour.
2. Either, break up to dissolve tablet or stir liquid rennet into cool water. Pour this mixture, and calcium chloride into into milk mixture. Stir for 60 seconds to dissolve. Milk will still be warm. Return cover over pot and allow to sit undisturbed for 1 to 3 hours, until coagulated. Mine took 3 hours.
3. After one hour, You can test for a "clean break" by inserting a very clean finger; Dip little (pinky) finger about 1-inch into coagulated mixture and pull up. If finger removes clean and liquid (whey) pools, you have a clean break. If not, allow to sit for another 2 hours.
4. Starting lengthwise and then crosswise, insert sterilized blade of table (butter) knife to cut curds into 1-inch squares. Stir mixture gently 3 or 4 times to break up curds. The temperature should still be at 88 degrees. Mine was not, so I turned the heat to low and allowed mixture to come to temperature. Turn heat off.
5. Place colander in a large bowl. Slowly pour curds into ultra-fine cheesecloth (or butter muslin) lined colander. Use a tool, such as a wooden spoon, to lay across colander and make a "bag" by tying the four ends of ultra-fine cheesecloth over the spoon, so that the bag is suspended higher than the liquid (whey) that is being released. At this point, a lot of the liquid should have been released. Temporarily place colander into clean sink. Transfer liquid remaining in bowl to a smaller bowl that can be covered and refrigerate. This will become our brine. Return colander to bowl, adjusting so that the ends of spoon are laying flat on either side of colander (or bowl). You could add folded dish towels to each side of the bowl and lay ends of spoon securely on towels for more height, if needed. Refrigerate cheese until drained, approximately 4-6 hours.
6. After 4-6 hours, remove bowl with cheese from refrigerator. Wash hands before handling cheese. Untie cheesecloth and remove ball of cheese. Yes, it's exciting and looks delicious, but don't eat it...yet.
7. Cut the ball of cheese evenly down the middle, giving you two halves. Transfer cheese halves to something that can be covered, such as a baking dish. Salt the entire surface of both halves of the cheese and cover dish. Allow dish to sit out at room temperature for 24 hours. I was skeptical, too, but trust me.
8. 24 hours later, you'll have cheese that is sitting in the liquid that has been drawn out by the salt. Carefully drain excess liquid; Salt surface of the cheese once more and cover dish. Allow cheese to sit at room temperature for 2 more hours.
After all the hard work and patience, you can eat your cheese now or, Stir in 3-5 tablespoons of salt to the brining liquid we reserved earlier and add pieces of cheese. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 weeks.
*Note: If you accidentally threw the brining liquid away (this happens), simply cover cheese with water that you've salted, cover and refrigerate.
Once you've removed the cheese from the cheesecloth, only cut mound into half and NOT into slices like I've done below. This will help prevent over-salting.
After 24 hours, the salted cheese will be sitting in a pool of water. Heather had a lot of water, but I only had very little. That's okay! This was just after salting.
After a full night and day, your cheese is ready to eat.
Food 'n Flix
At the start of this post I mentioned Heather over at Girlichef, who guided me through my cheese making endeavor. Well, Heather has started a new blog called Food 'n Flix and was so kind to ask if I would co-host it with her. The premise is, once a month we'll feature a film that relates to food, either directly or indirectly, watch the film, and prepare a dish or dessert inspired by that month's film. Our first month is September and we'll be starting with the film 'Chocolat' starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. That means chocolate is the star ingredient. The best part is, everyone is welcome to join in and participate. We'd love to have you over to share in ideas, dishes, movie suggestions, and what's sure to be a lot of fun.