Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cheesing about.

Long time no post! It seems like an eternity but it was just ten days ago. I wanted to post about stracchino and a couple of caciotta experiments that I have performed but I still haven't got around organising myself and I don't have the pictures at hand. Also I had to stop making fucking cheese day and night or I'd have become like the dude in the picture above!
So I thought I'd just post a quick one to point you all cheese-mongers in the direction of a very nice blog run by the people of the New England Cheesemaking supply company.
The blog is here: and focuses on crazy people like us who started to make cheese for fun and developed quite a business with time.
I also want to spend some link-love for the guys at "Small Farm Supplies" who have pretty much all you need for a small holding and making cheese at very interesting prices, they are quick and very helpful. Not very strong on the cheese culture starters but hey, you can't have everything.
For an excellent review and explanation of starter cultures check out the Cheesemaker, excellent website because it gives a very good description of what each culture does and also gives the exact composition of bacteria in each one of them.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Little M. liked it

If it is true that I am usually the most strict judge of my own work, it is also true that self-reference is no good if you want to improve your act. So I brought samples of the lactic cheese I prepared last week to the Brother's place. The Brother is usually very fussy about food and especially about home made stuff and he has gained the nickname of "Son of Capitalism and ready made food". The Brother liked it but even more impressive was the thumbs up given by Little M.
Little M. is Brother's elder son and of course my nephew and "the grandchild of Capitalism and ready made food".
Whizzie keeps insisting that he is in reality my secret child, but Little M. is fussy about pretty much anything edible and was really impressed with the lactic cheese and kept shovelling it down his own throat, trying the three different spice associations (thyme; rosemary + garlic; sage + onion) and repeating the whole process all over again just to make sure he got right the one he liked most.
So, Little M. says the sage and onion one is the best but he liked very much the other two as well and he'll let me know about the bland one + honey for breakfast (but he's waiting for your honey Whizzie!).
Chipmunk, the younger nephew, was just not interested in these cheesy stuff, he's superior to these mortal things.
Then we also tried to make stracchino although the kids lost readily interest in the process and the whole thing was a complete failure.
Once home I tried again and this time I got it right. It's still maturing and I'll be posting about it soon.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Lactic cheese.

This is possibly the easiest cheese recipe ever, you don't even need rennet to do it and it's delicious. It takes a couple of days but the effort involved is minimal.
First thing you need to do is to prepare your mesophilic starter. This is a compound of bacteria that ferment milk at room temp. You can do it by leaving milk at room temp for 24 hrs or by inoculating a little bit of milk with the content of a probiotic drink or a yogurt. It needs to be brought to room temperature well in advance (in the morning) to give a chance to the bacteria to start working. Lactobacillus acidophilus does a great job and you find it in most probiotic drinks and some yogurt but if you want to use professional stuff you can buy a proper starter like this one (it's enough to inoculate 150 liters of milk). If you go for yogurt or some probiotic drink, make sure there is no Bifidobacterium because in my short experience it does not allow the milk to curd. Streptococcus thermophilus and bulgaricus are ok as long as there is lactobacillus acidophilus. So, second thing you need to do is to bring a liter of pasturaised milk to 21°C in the evening and add a couple of spoons of the mesophilic starter you prepared in the morning. Leave everything at room temp and the bacteria will use the lactose in the milk producing lactic acid as a byproduct wich will lower the pH causing the milk to curd (usually between 8 and 12 hrs but could take up to 24). The amazing thing (to me) is that you get a very firm curd without rennet. So it will have probably curded by morning but if you dont have time to do anything, just leave it for when you come back.

On day 2 cut the curd along the two dimensions in cubes of 1 cm or 2. Then cut along the 3rd dimension orizzontally as in the pictures.


Let it rest for an hour.

 Drain it in a colander with a cheesecloth or just a cloth that can let the whey through. Preferably in a kitchen cleaner than mine!

 Hang it preferably in a cool room. The first time I did it I left it at room temp in the kitchen at 17°C and it came just fine. Let it drain for at least 24 hrs.It will be soft, spreadable and juicy.

 Eat it as it is or add herbs!

I have actually prepared 2 litres and got roughly 7-800 grams of it and I prepared some with sage and onion, some with thyme and some with rosemary and garlic. If you do too, it would be good practice to sterilise the herbs in a closed jar by boiling and to let cool, add then the cheese by mixing it with a sterile spoon. It will last longer. I also left half of it as it is, it's super yummy! It will keep in the fridge for at least a week.

PS. If you have dogs, they love whey, it is a good although poor source of protein and you should feed it to them.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The cheese fever.

Oh dear! It is difficult to explain, this cheese fever that suddenly gets you, that makes you get up early in the morning to check on the strater cultures, that makes you look at your first creations aging in the cellar like if they were pets needing your love, that makes you feel like you don't have enough time to try all the recipes you'd like to try ...
I have been compulsively buying on the internet and off the internet, in the real world, I have been buying different thermometers, cheesecloth, starter cultures of all kinds, cheese moulds and alternative pressing methods, dreaming about ways to do things... Oh my! And it is soooo gooood!
First pictures in a few days.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

He's gone.


What a fucking piece of shit. He has wasted so much of our time and money. It was about fucking time he got defeated by his own mistakes, drowned in his own shit, betrayed by his own puppets. It will take us at least 20 years to get back some credibility and to fix all the damage he has done. I'm happy he is gone but I'm also sad that it took so long.
I made cheese tonight, I think it could well be considered the first cheese without him as a prime minister!
Bye bye, Berlusconi.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

First fridge first: the cheese cave

Ok, as you know I have been organising myself in the recent weeks to start some home cheese making.
Because I need to get some experience on hard and aged Italian cheeses the first issue to be addressed for me was the set up of an aging area with the right conditions for maturation of theses cheeses.
The condition required are 8-12° C temperature and 85-95% humidity. As I've shown in a previous post, most people resort to slightly or heavily modified fridges in order to reach this conditions. Here is another solution for curing meats:
This usually implies an added thermostat and the exclusion from the circuit of the built-in one. It's only a few bucks and real quick work but I have figured out a way to do it even in a cheaper way.
The picture you see at the head of the post is one of classic fridge thermostat. You'll find one of those basically in any European fridge. It is positioned right behind the controller used to regulate the temperature/power of the fridge, and to access it you have to take down that part of the fridge. It's usually pretty straight forward and that's what I've done here: take it down!
If you look at the thermostat from the side which has no cables, this is what you'll see:

That little screw indicated by the red arrow can be used to modify the temperature range of your fridge. In it's natural position it will make the fridge work usually between 8° C (minimum power) and 3-4° C (maximum power position). But if you screw clockwise, that range will change towards higher temperatures. I screw it in almost to the end and then started the fridge, put the power to minimum. After 12 hours it indicated 16°C (thermometer in a filled water bottle). Too much. I put the power level up to 3.5, another 12 hours and was down to 13°. Now it's on 4 and the temperature is a steady 12. Perfect. I put everything back together. The good thing about this method it's that you can always restore the fridge to its original condition and resell it, no holes anywhere.

For the humidity issue, some people like to go for the hygrostat + fogger solution like here: but it involves another expense (50 euro maybe). So many others go for the easy solution of just letting the humidity build up in the fridge and leave water to evaporate from containers. In this case the fridge needs to be properly sealed (including the hole for drainage of condensed water which is usually at the bottom/back of the fridge area). Another solution is to make your cheese mature in a closed container (which will also eliminate cross contamination if you are working on different types of cheese). The easy solution is what I'll use for now.
Last night I carried out my first experiment, there is a lot to be improved, so I won't post pics unless I'll be extremely impressed by the result which is at the moment aging in the cave...

More soon!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

For fuck sake, just resign!

Will this be the end of it? I'm not that sure, he's ruined the country for decades to come and even if he goes Italy will take ages to recover. There is no alternative. We are governed by a bunch of thieves and corrupted pricks.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

All you need to make a bit of cheese

I see! That's how you get the holes!

Making cheese is really not that difficult. Making GOOD cheese is a bit more difficult. Making a living out of selling good cheese is akshully quite difficult.
To start off you don't need that much and you can find all you need online and in small shops.
I myself bought everything online and I spent not more than 60 euro (+ 70 for a fridge).

Shopping list:

  1. Milk (5 liters approx for 1 Kg cheese, NOT ONLINE!!! :))
  2. Rennet (animal, 250 g, 7.5 euro)
  3. Starter culture (Mesophilic and thermophilic for different recipes, 6.5 euro each)
  4. Cheese moulds (ricotta moulds 7.5 euro for 50, pecorino 7.5 euro for 50)
  5. Thermometer (6 euro on ebay)
  6. Cheesecloth (5 meters x 35 cm, 8 euro on ebay).
  7. Old fridge to be converted into a cellar (70 euro second hand in a town nearby)

I bought most of the stuff from these guys:
but I think they deliver only in Italy (Rowena, they're close to you!)
If you are in the UK there is a pretty good ebay shop which I might use in the near future, they are very nice and helpful (thanks Ann!) and the shop is called "Small Farm Supplies".
I got my Cheesecloth here, it was extremely cheap.
Regarding the Cheese cave, most people tend convert old fridges or wine cooling units by substituting the thermostat with one like this, and by adding a fogger and an hygrostat to build up humidity like in this post: the cheese cave, but for the time being I'm going to rely on the inbuilt thermostat (it looks like it could do 12C°) and the built in humidity (I'll dedicate a post next week to the cheese cave).
So far, so good. All the stuff should come in next week. So exciting!