Cheesy

I’ve spent the whole of today making cheese…

It does take a long time, but I do love the process. I have enough milk in the freezer to make another batch, which I’m going to tweak a little by using a bit less rennet to see how that affects the texture. In the mean time, we have fresh ricotta to enjoy and loads of whey to use in baking and to feed to the hens.

Making chicken food

In the UK it is illegal to feed kitchen waste to your hens. It is ok, however, to make feed specifically for chickens. Our hens really like a mix of oats and whey… a sort of cold porridge… so last weekend I decided to make this for them.

Whey can easily be separated out from milk using a bacterial culture. Thickening the mix by the addition of rennet makes straining the curds off much easier. And if you allow the curds to drain overnight, you maximise the amount of whey that you can extract.

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Even more solids appear if you heat the whey up to nearly boiling

It’s also possible to remove extra solids from the whey by heating it to just below boiling point, allowing it to cool again and then filtering through muslin once again. I started with 3 litres of whole milk and ended up with about 1.5 litres of whey. Of course I had lots of waste curds, but that was ok because I turned them into soft cheese. In addition, the solids that come out of the whey as a result of heating are otherwise known as ricotta.

You see, it’s not illegal for humans to eat the waste left from making chicken feed…. how convenient!

A cheesy birthday present

The second of January may be the worst possible day to have a birthday. Mr Snail, however, does his utmost to ensure that I have a good day and this year was no exception… a lovely lunch at The Harbourmaster and then an evening at home with a glass or two of something sparkling.

Although we don’t do presents for Christmas/Yule/Chanukah, we do give each other birthday gifts. This year I asked for a cheese-making kit. I thought it might be a fun skill to acquire and it is something that I have never tried before. Proper cheese, especially the hard stuff, has relatively little lactose in it and so I am able to eat it in moderation.

Cheese-making kit

Cheese-making kit

So, today I have been playing with milk. My first attempt is a soft cheese as this is quicker than a hard cheese and is easier to make in small quantities… I decided that starting with a recipe that requires 6 litres of milk was just too ambitious! There has been heating of milk and subdividing the ‘starter’… there has been a water bath, rennet, lots of sterilising (using boiling water so as not to taint the cheese with chemicals) and quite a bit of mess. I didn’t manage to achieve the cubes of curds described in the recipe, but I have finally got three molds filled with curds so that the whey can drain off. The next step (in about an hour) is slipping the developing  cheese out of the molds and turning it… that sounds like something that could go horribly wrong! Anyway, here is progress so far:

 

By tomorrow I may have three small soft cheeses … or I may just have a pile of curds and a bowl of whey… only time will tell. Anyway, thank you to Mr Snail for buying me such an interesting birthday present… I’ve never wanted perfume and flowers and it’s a good job he understands this!

Now, I’d better work out what I can use all this whey for.

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