Had I been born a couple centuries ago, my prospects as a mere woman would be considerably dimmer than they are today. T is indisputably the better cook. And as this piece (originally published at Good) demonstrates, I can’t even make cheese when a Mad Millie kit puts everything I need right in front of me.
Cheese and I have always gotten along well. It’s a genetic thing. Thinking back, I can recall memories of my mother standing in the kitchen in the evenings, slicing off slivers from her trusty Colby block, enjoying a solitary snack.
Over the years I’ve progressed from sliced cheese to block cheese to soft cheeses, and now, the full gamut of Nosh’s displays. But as with other dairy products, the price of the good stuff (and even the mediocre stuff) makes it a luxury rather than a staple. So I was amped to try my hand at making my own.
The first attempt started off well on the back foot. After unpacking the entire Mad Millie cheesemaking kit, I had to make an emergency trip to the supermarket to pick up some disposable gloves. Armed with two kinds (the clear food preparation type and a hardier all purpose variety), it was game on.
I’d seen a demonstration of ricotta making first-hand, from start to finish, and while it looked easy as pie (and is therefore probably the place to start as a beginner) it’s actually not a cheese I’m a big fan of. No – straight on to mozzarella it was – how hard could it be with step-by-step guidance?
They say cooking is an art, and baking a science. The boy and I both tend to fly by the seat of our pants, but it’s important to observe the times and temperatures laid out in the instructions, so I kept the booklet close at hand (too close, perhaps; it’s permanently wrinkled from rogue spills).
All started off well. The mixture began to coagulate into satisfyingly solid curds:
Once formed, we wrapped them up neatly to drain…
and then revealed these.
So far, so good.
Now the tricky part – the rewetting and working of the curd into balls. The general idea is that you place some curds into a slotted spoon, lower the spoon into the hot water, then pull them back out and form the mozzarella balls with your hand. The curds at this point should be lush and pliable; I’d seen this part at the demonstration. However, these specimens were neither stretchy nor particularly soft. It seemed as if they’d lost too much moisture along the way and couldn’t get their mojo back, no matter how long they spent plunged back into the pot.
The end result? An odd texture I’d describe as something like a firm feta – not what we were going for, but at least it was vaguely cheesy and definitely edible.
It made for a good toast topping, anyway, along with a bit of bite courtesy of a red onion.
I should probably have prefaced this by noting that I am almost always spectacularly unsuccessful at Pioneer Woman-type pursuits. I’ve never successfully made bread from scratch at home, and I’ve never, ever had dough double in size (despite the countless times I’ve tried baking my own cinnamon rolls). I’ve failed at yoghurt, too. (I have managed to cobble together both hummus and mayonnaise from scratch, but not to the point of cracking a decent flavouring of either.) So it’s not entirely surprising that my grand ambitions in this instance also fell short.
After a couple more tries at mozzarella, again with the same result (and a separate iffy attempt at mascarpone – our improvised double boiler couldn’t hit the required temperature heights) I’ve decided I may just have to go back to basics and start with ricotta.