Monday, December 12, 2011

Cheese making

This past weekend a few friends decide it was time to make their own mozzarella cheese. They went to a local cheese store (who knew those existed!), bought a kit, and went to the grocery store to get a few gallons of milk. They brought the milk to room temperature on the counter, mixed various ingredients, followed the specified steps, and low and behold they ended up with cheese!

They actually had to do two attempts because on the first try they forgot to add an apparently critical component at the right time- the citric acid.

When they forgot to add the acid the milk didn't curdle, and the cheese never formed. Curdling is when the proteins of the milk tangle together, to form solid masses. During this process the milk turns into curds and whey, with curds being the solid, and whey being the liquid.

Another fascinating step involved stretching the cheese curd (as opposed to the liquid whey that was drained off). This stretches the proteins in the cheese to make it a stringier, even though in mozzarella it is not supposed to be very noticeable. String cheese, which is often mozzarella, also takes advantage of this stretching and stringiness to make it a more fun snack.

Watching the two in my kitchen work away to make the cheese was a fun process for them and for me, but in the long run I believe it is probably more efficient and cost-effective to just buy the cheese at the store.

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