During the summer I had a birthday. I am told I am very difficult to buy for, predominately because I never actually want anything! I therefore usually end up with vouchers, so I can get something for myself. More often than not, these vouchers tend to be from Lakeland – http://www.lakeland.co.uk/Homepage.action, because then I buy stuff that I would like and use, and not end up buying things for the kids – but even from them I can find something they want so I treat them. This time I bought ice lolly makers for them – http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16585/Zoku-Orange-Single-Quick-Pop-Maker, and they are brilliant, as they totally do what they say on the box, and you can make an ice-lolly in 10 minutes with the likes of orange juice. I would definitely recommend them.
I am however not wanting to talk about that today, and as usual I digress.
I spent ages trolling through the website, putting everything that took my fancy into the basket before going back and editing it completely to get it to a figure closer to the value I had to spend! I decided to go with things I wouldn’t necessarily spend my own money on, so in other words just something I really fancied – hence the lolly makers, which even though they were in the sale at the time, are quite expensive. The one thing that really caught my eye was a kit to make cheese. Something I had never really considered making before. Cheese comes from the supermarket, and its eaten, end of story! I thought it sounded fun, and so decided to go for it. The kit I chose was from Mad Millie – http://www.lakeland.co.uk/18086/Mad-Millie-Hard-Cheese-Kit It contained everything you needed, from chemicals, to thermometer and press, and the measuring spoons included have fabulous terms on them from dash to smidgen! The only thing you need to add is the milk and a pan to cook it in.
D was really excited by this, as he if a total cheese addict, and was desperate to help, so I put off trying it until a time he could help. It was extremely simple, as long as the instructions are followed. D did all the sciency bits, adding the chemicals, while I got the arm aching job of stirring! We were both really excited when we first saw the curds had set, and then separated nicely from the whey. The press has a pressure gauge on it, so we carefully timed each setting, and were very excited the next morning when we had a rubbery lump, that actually looked a little like cheese! It then had to air dry for a week before coating in wax – that was also included in the kit. We now have a perfect lump of cheddar, maturing in the kitchen cupboard.
We have also tried the recipes for Cheshire, Red Leicester, Havatti, and Colby. Some are waxed, while others air dry to form a natural crust. The havatti, has to be brined every couple of days, and D has been doing it without having to be asked. The cheese kit may have been my toy, but the maturing product has definitely become his baby! Each type of cheese has a different recommended maturing time, and D has marked the calendar with which one is ready on which date!
Yesterday was Red Leicester day. It was the first of our cheeses to be ready, as it was the one that needed the least time to mature. D was very excited – as was I, and we were trying it before breakfast! It looked like cheese, and it smelled like cheese, but I was honestly a little nervous about trying it. We cut a slice and removed the rind, and what we had was more of an edam texture than that of red Leicester, but the flavour was amazing! We had produced cheese! I think we were both proud of our achievements! D has told me he will be having a cheese sandwich in his lunch bag tomorrow!
I am amazed how simple it actually was to make. You do have to follow the instructions and make sure temperatures and timings are right, but it isn’t overly complicated. The one thing I did do which wasn’t according to the instructions was, I used 1% milk rather than the full fat it stated, but it seems to have still worked perfectly. I might just have to experiment with other types of milk!
Now, when I said it was the first of our cheese we tried, that isn’t quite the truth. We were so taken by the whole cheese making thing, that I was researching recipes for other types of cheese. I came across a recipe for mozzarella, and thought I would give it a go. To say it was beyond simple is an understatement! This is the recipe I used, but there are loads out there http://www.forgreenies.com/make-mozzarella-cheese-in-30-mins-no-microwave-needed. D loved helping with the stretching of the curds, but has asked me to get him some smaller rubber gloves for next time!! He has even invited some of his friends over to have pizza with us next time we make it!! Even M who isn’t the greatest cheese lover in the world enjoyed seeing how far he could stretch the strand of cheese when he was eating it!
Another cheese we tried making is cottage cheese. I love cottage cheese, probably because of a life time of dieting, it is just a staple food for me. This though was something else. The texture, the look and the smell were just as I would have expected, but the taste is something I can only describe as being clean. It was so fresh in my mouth. D just sat there and ate it from the tub I had put it in, and it didn’t last long! I will definitely be making this again very soon!
I think I have totally been bitten by the cheese making bug, and will keep trying and experimenting. Over the next few weeks we will be having our first tastes of the different varieties we presently have maturing, and I am positively excited by the prospect. I think I will be making cheese hampers for family and friends for Christmas, so will be busy over the next few weeks!
Now, someone pass me the crackers!