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A young and slightly ignorant woman who has always loved baking and cooking, I want to make people happy with food as often as I can. I'm here to whisk away and explore!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Becoming Chef-de-awesome and Cheese

Have you ever made something that made you feel like a superstar in the kitchen? Eclairs? Beef Bourguignon? Souffles? PB and J? (Just kidding. Or not. you can feel like a super star with Peanut butter. No judging here.)
Yeah. It's a good feeling, that on-top-of-the-world-I-am-SO-awesome-at-making-food-right-now high. Mhmmm...
If you enjoy feeling like your very own bonafide chef de awesome, make cheese.

It's easier than a box of mac and cheese, but it is super impressive. And if you happen to revert to a ridiculous italian accent and calling it "Bellissima" or "Stupenda", and flinging about wooden spoons. It's ok! Because everyone will be so impressed with the fact that you made your very own CHEESE, they will look right past your little kitchen antics. Um. Yeah.
Just make the dang cheese, already.

My mom recently bought this really fun book called The Homemade Pantry. I actually sat down and read it cover to cover in about an hour. It was a happy book. :)

It highlights all the things we wouldn't usually think to make at home because they are readily available at the store. But readily available doesn't always mean the best...so homemade ricotta, homemade yogurt, homemade marshmallows...you get the idea. It's a happy book. The following recipe is adapted from this happy book. :)
Ricotta Cheese (makes about 1 and 1/2 cups)
1/2 gallon of whole milk (we use raw milk that has been unpasteurized. We think it tastes best this way and makes us feel super healthy and stuff. Because if you're going to make cheese, why not go all out?)
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice (usually about 2-3 lemons worth if they are big ones)
Salt to taste
Throw an ice cube in a large heavy pot. Move it all around and let it melt, coating the bottom. When the ice is entirely melted, leave the cold water and add the milk and lemon juice. This keeps the bottom of the pot from scorching as you cook your cheese. Just be sure not to touch the bottom of the pot whenever you stir.
Stir the lemon juice and milk together for five minutes slowly, not touching the bottom. Place the pot on low heat and attach a candy thermometer to the side. Heat the mixture to 175 degrees F. This takes about 45 minutes, you can stir once or twice as it slowly warms up.
When it reaches 175, raise the heat to medium high and without stirring, watch the pot until the temperature is 205. It takes about five minutes. The surface of the milk will look like a melty bubbly lagoon about to erupt in cheesy catastrophe Mt. Vesuvius style. Don't worry, it shouldn't boil. It will just look exciting. When it reaches 205, remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Tada! You now have curds and whey!
Spoon the curds into a fine meshed sieve or a strainer lined with damp cheese cloth. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop the ricotta curds into the sieve. Let the cheese drain for 10 minutes. Sprinkle salt on the cheese  to taste. Try not to eat the whole thing before you use it in a recipe, okay? I know it says "to taste"... but taste. Don't consume entirely. ;)

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