Category Archives: Cheese making

Brooklyn Chevre’

I’m back on track making cheese after a little hiatus. It was raining yesterday in Brooklyn so I decided to make some goat cheese. Chevre’, meaning goat in french, is technically the term for all goat cheese but we think of chevre’ as the soft, cream cheese like goat cheese we are often used to in the USA.


Goat's Milk

I decided to make chevre’ with dill and garlic. I bought a half gallon of pasteurized goat’s milk and used my chevre’ starter from New England Cheesemaking which I keep in the freezer.

At left is the goat’s milk right out of the bottle in a pot on my stove.

I heated it to around 80 degrees (fahrenheit), added the starter and a few tablespoons of dissolved vegetable rennet. Rennet helps to coagulate milk. Rennet is traditionally made from the stomach lining of an animal but I prefer the vegetable variety. If you want to learn more about rennet, check out this article.

After mixing the milk for a few minutes, I covered it and just let it set for around 12 hours, waiting for the curd to form. After 12 hours, I had a nice curd in the pot – the milk becomes a custard-y consistency and there was a little bit of clear liquid at the top.

Dill and Garlic

Next, I minced some dill and 1 garlic clove and mixed it all up with the curds. Then, I ladled the curds into a butter muslin (cheese cloth) that I lined inside of a colander. Last, I tied the four corners of the muslin together and fastened the whole “bag” to my kitchen faucet, handing over the sink.

I let the bag hang, draining slowly, over the sink, over night.

In the morning, I united the bag and here is what I got:

Finished Garlic and Dill Chevre

From half a gallon of goat’s milk, I ended up with one small tupperware carton of chevre’. It’s delicious, fresh and not too “goat-y.” It’s a great starter cheese for anyone interested in cheesemaking. I’m going to bring mine to a dinner party and we’ll eat it on crackers and bread with olives and fresh vegetables.

Avi's Brooklyn Chevre

In America, Chevre’ only became popular in the 1980s. Laua Chenel is known as the mother of American goat cheese. She pioneered artisan chevre’ production in California and reigned as the doyenne of American goat cheese for more than 20 years. As the NY Times reported, Chenel’s business was bought out by a larger company in 2006.

Last but not least, have a look at some great chevre’ recipe suggestions from this Chowhound page.

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Making Delicious “Mozz” at Home

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A lot of people who know about my proclivities for and activities related to cheese-making in my Brooklyn, NY apartment have asked me for an easy cheese they can try making at home.

Mozarella is by far the easiest and will give you the most instant gratification for your efforts. Before we dive into the recipe, let me digress for a moment about the history of Mozarella. It’s not clear how mozarella was invented, but like many of the best inventions, it was probably an accident. A cheese curd probably fell into a pot of boiling water, an Italian farmer fished it out and, voi la, mozarella.

We do know that the classic buffalo mozarella comes from Aversa near Naples:

Classic Buffalo Mozarella is made from the milk of water buffaloes. According to Wikipedia, “more than 33,000 tons of buffalo mozarella are produced per year in Italy and it is an industry worth more than $430 million.”

Unless you have access to water buffaloes, you will most likely make your mozarella from cow’s milk. Technically, mozarella made from the milk of cows is called Fior di latte .

OK, now for the good stuff. Here is an easy, “in-an-afternoon” cheese that anyone can make at home. If you need help with any supplies, I recommend Cheesemaking.com but you can also get all of the ingredients for Mozarella at Wholefoods or another health food store.

First, watch this video to get a visual (and aural – Spanish guitar music always helps) sense of how it looks to make Mozz and then see the recipes below for details:

Although it takes a little effort, once you’ve tasted your home-made Mozz, you’ll know it’s worth it.Most recipes for mozarella are similar so you can browse the internet for other variations. This recipe is from Instructables.com:

step 1 Equipment you will need:
Equipment: 1. At least an 8 quart pot either enameled or stainless steel. (Do not use aluminum, cast iron or other reactive pots) 2. Thermometer. (A candy thermometer will probably work but a good digital thermometer is much better for accuracy.) 3. A couple measuring cups or something to dissolve the Citric Acid and Rennet in. 4. A big strainer to strain the Curds fro…

step 2OK First things First
1. Pour 1 teaspoon Citric Acid into 1/4 cup unchlorinated water and stir. Crush the Rennet tablet and pour it into the other cup of unchlorinated water. The Citric Acid should be dissolved by the time you have to use it. Most of the Rennet will be dissolved but there will still be some residue left. 2. If you haven’t done so already, pour milk into your pot. Make sur…
step 3Pour in the Citric Acid.
1. Pour the dissolved Citric Acid in the milk and stir for 1 minute. 2. Sprinkle the other teaspoon of Citric Acid in the milk and sir for another minute. You will probably see the milk start to curdle very shortly.
step 4Heat milk to 88-90 degrees F. Stirring occasionally.
This is not an error. You are not trying to pasteurize the milk. If you get it too hot or too cold, the Rennet will not make curds. Use a low heat so it doesn’t go past the 88-90 degrees. It should take about 10-15 minutes.
step 5At 88-90 degrees turn off the heat and stir in the Rennet solution for 15-20 seconds.
Cover the pot with the lid and LEAVE IT SET UNDISTURBED FOR AT LEAST 15-20 MINUTES until you can get a clean break. I usually let mine set for 15-30 minutes. Time is not critical here as long as you get the clean break.
step 6Wait for a clean break.
This is what a clean break looks like. When you poke your finger into it and move for an inch or so and lift it out, the Curd and Whey should separate shortly. If it is still liquidy (Is that a real word?) and sticks to your finger let it set a while longer.
step 7Cut the Curd.
Cut the Curds into 1/2 inch cubes from top to bottom as shown. Then do the same thing at a 45 degree angle.
step 8Let the Curds set undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.
Just let them sit there.
step 9Apply low heat and heat to 108 degrees.
Apply low heat and stir the curds occasionally to keep them separated until they reach 108 degrees. This will take about 15 minutes. The Curds will shrink and start to sink as the Whey is expelled from them.
step 10Turn off the heat.
Turn off the heat and continue stirring every few minutes for an additional 20 minutes. The Curds will keep shrinking.
Once you’ve finished making your mozarella, you will have a pot full of whey left over. Now, for the bonus recipe:
this leftover whey is the key ingredient in making Ricotta cheese! Ricotta cheese is technically a whey cheese since it is made from re-heating and coagulating the left-over whey that results from making other cheeses. Check out the history of Ricotta here.
To make your Ricotta, follow this recipe from hobbyfarms.com.
Once you have your fresh Mozarella nd Ricotta, here are a few good “summer-y” recipes:

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Women in Cheese in NYC

I found this from my friends at Slow Food NYC. I’ll be there on January 6th. If you’re not familiar with the Slow Food movement, check out their website here and then look for them locally in your city.

“Do you love cheese? Have you ever thought about why so many women are making such good cheese?

Join Slow Food NYC Jan 6th for an evening filled with local women in cheese. On hand will be local cheese purveyor Anne Saxelby, of Saxelby Cheesemongers, leading a discussion with Karen Weinberg of Three Corner Field Farm, Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark of Salvatore Bklyn, Angela Miller of Consider Bardwell Farm, and Lisa Schwartz of Rainbeau Ridge.

Hear the story behind the cheese and how this diverse group of women got into the business. They will discuss the cheese making process from the pastures to the shelves and what makes each of their cheeses so wonderful and unique. And of course each participant will also bring plenty of cheese to try, paired with local New York State cider.

Proceeds from this event will help support the activities and programs of Slow Food NYC.

Where: Astor Center – 399 Lafayette St. (at East 4th St.); Manhattan

When: Wedesday, January 6th, 2010 – 6:30 to 8:30

Tickets Available at:

http://www.astorcenternyc.com/class-slow-u-women-in-cheese.ac

Slow Food Members: $25 – use promotional code SFNYCMEM
Non-members: $35 – use promotional code SFNYCNON”

Cheese in New York City

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I love cheese.

I love it so much that I make it in my own apartment in Brooklyn.On any given weekend, you can find my apartment full of cheese-cloth laden with curds hanging off of faucets and doorknobs and pots full of goats milk with assorted bacteria, yeasts, and other paraphernalia. No, my apartment doesn’t smell like a dairy. It might get a little stinky during cheese-time, but I have to keep it very clean to make sure my cheese stays pure.

Today, however, I am not making any cheese. Instead, I am talking about some of the best cheese spots in NY. One of my favorite places is Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village on Bleecker Street. They also have a satellite branch in the Grand Central Market. Murray’s is a Mecca for cheese-lovers. Not only do they have just about every kind of cheese any dairy-lover might crave, but they are also knowledgeable and eager to help. Murray’s also offers Cheese-University – a series of courses on cheese, cheese-making, and cheese appreciation.

My next favorite is Saxelby Cheese Mongers. Saxelby’s is in the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side. Anne Saxelby is definitely one of the City’s premier Cheese-masters. She also offers cheese trips and tours to nearby cheesemakers and farms. On the Saxelby website is a great tool to check out cheese-makers and farms in the NY area.

In my neighborhood, a new-ish place has opened called Brooklyn Larder. Brooklyn Larder has a great cheese room and a nice selection of cheeses. They also have tons of other delicacies including smoked meats, olives, sandwiches, etc. I like the staff – nice people who give good cheese advice.

The other place I recommend is Artisinal Bistro. This place has great cheeses — 250 choices and a great wine selection with which to wash down your curds. Nothing like a stinky cheese and a strong red wine.

Anyone else have favorite cheese-places in NY or anywhere else?

Cheese in the Holy Land

Har Haruach Goat Farm

Har Haruach Goat Farm

All of the Biblical forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,) and many of the biblical prophets raised goats and wandered in the desert with their flocks before the word of God made them give up the good life. Israel is known in the bible as Eretz Zavat Halav U’dvash– a land flowing with milk and honey. According to the egalitarian minyan of Chicago, Illinois, “The Talmud relates that our Sages saw goats eating from fig trees. The figs were so luscious that they were dripping with juice; the goats’ udders were so full that milk flowed out. These two liquids mingled into a sweet stream, and the land was literally “flowing with milk and honey.”

Although modern Israel’s leaders may not be of Biblical stature, the land is definitely still flowing with milk, honey and….cheese.

On my recent trip to Israel, I visited two goat farms and cheese producers with my friend Shirley. Har Haruach, translated as Wind Mountain is in the hills west of Jerusalem. It’s a gorgeous spot with about 130 goats and is open for Israeli and tourists to visit, see the goats, and sample or buy the cheese.

Sataf Goat

Sataf Goat

I also visited Sataf Goat Farm where I watched the bucks  fighting and head butting. Sataf Goat Farm is run by Shai Seltzer who founded it in 1974 and has been making cheese there ever since. I don’t thing he’s cut his beard since and he definitely looks the part:thecheese2

If anyone is visiting Israel, I highly recommend visiting some of these goat farms and cheese makers. It’s quite an experience to eat fresh goat cheese and to watch the goats wander on this special land.

If you want a more organized tour, there are organized culinary and dairy vacations run by Cooks in Israel. They can take you and your family on a bonafide dairy tour of the holy land.

To round things off, check out the boutique wine scene in Israel. From the Judean hills to the galilee, there are more than 100 boutique wineries producing quite good wines. Check out the Israel Wine Company for more information on the wineries and how to get some shipped to you in the US.

Last but not least, the goat cheese and fresh vegetables in Israel are incredible. After a hard day making cheese or hiking in the hills, a good Israeli recipe is for Israeli Couscous, goat cheese and fennel:

Find the whole recipe at FoodDownUnder

1 med fennel bulb
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 x garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 x red bell pepper diced
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
1 bn green onions chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous cooked
6 x Bibb lettuce leaves
1 pkt goat cheese – (2 1/2 oz) crumbled
Fennel fronds for garnish

The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment and Bialys…

Brooklyn Cheese

Brooklyn CheeseThis past sunday, I wandered down to The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment (hats off to #3 for the tip!). It was in my neighborhood and featured home-brewers from all over Brooklyn and beyond and a cook-off featuring cheese dishes. According the Village Voice Blog: "Home cooks and home brewers competed for the hearts and stomach linings of the audience and judges alike; inhuman quantities of curds and whey were consumed, and untold volumes of foam were absorbed by an untold number of beards." There certainly were lots of beards. It was a thoroughly satisfying Brooklyn experience.

According to the NY Times, Brooklyn today is like Berkeley, CA in the 1970s: a hotbed of culinary innovation, a foodie mecca, and the epi-center of the home-grown, slow-food movement. I’m glad to call it home.

Avi's Bialys!

Avi's Bialys!

After the Cheese experiment, I went back home to bake some bread. After leafing through my bread book, I decided to bake BIALYS. The Bialy: not a bagel and not a bread. Not a hybrid either. The bialy is its own category. According to Wikipedia, the Bialy is short for Bialystok, the town in Poland. Bialys were brought to America by Ashkenazi Jews and were little known outside of NY until recently. There’s even a book about Bialy’s: Mimi Sheraton’s The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World.

I made my Bialys using my Sourdough starter as my leavening agent (I fed the starter a few hours prior so it was ncie and activated) and also added a pinch of fleishmans. I used white flour, a little salt, water and presto – Bialy dough.Here’s a decent Bialy recipe. After finishing the dough, I sauteed red onions in olive oil and added them with sesame seeds. Unlike its cousin the bagel, the bialy is not boiled but merely baked. My bialys were baked at 480 degrees.

I just finished one with melted cheese on it – divine.

Cheese University Part Due

My excursion into the world of formal cheese education last night was a success.

I arrived at the famous Murray’s cheese on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village a little nervous. Although I’ve been making my Brooklyn Cheese for more than six months now, would I be a complete novice in a room full of dairy mavens and TUROPHILES (That’s definitely the SAT word of the day)? With all of these sophisticated New Yorkers, would I end up looking like a Kraft single in a room full of aged cheddar and weepy brie?

My fears were quickly put to rest by the friendliness of the staff at Murrays and by the laid-back teacher of the class, Wil Edwards. Aside from teaching this class, Wil is an editor at the new Culture Magazine . He has spent years working on goat and sheep farms in California and Europe and he is a great photographer. Will is also opening an Artisan Food School. Very cool.

During the class, we tried 10 different cheese and learned a lot about the cheese making process. Most of the class was review for me, but i did learn some new things. I loved Wil’s passionate insistence that when you eat cheese, the cheesemaker is as much on your plate as the cheese itself. Each cheese is an art just like painting or photography.

My favorite cheese of the evening was Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a raw, cow’s milk from 9 cross breeds handcrafted by Mike Gingrich. It is so damn good! From the Uplands Cheese Company that makes this cheese:

Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an artisanal cheese made from the non-pasteurized milk of a single herd of Wisconsin cows fed and managed using natural, “old world” practices. Our cows graze lush pastures from early spring through fall, just as all cows did before the industrialization of our food system. The resulting milk has better nutritional value and more varied and subtle flavors that are expressed in the delicate flavor profile of Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese.”

I also learned about a rare Italian delicacy called “callu cabetu cheese” that is literally cheese curds formed in a baby goat (kid)’s stomach. The kid is slaughtered and the cheese is served or sold right out of the stomach. Yuk, but definitely interesting. According to Wil, this is how rennet (the enzyme used by cheesemakers to harden or coagulate milk) was discovered: a baby goat was slaughtered and they saw that the milk it had drunk was now chees-y in its stomach. Wow.

Another thing I learned about was Washed Rind Cheeses. Here’s a video explaining how it’s done (Although these guys are whacky Canadians, they explain it nicely) :

I’m thinking of going to Murray’s Cheese U Bootcamp in two weeks. Anyone else planning on going?