Cheese Making

January 10, 2013

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Photo by Lindsey Johnson.

I love cheese. It might be because I think of cheese as smelly, curdy nectar of the gods, or maybe because I was born in the midwest and am therefore entitled to wear cheese on my head in nationalistic celebration. Truly, there is little in this world that I love like I love cheese.

I love it so much that I read Saveur’s description of a pizza with stracciatella di burrata and immediately found myself wanting to weep (that such a beautiful thing exists) and visibly salivating (because it should exist in my mouth right away). If you’ve ever had burrata, which they describe as “silky-soft sacks of mozzarella filled with straciatella, strands of mozzarella bathed extravagantly in cream,” you understand where I’m coming from. Cutting into a ball of freshly made burrata causes you to write about cheese like it’s high poetry. And maybe join a gym.

I love cheese so much I can’t live without it. And because our local Food Lion in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina doesn’t sell a ricotta that resembles anything close to actual cheese, I find myself making it at home on a regular basis.

Because I love lasagna. And I love pizza. And I love forkfulls of fresh ricotta between meals when no one’s watching. And all of these things require ricotta. I love eating it when it’s still hot and slathering it on some fresh bread with olive oil and a little salt. I make it in the morning for dinner and then realize around five p.m. that I’ve eaten half of what I meant to cook with later. I can’t help it. This is what happens when you start making cheese.

Cheese making inspires you in all sorts of ways.You find yourself adding it to fruit in ways you never thought possible (I make a ricotta, peach, and pistachio trifle that I drizzle with honey and a dash of maldon salt). You bring it to friends in present-form, causing them to either love you forever or maybe wonder if you’re becoming Amish. You become the happy sort of cheese person who sniffs the offerings at Whole Foods with great intent before asking the cheesemonger 30 detailed questions about the cheese’s provenance. And then you decide you’re going to have a go at making your own version, after all.

Ricotta can be made with a little milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice, but there are dozens of kits so simple that you can start your cheese making process at home right away and have a gourmet, finished product in no time. I like this mozzerella and ricotta kit — it’s beginner friendly and comes with fool-proof instructions. You can also be brave and make your own cheddargoat cheese, and even burrata.

But if you find yourself making the burrata, don’t forget to let me know. I’ll be over in five minutes flat, and I promise to compliment your efforts with a web of words that would border on high poetry — if my mouth weren’t so full of cheese.

Have you ever tried making cheese? Or any other foods from a DIY kit? My husband loves beer-making kits, although I think the process might be more enjoyable than the product!

P.S. — You’ve made your cheese and invited us all over for a nibble. Here are a few tips for setting up a genius cheese board before we arrive!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy January 10, 2013 at 8:56 am

that pizza described in that link sounds delicious. I’ve only had burrata a few times–during a trip to the west coast of tuscany two and a half years ago. and not since. that cheese is truly the nectar of the gods.

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2 raleigh-elizabeth January 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm

it really is, isn’t it? cheese swoon.

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3 Koseli Cummings January 10, 2013 at 9:26 am

I love how much you love food, Raleigh-Elizabeth. It delights me. I LOVE cheese as well, though my husband and his family love it even more. When we first moved to New York City, my husband did a “cheese internship” at Stinky Cheese in Brooklyn just to learn all he could about the cheese world. He quickly realized there were people who’s entire life revolved around finding the world’s best cheeses and although he loved to eat it, he probably didn’t have that same level of passion. We did get to try some very, very stinky cheeses and expensive cured meats ($50+ lb.). It was fun!

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4 raleigh-elizabeth January 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

STINKY CHEESE! That sounds so fun. He must have loved it. I know a girl who worked for years at Murray’s Cheese… and it was one of those things that I always found so tempting I wanted to quit grad school to do, too. I’m afraid my passion doesn’t measure up to quite that level, but my hunger does, so maybe that evens it out.

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5 Eliza January 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

I make mozzarella often — and have fun doing it with friends. It makes incredible pizzas. And my little girls have fun doing it with me (and eating it).

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6 raleigh-elizabeth January 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Eliza, that sounds like such a fun family project. I’m sure they love doing it with you!

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7 Starr January 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

I have a cow’s milk allergy, so I didn’t grow up eating much cheese. But when my husband was finishing his undergrad, I got a job in the direct marketing department of the WSU Creamery selling…cheese. Watching the cheese being produced was fascinating. I learned a lot (even if I wasn’t consuming the product), which has made family trips to the official Wensleydale factory in Hawes, North Yorkshire, a lot more educational. My cow milk allergy does mean that there’s a world out there that I can’t partake of, but I completely enjoy making mozzarella & ricotta for my kids. Such a satisfying way to use discounted milk that’s on the sell-quick shelf at the market.

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8 raleigh-elizabeth January 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Oh my goodness! What was it like to visit the Wensleydale factory? And have you tried yak cheese? I wonder if you’d be allergic to that. I had a really delicious yak cheese in Boston a few years ago – strong, rich, and incredibly robust.

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9 Starr January 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

I don’t know about yak cheese, but goat & sheep cheese feature regularly on my plate. :)

And the Wensleydale factory is fun. If you ever get the chance….

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10 Jillian in Italy January 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

You have to move to Italy. Seriously. I have 4 farms within 5 minutes of my house that make fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta etc etc. You would be in heaven here. And yes…burrata is amazing.

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11 Amy January 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I’ll be right over!

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12 raleigh-elizabeth January 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

You know, Jillian in Italy, I completely agree with you. We absolutely have to move to Italy.

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13 val January 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

fun! Your description of cheese and the cheese making process is poetry all on its own :) I’m going to have to take up cheese making with my kids…. thanks for the delightful inspiration.

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14 Giulia January 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

cheese. oh, cheese.

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15 Karin S January 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Growing up in a Sicilian family we’ve always made ricotta. Its so easy and oh so worth it. :) The hint of lemon is wonderful in a spinach/mushroom lasagne. Nothing like it. We also make ricotta tarts and pies for deserts. Wonderful.
Beer kits are always in our home up here in Atlantic Canada – where alcohol is expensive. Hubby loves making it and sharing it with friends.

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16 Tan January 10, 2013 at 10:16 pm

mmmmm I love cheese too.
Growing up we would make Portuguese style goats cheese. It’s incredible. My parents grew up with a little house on the prairie lifestyle so they always made/grew/farmed their own everything, including the cheese.

My husband and I plan to move to europe in a couple years. He wants to be a cheese making apprentice ;)

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17 Cath January 11, 2013 at 7:01 am

I have lived in Italy for 15 years and only discovered heavenly burrata last year! Don’t worry I am making up for lost time…

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18 CheeseMyMainSqueeze January 11, 2013 at 8:39 am

I’m inspired. This weekend’s plans have been dashed and replaced with ricotta cheese making.

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19 Alice January 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oh, cheese! My no. 1 reason for not being a vegan is that a life without cheese isn’t worth living, ha!
I’ve never tried to make cheese but I do make yogurt regularly and it’s very tasty.

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20 ModFruGal January 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

We love making our own mascarpone, which we eat mainly with berries or the occasional drizzle of honey. It’s so easy, and we feel lost when we run out without another batch on reserve!

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21 Stephanie January 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm

My mom and I have been making a different cheese each month for five or so months now.. and will continue for another year. It’s a lot of fun, although the aging process is a bit tricky. So far my favorite cheese has been the fresh mozzarella but farmhouse cheddar is a close second.

If you are interested in cheesemaking you should google cheesepalooza, that’s how we got into it! So many helpful bloggers making cheese together.

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