Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Great Cheese Rescue

Back in the very early days of my cheese making journey, and a little less knowledgeable about the cheese making process, I attempted to use Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk to make a hard cheese.  I thought I would try my hand at making a Wensleydale cheese infused with sage leaves in the middle.  I had just purchased a cheese press during the week before hand and I was all set to give it a tryout.  

Cheesepress


Well that was the plan anyway.  It all started out well.  I used the UHT full cream milk which I thought was apparently okay to use in cheese making.  I added the right amount of Calcium Chloride to de-homogenise the milk (make the fat globules bigger), then added the starter culture, and waited for the prescribed 45 minutes.  So far so good.  I kept the temperature at 32C for the entire time, and then when time was up I added the rennet and waited another 45 minutes for the curds to set.

I checked the milk and expected to see a nicely set curd, but it was not to be.  It was still milk!  That was disappointing, so I added another lot of rennet and waited another 45 minutes.  To my surprise it was still bloody milk!  No curds had set.  I thought back to the cheese making class, and I remembered that one of the ladies mentioned that if the curds doesn't set after a second go, never throw out the milk because you can always make Ricotta Cheese out of it.

So, out with the cheese making book and off I went.  Brought the milk to 90-95C stirring all the time to ensure that the milk didn't burn, and then added half a cup of white vinegar.  This is meant to separate the milk into a basic curds and whey.  Guess what.  Nothing happened.  This was the most stubborn milk I had ever come across.  So in a panic, I threw in another half a cup of vinegar. It finally worked.  The whey was visible and the curds were so tiny that you could just see them.  I strained the curds and whey through cheesecloth in a colander and waited for 5 minutes.  The cheese was still very hot so I had to be careful not to burn myself. 

After a bit of mucking around, I ended up with two containers full of creamy Ricotta.  I added half a teaspoon of salt to each container and stirred well.  This is what the final product ended up like.

Ricotta 001
Here is a close up.

Ricotta


This type of Ricotta is great used in Lasagna or any other pasta dish for that matter!  It tastes very nice indeed and much better than the store bought muck even when made with UHT milk.

The moral of this tale is two fold.  Firstly, do not use UHT milk to make a hard cheese as you cannot get the rennet to coagulate, and secondly, UHT does make a nice Ricotta.

You live and learn and since then I have found that fresh milk is always the best!