I have a friend who absolutely loves online voucher deals. Fortunately for me, she is also a food lover & will often find interesting food experiences online for us to go to at a discount. This time, she found a cheese-making class for us to do at Cromer Community Centre for a mere $20 each with Om Nom Cheese. Even though I’m nearing the halfway mark through my time at culinary school, we haven’t touched on the subject of home-made cheeses so I was excited to finally dip my toe (not literally of course!) into unexplored food territory. While I’ve read a few blogs on making cheese at home, like making home-made butter, it’s been one of those things I’ve always meant to make but have never gotten around to it. Mentally it got stuck in the ‘too hard’ basket… until now!
Funnily enough I’ve never really been a big cheese person until the last year or so. Cheese boards at parties and I were vague acquaintances – having a much more sweet tooth I could never imagine ordering cheese instead of dessert. But slowly in the last year I’ve been trying riper and stinkier bries and camemberts and even (finally) started to get into blue cheese (especially when served with quince paste, pate or truffle honey). There’s something about that funky blue cheese that is incredibly unique and addictive, especially when it’s in a cheesy sauce!
Anyway – enough about me and cheese & back to the class. On this particular session we’d be watching demonstrations for creamy whole milk ricotta, mozzarella/bocconcini and mascarpone. Our teacher, the self confessed Queen of Cheese, Marly started the class by discussing the importance of using unhomogenised milk in certain cheese recipes. Personally I’ve never purchased unhomogenised milk before, so it was interesting to learn that milk generally not only undergoes the process of pasteurisation, but also homogenisation which forces the fat globules in milk into small droplets. As a result, cream doesn’t rise to the top of your full cream milk once it is homogenised. Marly also explained that homogenisation also helps extend the shelf-life of supermarket milk which explains why it is so commonly done. Avid home cheesemakers will use unhomogenised milk or even raw milk (which has been neither pasteurised or homogenised) as it creates a better flavour in your end cheeses, however it is not legal to purchase unpasteurised milk in Australia and so is a little tricky to access.
For the particular type of mozzarella we were making in class, Marly explained that we must use unhomogenised milk at home as mozzarella is an extremely unforgiving cheese and probably would not work with homogenised milk. I was pleased to note that unhomogenised milk is pretty easy to buy as the brand Pauls sell an Organic Unhomogenised milk (seen below in the pic in the green cartons) at Coles and Woolworths. Several of my fellow classmates and Marly herself mentioned that it is known that unhomogenised milk may have more health benefits as it is easier for our bodies to absorb since the milk is less processed. I’m interested in doing more research into this and would love to know of any comments you my readers may have on the subject.
We started first by making the mozzarella/bocconcini mix as this recipe needs to sit for a good fifteen minutes after the rennet has been added to the milk.
Mozzarella is one of my favourite cheeses, so this was probably the cheese I was most excited to learn about. I was surprised to find that the recipe was incredibly simple. You simply add citric acid to milk, heat to 33 degrees, add rennet and then allow to sit for 15 minutes. Cut the curd into squares & separate the curds and whey using heat again. Finally heat the curds to 80 degrees stretch & shape into mozzarella. Then simply store your finished mozzarella in brine and you’re done. Easy! You can find Marly’s exact recipe/measurements for mozzarella/burrata by visiting her website here.
Cutting mozzarella curds into squares
Draining mozzarella curds from whey
I had thought the mozzarella was easy to make, but it turns out that the ricotta and mascarpone were even breezier. Ricotta was just heated milk with an acid component added (you can use citric acid which is more exact, but lemon juice and vinegar works as well) then separate the curds and whey. For mascarpone, the process was very similar except that you use cream instead of milk and drain the whey after a 12-24 hour process in the fridge. Incredible! Why has it taken me so long to think about making cheese at home?? It’s so much cheaper, fresher and has no funky preservatives which makes it healthier as well. You can find Marly’s recipes for mascarpone and ricotta by clicking the links here.
Heating milk to add rennet dissolved in non-chlorinated water
Draining whey from ricotta curds into little plastic ricotta baskets
Finally we got to the ‘best’ part of the class – getting to taste everything, with a glass of wine (or Appletiser – a non-drinker’s best friend).
Our fresh ricotta with turkish bread and crackers. This was so fresh and creamy, you only needed a good chunk with a piece of fresh bread and nothing else. At home I particularly love ricotta with berries and honey on toast so can’t wait to give this a go when I try making it at home.
Mozzarella made into one of my absolute favourite dishes – Caprese Insalate (mozzarella with fresh slices of tomato, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar & extra virgin olive oil). Heavenly good. It was so interesting tasting freshly made mozzarella as I’ve never had it this fresh before. I will admit that some slices were a tiny bit rubbery but Marly assured us that it was because some of the students would have over-kneaded the mozzarella to shape it into their signature ball shape during the demo. But even still, it tasted awesome and made me want to make it at home even more.
Mascarpone blended with vanilla beans, raspberry and crushed ginger nuts. It’s hard to believe that something so simple would be so good, but wow. This mascarpone was unbelievably creamy and really left me wanting more. It’s exciting to think I can make bulk mascarpone for essentially the cost of cream since buying it in packs will set you back at least $5.00 for 250 grams so I don’t often buy it unless it’s for a special recipe.
All in all, I really enjoyed this cheese class and would definitely recommend it to those who are interested in learning how to make very easy cheese. Every cheese we made Idefinitely want to make at home and hopefully my family and I will be enjoying homemade ricottas, mascarpones and mozzarellas in the near future! I think I’ve been bitten by the cheese bug and am curious now to learn about making blues, bries and camemberts at home! Thanks to Marly for a great class!
Cheese aficionados may be interested to know that Om Nom Cheese also has an online store which you can purchase all your cheesemaking goodies such as vegetarian rennet, cultures, cheesecloths and more from at very reasonable prices. There are also several suburbs that she also provides free shipping for (including my own – yay!!). You can find her shop by clicking here.
This is not a sponsored post. Cooking Crusade purchased an online voucher through a discount site to attend this class.