For Christmas, Will got me a cheese making kit. It's the perfect gift because:
1) I love cheese
2) I love making stuff
3) You can make cheese 30 times from the same kit, which means if you love it, you can love it a lot. And if you mess up the first time, all is not lost - you can try, try again!
That last point is not made to say that I failed. My ending result somewhat looked like and definitely tasted like cheese. I feel like this is impressive considering I've never really MADE any food from scratch, unless you count turning bouillon cubes into broth.
I jumped in to the cheesemaking process without realizing you couldn't use aluminum pots (which we have) - you need stainless steel (which we do not have). And also, I was using powdered milk instead of a gallon of milk, so I should have mixed the milk the night before and let it soak in and turn delicious over time. Also, I had no heavy cream, so I made some with milk and butter.
You heat the milk to a certain temperature (the kit comes with a cheese thermometer!) and mix in the cream and citric acid, then remove the pot from the heat and add in the rennet tab. As you let it all sit for five minutes, you stir slowly and everything separates into curds and whey.
You're supposed to have clear whey and a thick mass of curds in the bottom of the pan, which you then cut into manageable pieces. I don't know if it was the "fresh" powdered milk or faux heavy cream, but mine never solidified into one mass, and stayed as separated curds, so I pulled them into smaller pieces instead of using a knife.
You pour it all into a colander and the whey goes away (hehehe) and leaves you with curds. You heat water to 180* and dip the colander in and out of the hot water until the cheese gets gooey enough to stretch. You stretch it over and over, add in some cheese salt, and then form it how you want. You can even make string cheese with this kit!
Each batch from the kit is supposed to make a pound of cheese, but I didn't have that much. Again, I'm not sure if it's because of the powdered milk, faux cream, or just because I'm a first-timer. I decided to make small balls of mozzarella - half plain, half rolled in oil, pepper, and basil. I did that and then put them in ice water so they'd firm up and keep their shape.
They might not look like mozzarella, but they tasted pretty damn good, and you can't beat nibbling warm cheese! I can't wait to try again and see how the next batch turns out.