Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cheese isn’t very easy to get here, and it isn’t cheap if you can get it. Even the Laughing Cow variety (mentioned in a previous post that also included a wonderful link to the Laughing Cow website) isn’t always easy to get. It’s very often not available at the shop on the PCC grounds (the shop has supplies available that I think are believed to be wanted by most foreigners here – the visitors and the volunteers – things like sweet crackers, Rose wine, other sweet stuff, and when something is acquired like Laughing Cow, it doesn’t last long – but it takes long before more becomes available. Salty snacks are NEVER there – which is probably a good thing, because they are definitely a weak point for me. Red wine has rarely been there, until recently because a couple of people requested it – yes, I was one of those people – and white wine is available more often than the red, but not as omnipresent as the Rose. Charity, the lady who runs the shop and Baffo, the guy who stocks it, say that people buy the Rose, that’s why they have it – not realizing that people buy that because it’s the only one that’s available. Anyway – as usual, I digress. . . ). But some friends told me they’ve been making homemade cheese – and sent me some of the ingredients that would be hard to find here – rennet, citric acid, lipase powder, thermometer, rubber gloves – and the instructions.

It took me awhile to try to make the cheese – I was hoping to find the recommended brand of powdered milk, which I didn’t find. Then there was the time factor – I needed to be home one night to mix the milk so it could rehydrate overnight, and then I wanted the following day a little free so I’d be sure to have enough time.

milk mixing ingredients - 1 can of happy looking powdered milk, and then 4 bottles of drinking water - mix and let sit in fridge overnight full full rehydration

Finally, last night I mixed the powdered milk – 1 gallon of it!! But where and how to store it? My fridge isn’t that big – fortunately, it also doesn’t have that much food in it, so I was able to take the water out and put the milk in.

So as to get proper picture, I removed the lid of the larger pot

Then tonight I was ready – I almost followed the directions – I cleared off the counter, washed it down, wiped it down, did a version of sterilizing it (I couldn’t get the bleach locally, so I just tried boiling water).

after my version of sterilizing the "work" area, I followed instructions and premixed the cheese making stuff

Brought the milk out of the fridge – unfortunately the pot couldn’t hold all that was recommended. Then I forgot to add the cream that the directions said you should heat up and add and which was the final ingredient and one of the things I went to Kumasi for last weekend. But after mixing some of the ingredients and starting to heat it I remembered the cream (was it too late? or is it better late than never? I think it can never be too late – although it was whipping cream, that should work, yes?).

milk with added ingredients happily coming to the correct temperature

Who knows what happened – it could be that I don’t have measuring spoons, so I used the teaspoons that I also use for eating for the measuring. It could be that I don’t have measuring cups – so I used a coffee pot for the larger quantities of liquid and then guestimated the smaller quantities. It could be that my pot may not actually be stainless steel, although I think it is, (after all, it worked last weekend when I made some tomato juice which also says it needs stainless steel). It could be that the directions only talk of nonfat dry milk and then adding cream, but all the powdered milk here is full cream – so should I still have added the cream?

how could I not add this cream?

And should it have been whipping cream?

It could be that my slotted spoon was actually a slotted spatula – oh wait, that’s not it because I never got to the part in the process that uses the slotted spoon. It could be that I was following the directions for if you have a microwave and then jumped to the other directions for no microwave – which actually are a little confusing to me because it seems they also think if you have no microwave that you have no stovetop. It could be that I think my stove has a gas leak (I used to think it was the schnozzle connecting it to the gas bottle, but I replaced that; so maybe it’s the rubber hose from the bottle to the stove; or maybe the gas leak smell is because one of the knobs is broken off, but I don’t think that’s it – how could that cause a gas smell?) and maybe the extra gas fumes in the air didn’t react well.

But for whatever reason – I don’t think the milk ever curdled. It seemed to do something, and it was at the temperature recommended – even higher. And then it was to sit for 3 – 5 minutes or so for the full curdling to take place, even an extra 1 – 5 minutes if needed, for the curds to firm up on top so I could use the slotted spatula to separate them – but nothing happened – and it’s going on 45 minutes now. And I have a pot of milk on the stove – maybe a gallon or so of it, which is mixed with rennet and citric acid and lipase. And I don’t know if I can use it for anything else – it doesn’t sound like it would be too delicious to drink. Hmmm, but maybe – liquid uncurdled cheese anyone?

So – I guess this means I need to clean up and try again another day after I’ve rehydrated some milk overnight (and I don’t think it really rehydrated, either – it seemed kind of thick on the bottom). And I need to remember to add the cream appropriately – maybe that’s the key. And maybe get a bigger pot, too. And maybe the measuring stuff. (But I like, some people might say Love, whipped cream – sometimes in University I would buy some pre-made whipped cream and enjoy the container for desert – sometimes I’d enjoy it for dinner. And often, pie is just the condiment for the whipped cream I help myself to. So – I may not have any whipping cream left by the time I get to make more cheese, which may not matter since the milk says it’s full cream already.)

My sister, who I called at the last minute so I could find out how many ounces are in a cup, so that I could then calculate the other measurements based upon the measuring lines on my coffee pot thing recommended that I take photos and do a blog entry on my cheese making. I wasn’t sure I would, but decided to take the pictures just in case. And now, while waiting for the cheese to curd up it seemed like a good way to pass the time.

clean up time - oh well


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

That was hilarious! I'm sorry I missed that. By the way, I blame the unrehydrated powdered milk. That stuff has screwed me up a bunch of times.

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the motivation to make the cheese. At least your attempt was successful in making me laugh! This may gross some people out, but I tried to make yogurt out of my breastmilk when Cary was a baby and moving into solid food. En principe, it should've worked because milk is milk, right? It didn't but I only used a small amount of breastmilk (very precious) and wasn't willing to try it again and risk wasting it!

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Hmm. I'll have to do some research. Seems like if the powdered milk was full-fat then the cream wouldn't be needed?

My off-the-cuff reaction is that some of the proteins in the milk were destroyed in the powdering process, so there was nothing for the rennet to grab onto and make curd with? Dunno. I'll see what I can find!

At 6:29 PM, Blogger MJ said...

I have no clue what happened since I'm not a cheese maker, but I sure did enjoy your description of how it went--soundes a lot like some of the things I've had happen when I've tried to make different things.

At 3:39 AM, Blogger Karen Solas said...

Hey, thanks for taking my suggestion and writing a post about this! I'm sure it was a major bummer that it didn't work, but at least you got a funny story - and some whipping cream! - out of it!


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