Thursday, September 11, 2014

She Who Cannot Make Cheese

Warning:  This post was originally started at 10:24 Thursday morning after having yet another batch of goat milk mozzarella turn out unsuccessfully.  To say that I was upset would be a severe understatement and any and all attempts to censor my obvious frustration have been ignored in order to provide you with the most honest and truthful account of what transpired that morning.  Pictures have been added (as well as this "Warning") after the initial writing, but none of the f-bombs have been omitted nor have I bothered editing it to provide a more fluid blog post.  So if you're a big stinking puss-puss and are easily offended by the occasional (well, a bit more frequent than occasional) f-bombs, come back tomorrow when I will have hopefully calmed down and will post pictures of our time at the County Fair.
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Why am I unable to consistently make a batch of mozzarella (or yogurt, now that I think about it)? It's not like I haven't tried.  And tried.  And then tried some more.  My mozzarella successes are sporadic at best.  Did my ancestors from long ago commit some heinous crime against the pagan gods and they and their future progeny were from then on forever cursed as not to be able to successfully make any type of processed dairy product?  I don't know why I even bother anymore.  It's like I either totally forget the clusterfuck that happened the last time I tried to make cheese (or yogurt) or I'm too stinking stubborn and think that this is going to be the time I make a good batch?

So, back to how it all began:  After I milked the goats this morning, I noticed that there was a backlog of milk.  There were six half-gallon jars of milk in the fridge and I was running out of room and running out of jars.  It's was still early, barn chores were done, Rhiannon was playing downstairs and it was raining so there wasn't anything I could really do outdoors.  Great day to make a few batches of Mozzarella, I thought to myself.  What a fucking moron I am.

So I grabbed four jars of milk and brought out two of my large pots and gathered the other necessary cheese making supplies; citric acid, rennet, spoons, measuring cups, measuring spoons, cheesecloth and colander.  Even though the utensils were already cleaned, I washed them up again and laid everything out on paper towels on the the just-cleaned-again counter top.

I followed the recipe that I thought was my new "favorite" and which I had successfully made two, maybe three batches of 30-Minute Mozzarella (30MM).

Oh, and since I'm pissed and ranting, you know what I think about  those 30MM recipes?  There's no fucking way it takes just thirty minutes to make this mozzarella.  Even on the best of days.  Somewhere on those "30 Minute Mozzarella" websites there must be hidden text in super-micro-fine-print that says this:

This 30-Minute Mozzarella will take thirty minutes only if the following procedures are adhered to:

You must have all items already set out and cleaned for you.
You must have all children, pets, or other distractions at either at grandma's house, immobilized or otherwise neutralized.
The Moon must be in the waxing phase and Venus must be in retrograde.
You must have someone else clean up the mess because there sure shit isn't any way you're going to get this all done if you include set-up and clean-up time.
It's Tuesday.

Apparently I am doing something terribly wrong.  What other excuse is there that I cannot, for the life of me, consistently make mozzarella cheese?  There could be some bearded ISIS wackjob with a machete held up to my throat and he could say "Make Mozzarella or DIE, infidel!  Yaah-yahh-Waa-Waa-Waa, Allah is great!" and I couldn't do it.  My severed and bloody head would be rolling on the kitchen floor and the cats would be jumping on it or chewing on my severed esophagus.

I have no other explanation.

Do I have maggots crawling around in my kitchen compost bucket?  Do I have cat turds on my counter top? Do I have rotting food sitting on my stove?  No to all three.  Although I do believe that there's still some partially dried cat vomit in the basement because I heard one of the furry shits yacking last night but never found the evidence.

But to disclose the not-so-clean aspects of our home farm: I do have cats in the house (cat hair occasionally seen floating around).  We do live on a farm (poopy shoes).  I do have a 5-year old child (sticky fingers everywhere).  And we do occasionally go out in public so may be inadvertently carrying some sort of bad bacteria on our clothes (summer flu anyone?).

But.......Have I cleaned the counter tops & cheese-making equipment with soap & hot water and even bleach?  Yes.  Have I done just about everything I possibly can to make this an environment safe and clean for making cheese?  I think so.  But I still can't get this fucking cheese to become "Cheese"!!  What the hell do I have to do?  Do I have to set my kitchen up like that scene from E.T. and buy a damned autoclave for sterilizing everything in my kitchen?

Humans have been making cheese for thousands of fucking years using the intestines from newborn, just-slaughtered calves, and I'm pretty sure they didn't have any bottles of 409 sitting around.  They even made different varieties of cheeses, without stainless steel pots and utensils, digital thermometers or even fancy-pants, scientifically formulated bacteria cultures.  I could be in a Cheese-Showdown with a Neanderthal and the ancient brute who knows nothing about modern hygiene (or modern plumbing) would make a better fucking cheese than me.  I'd have all the modern gizmos and he'd have a dead opossum, dunk it up and down in his goat skin bag filled with week old milk, then let it sit out in the sun and he'd get a smooth, creamy Gorgonzola while I sit there with a handful of white crap indistinguishable from E.coli laden vanilla ice cream cat vomit.

But I regress........All I wanted to do was make a couple of batches of homemade mozzarella to put on our pizza tonight.  And two hours - two fucking hours - later, I end up with a barely edible ricotta'ish cheese that I will more than likely hurl at the chickens in a fit of rage after I taste it again.

I followed the recipe to a T.  I waited for the curd to set.  Which it kind of did.  And that's when my blood pressure started to rise, because I knew that it was all downhill from there.  I let the curd sit for a half hour (even though it's only "supposed" to take ten ass ten minutes) and it still wasn't as firm as it should be, but I went ahead with the next step.  And downhill we continued, every minute that went by my tolerance for anything cheese or milk or dairy related plummeted.  I was swearing at the pot of "curds", I was swearing at the cats, I was swearing at the dishrag.

But, stubborn ol' me still tried to save this cheese-abortion.  I strained the non-curd mess through the cheesecloth, trying to save some - any - of the "curds".  After a solid fifteen minutes of screwing around with that, I put the mass into the microwave to heat it up again, hoping it would firm up so I could stretch it.  No such luck.  All I did was manage to give myself third-degree fucking burns from manhandling the blob of nuclear hot pseudocheese.  So I put it through the cheesecloth again and drained more whey out of it.  And when I say "drained" I mean I squeezed the shit out of it until little streams of molten hot cheese crap shot out of a tiny hole in the cloth.

So basically I now had a bunch of dry & grainy ricotta cheese.  If I had wanted fucking ricotta cheese, I would have made fucking ricotta cheese.  And it wouldn't have taken this fucking long either!  I would have simply stuck the milk in a pot, heated it on the stove, poured a glug of vinegar in the pot, stirred it & put a lid on it to cool on the counter top.  And then, hours later, I would have calmly taken the pot of whey/ricotta, poured it  through cheesecloth, hung it and been done with it.  No swearing.  No throwing of spoons.  No babying the milk temperature, no messing around with rennet or citric acid.

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I wish I could say that there was a happy ending to this all.  I really do.  But there isn't.  There just isn't.

We had Chinese for supper tonight.

And there wasn't an ounce of fucking cheese in it.


  1. Holy Moly, Batchick. I never laughed so hard in my life....sorry, I know it is not funny, but you write so funny. Hope you find out what you are doing mmmmm wrong. I was going to try my hand at cheese making, but now, not so much.

  2. Whats a big stinking pus puss look like?

  3. You go girl! I laughed and laughed and laughed. Then read it to my husband and laughed some more............giggle............. I love your blog :) You are as bad at making cheese as I am at baking cakes. I can cook anything, preserve anything, make up recipes on the fly, but do NOT ask me to bake a cake!! I just cannot get it right. It either rises to a perfect volcano-shaped cone or do not rise at all. And I've tried for many years! I've now made peace with the fact that there are other people who cannot do the things I do, BUT they can bake. So I buy all my cakes from them :)

  4. My ex-husband's grandmother, born in Norway, had a reputation for making the best lefse in the United States. Every Scan-duh-hoo-vian in Minnesota coveted her lefse recipe - which she sweetly declined to share. Even her four daughters never got her recipe, and they all made what she considered an inferior lefse. When I (an outsider who never heard of lefse until I immersed myself in the ex's family) asked her to teach me how to make it, she just laughed. Then a few years later, probably because I asked nicely every time I saw her and because she figured, at 94, she probably should pass the recipe on to someone, she relented.

    Her big secret that even her daughters never caught onto? Use any recipe you want, but NEVER expect anything in the kitchen to turn out well on a humid day. NEVER. Unless you're making soup, nothing will turn out if there is any humidity in the air. You can't save lefse, or risotto, or probably even mozzarella for your rainy-day project - unless you keep a fire going in your wood stove hot enough to remove all the humidity from the house. Who knows - maybe...?

  5. I had problems with my goat milk mozz too, with the same results from that same recipe! Finally, Marissa from Sand Holler Farm took pity on me and shared oodles of tips she'd learned from goat milk mozz experts. I've not had a fail since!!! The post is here, in case you're ever in the mood to try again. :)

  6. I see there is a major stubborn streak in your genes....and from the looks of it, a certain 5 y/o is carrying on the tradition. There is nothing more frustrating that spending all that time and energy to have it turn out like crap. And, since you are too far away to slap me, I will have to say that you are the only person I know who can have a major rant, swear like a trooper, and still have it funny and interesting. I mean - if you had taught history when I went to school (which means you would have to be 105), I might have even learned something - f'bombs and all.

  7. Next time, tell us how you really feel; don't hold it in. That's not good for you.

    I laughed and felt your pain at the same time. Darn good writin', girl!

  8. Do you pasturise the milk? If you do the quick bring it up to 165 degrees (also called ultra pasteurized on store bought milk) you will not get cheese. You have to do the slower - heat it for 1/2 hour method. Sorry, don't remember the temp off of the top of my head.

  9. Tewshooz, don't let my mishaps stop you from trying out cheese. If anything, it will make me feel better if I'm not the only person in the universe who can't make it.

    PP, probably a cross between Hillary Clinton & Steve Buscemi.

    Arta, I have to admit I'd rather be horrible at making cheese than horrible at making cakes. I'd cry if I couldn't make a sympathies are with you :)

    Charade, that's a cool story. And maybe even the reason for my cheese-shortcomings.

    Leigh, I checked out your post on it and I will definitely try that next time and let you know how it goes.

    Susan, they'd never let me teach; my girlfriends used to call me "Truckstop" in my pre-Rhiannon days...unless it was a course on how to cuss like a sailor.

    MamaPea, at least this provides a laugh for others, that is the only good thing that came of it.

    spinnersaw, No. But my temps may have been off. I'm going to try Leigh's method before I totally give up.

  10. Ok, I laughed at this, hard. Not because of the frustration that you feel or experienced. No. It was because of the picture that you "painted" about the cat vomit and poop. I knew I liked you!!! :-)