Friday Reflections

Today’s Reflection, Tales of my Kitchen Experiments

I love experimenting in the kitchen.  When I was younger my brother, Alex, and I would rummage through the cabinets and make god awful things in the name of science!  We’d mix together every condiment in the fridge and then dare each other to eat it.  Or we’d pull out an old fondue pot, found in the back of a storage closet, and announce we’d be having frying chicken pieces for dinner tonight.  To this day we both continue to rummage through our cabinets and triumphantly declare the resulting meal a kitchen experiment!

This week my experimenting took me to a realm I’ve never been before, the land of milk.  I made (or attempted to make) homemade greek yogurt and mozzarella.  Mr. Pea is typically very cautious about food safety, if I leave frozen meat out on the counter to defrost he usually gives me a worried face and makes me promise not to leave it out to long.  Even with a promise I can see he’s fighting the urge not to put it in the fridge.

My first attempt at yogurt I followed some very simple directions found in the book, Make the Bread Buy the Butter.  Her recipes have never lead me wrong, and it pains me to say this, but in this case it did.  She didn’t explain the science involved in the yogurt making process, so when I saw a way to stream line and skip a step I had no idea it was vital to my success.  Likewise, she says to keep it somewhere warm overnight, so I just covered it up and left it on the counter.  You should have seen my sheepish face when Mr. Pea asked me what was in that red bowl, I was really hoping he wouldn’t notice it.  How could I tell my cautious husband I was letting milk sit out?!  To my surprise, he had no problem with this.  To my greater surprise he was even willing to try the yogurt in the morning!  Just one problem, as Mr. Pea put it in his announcer’s voice, “That’s not yogurt!”

It smelled like yogurt, but was definitely just milk left out on a counter overnight.  Google to the rescue!  I found all the help I needed over at Salad-in-a-jar.  While the Tipsy Baker had all the steps in her book, you really need to understand there is biology at play here and you are essentially growing a culture.  For attempt #2 I followed my new-found directions and Voila!  That IS yogurt! Thanks Paula for all your great posts on making yogurt at home.

Bolstered by new ability to make yogurt, I moved on to cheese-making.  There would be no skipping of steps this time.  I got a Mozzarella kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and set out to pick up some more milk.  I had already read in the before mentioned book, Make the Bread Buy the Butter, cheese-making is all about the milk.  Ultra-Pasteurized won’t do, she also mentions a lot of commercial milk that is labeled only pasteurized could still be heated just below UP classification.  At the grocery store I must have stood in front of the dairy case for at least 10 minutes reading labels and double checking them on my iPhone.

I ended up choosing Garelick farms whole milk.  I followed the recipe step by step.  It’s amazing how fast milk is separated into curds and whey!  I cut the curd but alas they did not hold together.  Instead of the square curds I was supposed to have, mine looked more like cottage cheese.  I went ahead and followed the rest of the recipe anyways, but the mozzarella would not melt into something that could be stretched.

Now that's some stretching!

We tried it anyways and it was delicious!  I looked through the trouble shooting section on the cheese making website and it turns out the milk was in fact heated past pasteurization which is why the curds wouldn’t hold up.  I added some dried italian herbs into the mozzarella mush and got a fantastic cheese spread.  While it wasn’t the mozzarella I was hoping for, Mr. Pea assured me it was by no means a failure.  Thanks hunny!

I hope to find better milk this weekend and try this experiment again.  It was fun taking my experiments to a whole new level this week!  I just read the cured meats section of Make the Bread Not the Butter and it’s giving me ideas.  What do you think Mr. Pea would think of me hanging meat in the coat closet?

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6 thoughts on “Friday Reflections

  1. Great fun to read about your experiments in the kitchen. Reminds me of one of our favorite pass-times as a kid raising questions such as “How much money would it take for you to eat a whole can of Crisco??”

    Congratulations on your successful yogurt-making experience.

  2. I know a couple in Somerville who stumbled into the world of home cheesemaking a year or two ago and have become quite obsessed (and made some quite wonderful cheese). They’re always excited to talk cheese with other makers — if you want any suggestions, I can hook you up :).

  3. Would you be willing to share the secrets of cheese making? I can see that as being a fun experiment with the kids. Likewise with the yogurt making.

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