Counter Intelligence: The how-to's of do-it-yourself cheesemaking
"Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they are missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven." -- Barbara Kingsolver, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life"
The soul of cooking is alive and well in the household of Bob Boder. He invited me over to witness one of his many DIY kitchen activities, and on this particular day, he was making cheese. I learned about his handmade cheeses when he arrived at swim team practice with a little present for me - a small container of his creamy ricotta and some fresh spinach from his garden. I was both fascinated and grateful and inquired about taking part in his kitchen ritual.
When I least expected it, the call came in (actually a text message). "I bought milk to make cheese. Thought you could help. Are you interested?" I cleared the calendar and joyfully accepted.
When I arrived, I didn't notice any fancy equipment, just 2 gallons of milk, a thermometer, and a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Bob glugged one of the gallons of milk into a large pot, mixed in some citric acid, and heated it to 195 degrees, stirring regularly. Initially it just looked like milk, but as it heated, the edges began to clarify. At the magical moment of 195, he poured the mixture into the strainer, gathered the cheesecloth and squeezed. In 20 minutes, from start to finish, Boder had converted a jug of milk into a pound and a half of luscious ricotta.
My mind raced at all the delicious possibilities. Boder shared that he loves it on PB&J and also planned to make his signature lasagna roll-ups for dinner.
This cheesemaking event didn't end here. He heated the second jug of milk and stirred in a special enzyme and again some citric acid. Initially, it looked similar to the ricotta, but as the milk reacted to the enzyme, it solidified. In the pot, he cut it into squares and stirred, separating the solids from the liquid whey. This, too, was strained, then heated again. Next, Boder kneaded it into a smooth rope of mozzarella.
Watching this kitchen magic was completely mesmerizing. Boder agreed, "the first time it was like a miracle in front of my eyes. It went from lumpy-curdy to like taffy."
Still mesmerized, I wondered aloud about how he happened upon this craft. He referenced reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" on a beach vacation and being intrigued with "Ricki the Cheese Queen." He ordered her starter kit, which was waiting for him when he returned home.
The rest is history.
You might think someone who spends his Sunday afternoon making cheese is retired or otherwise has abundant free time. On the contrary. Boder is an award-winning commercial banker at BB&T, has a busy fitness schedule and regularly dotes on his growing troupe of grandchildren. In addition to his cheese craft, he roasts his own coffee and keeps a bountiful vegetable garden. In other words, he's a busy guy making time to routinely apply passion to feeding himself and his family.
His is a great example and reminder to all of us to clink our measuring spoons and spend time with friends and family in the kitchen.
Visit www.cheesemaking.com to learn more and order your starter kit.
April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. Hungry for more? Visit www.aprilskitchencounter.com.