After leaving the gym today I drove one of the girls over to the larger grocery store near which she lives. I had been considering heading over there anyway, since the little store near the uni does carry Turkish yoghurt, but it doesn't carry the ecological (or organic, if you live in the states) variety. The fact that she would benefit from a lift (since buses don't run very often on Saturdays here) decided me, and off we went.
While I was there I not only got the Turkish yoghurt, filmjölk
, and ordinary milk we needed (and some fruit and veg), I also picked up a container of the "traditional", un-homogenized, milk, thinking it might be nice to make some cheese.
Therefore, just after 13:00 today I wandered into the kitchen, set some frozen svartvinbär (black currants)
into a pot on the stove with water, and told it to warm up and simmer while I made cheese (since, if I am going to be in the kitchen for quite a while, I may as well accomplish more than one task).
Then I pondered what sort of cheese I wanted to make. Certainly one of the quick varieties--I wanted to be eating it within a couple of hours, not days or even weeks from now. I considered juustoleipä (known in Swedish as kaffe ost because it is a cheese traditionally served with coffee)
, the yummy Finnish cheese that I learned to make from the recipe my mother's aunt Sally provided, which involves rennet. My family always just called it "juusto"
, even though that part of the longer name only means "cheese", and applies to everything in the cheese family). I considered a basic soft cheese made by adding lemon juice to warm milk. I considered the Indian cheese paneer, which also uses lemon juice.
All three are good, but they have Very different textures and fill very different niches. I couldn't decide so I asked lord_kjar
if he had any input. Nope, none at all, he likes all three.
So I consulted a very old cheese, butter, and yoghurt making book that I inherited from my step father to see if anything in there turned out to be inspiring. Their soft cheeses all required a "starter", which involves heating milk and then leaving it sit for another day before using it. Nope. Not an option. I want my cheese, and I want it now.
However, the book did turn out to be inspiring, since in the section talking about the various ways to get the milk to curdle, it pointed out that liquid rennet loses its effectiveness with time. It has been a long time since I made jussto
, so I decided that it might be smart to check and see if the liquid rennet I had in the fridge still works at all. And if it doesn't, we do have lemon juice.
Thus decided I pulled out ( the recipe )
Now, I didn't have 8 quarts of milk, I bought only two liters (which is kinda similar to 2 quarts), and I don't have rennet tablets, only liquid rennet, which, it turns out, has a best by date of January 2013 (which means it has been even longer than I thought since last I made cheese). So I did some modifications. I went to pour in a bit of rennet, and it gushed out of the bottle faster than I expected. I thought out it, and the part about "two years past its best-by date", and poured in a bit more. Since I had only a little milk compared to my great-aunt's recipe, I used only a small amount of cornstarch, even less sugar, and only a bit of salt.
Now, every time I have tried to make juusto before there was never any "press with hands till water comes to top" possible, as the curds were small and scattered--any attempt to press them caused them to separate, and my hands to sink in between them. Therefore I have needed to resort to pouring the liquid through a cheese cloth to catch the cheese. However, it always tasted good, so I just coped. This time, on the other hand, it worked! Very, very soon after stirring suddenly the pot contained a whiteish cohesive blob, which, if gently pressed with hands revealed the whey in which it was floating.
This meant that I didn't need to use a cheese cloth at all. Instead, at first, I just used a ladle to gently push down on the mass of cheese and let the liquid pour into the ladle. Once I had gathered somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a liter of whey that way it became hard to use the ladle. So at that point we poured everything into a deep baking pan, set a mostly flat (it has a slight rim at the edge) baking pan over it, and gently tipped it to let the liquid pour out of the corner of the pan. This was a kind of slow, and slightly messy process, that involved needing to switch which corner I poured from on a fairly regular basis, as the cheese blob worked its way to the corner and slowed down the pouring. Eventually I had more than a liter of liquid poured off, and the cheese blob was small enough that I could change out the large flatish baking sheet for a small (sandwich size) plate, which I could set only over the cheese and apply a bit of pressure to it, to get the last of the water out.
By the end of the process I think I had about 1.5 liters of whey, and a small blob of cheese the same diameter as the plate (~20 cm) and almost 1 cm thick. At that point I transferred the cheese to the plate long enough to wash the whey off of the deeper pan, then put the cheese onto it and popped it into the broiler.
When I took the milk off of the heat the second time I decided that since the front burner is so much better than the back one that I would move that svartvinbärsylt
in progress to the front burner. However, once the cheese was in the oven I realized that while I had done the transfer, I had also turned the wrong knobs, so the berries were sitting and waiting on an off burner, while the other back burner was happily warming the room. Oops. Though, in hind sight, that was probably a very good thing, since I didn't have berries being done and wanting attention at the same time as I was dealing with the cheese. So I re-started the heat under the fruit, and then sat on the floor to watch the cheese so that it didn't over cook. As soon as it developed a few of the characteristic brown spots I pulled out the pan, set that flatish baking dish on top and flipped them over to transfer the cheese to it so I could broil the other side.
When it was done I transferred it to another plate, and set that outside on the porch (inside the wooden box we keep out there just so we can let food cool without being eaten by the neighbourhood cats or wild critters. By this time the berries were boiling again, so I stirred them (pausing only a couple of times to go get another bite of juusto, which is every bit as yummy, and squeaky, as it is supposed to be) and waited till enough water had cooked off.
As I was cooking the berries I considered the whey. I normally bake it into bread (and really yummy bread it is, too), but this time I am also considering making the Norwegian brown cheese from it. I looked on line, and it is made only by heating whey for a long time so that it caramelizes and the liquid cooks off, and then, when it is getting kind of thick, string in cream and continuing to cook till it reaches the desired consistency.
This is really tempting. However, most sources say that this process takes 4 to 6 (or sometimes even 12) hours to accomplish, and I had just spent 4 hours standing in the kitchen, and my legs were stiff enough. Besides I didn't think of this while in the store, so I don't have any cream in the house. Tomorrow is soon enough to decide if the whey wants to be bread or brown cheese (or both).
Tomorrow I need to head to uni to pick up a friend from the Student Choir Aurora around 13:00. We will first go purchase a second hand electric keyboard so that Aurora will have a keyboard of its own, which can live at uni, and we won't have to bring ours any more on the nights that the Uni one has been checked out by one of the other clubs (which happens fairly often). Then I will bring him back here so he can try on costumes before he travels with my apprentice #2 and I to the SCA event in Finland next weekend. That event is being held in conjunction with the Finnish Early music society, which is why the three of us are interested in attending. This will be his first SCA event, I hope he enjoys it.
But, since I will be out during the day, that means I have the option of buying cream on that trip, though when I would have time to use it thereafter, I am not certain.