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Homemade Cheese: Chef Demonstrates the Method

Homemade Cheese: Chef Demonstrates the Method

Kathie Smith | The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

There’s a fascinating world of homemade cheese, with a fresh taste that high-end chefs increasingly are showcasing on their menus. Perhaps you might find a mozzarella or feta, a fresh ricotta, or a Mediterranean-style halloumi, made in-house from curds and whey.

Cheese-making is a skill that Penta Career Center chef/instructor Jim Rhegness demonstrated for his 11th grade culinary students when he made fresh mozzarella Sept. 23. He provided a recipe that the home cook might want to tackle.

“There are two ways to make cheese,” he said. “You can make the curd or you can buy curd.” The latter is easier for the commercial kitchen to use as it is sold in a 25-pound block at Gordon Food Service.

He showed students both methods.

First, to make the mozzarella curd, Chef Rhegness used nonfat dry milk that was reconstituted overnight. “You don’t want pasteurized milk, which is often heated to over 177 degrees – that doesn’t work,” he said. “Organic milk is ultra-pasteurized. I called local dairies and no one does that below 177 degrees.”

Pasteurization denatures the protein so it will not respond to the rennet, said Jim Leverentz, president of Leeners, which sells kits and supplies for making a variety of products, from wine and beer to sourdough and cheese. The company, which just celebrated its 13th anniversary, is based in Northfield, Ohio, south of Cleveland. “You want [pasteurized] milk with as little processing as possible,” he said. “Look for a layer of cream at the top.” Among the brands in his area are Hartzler Farms and Snowville Creamery.

Homogenized milk does not work like the nonfat dry milk. “We want to separate the cream from the milk,” said Chef Rhegness. For the mozzarella curd, he used 15 cups of reconstituted nonfat dry milk and one cup of heavy cream.

But some dairies may sell nonhomogenized milk, which is pasteurized.

The milk was heated on low heat and then the cream was whisked in for one minute. Add the two teaspoons citric acid (mixed with one cup of cool, chlorine-free water) to start the culture moving. Citric acid is sold in the canning department of stores.

Then the one-fourth tablet rennet mixed with one-fourth cup of chlorine-free water was added using a rubber scraper. Rennet, which is animal enzyme used to curdle milk in foods such as cheese, separates the curds from the whey.

When making cheese, use nonchlorinated water.