Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

Friday night, we did, in fact, go out for Ethiopian food. I love Ethiopian food. I love the way it’s served, I love the Injera, and I love the wine. It was awesome. We each had an entree, and we split a bottle of wine, all for about $40, with enough left over to be lunch on Sunday.

By Saturday, my knee was feeling….better. Not great – but if I took enough ibuprofen and wrapped it tight, I was able to go to Home Depot, and then do some construction work. I took many, many breaks, and the architect did WAAY more work than me, and by the end of the night, I was hurting.

Sunday, however, was not bad. I still utilized that vitamin-I and the knee wrap, but I worked for 8 hours solid digging dirt, shoveling dirt, and shoveling gravel. It was an awesome upper-body workout, and I totally earned the pizza & beer we ended the day with. We are so nearly finished with our driveway project – and as soon as we are, there will be photos.

HOWEVER – today has even better photos, for today, I made cheese.

I read an article about cheesemaking in the Oregonian, then again on a blog I read, and then lastly in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” So, I broke down and bought the mozzarella cheese kit. And today was my first attempt.

The pictures are odd & limited. It’s hard to take photos of cheesemaking when you are both the cheesemaker AND the photographer. Some of the photos are taken with the camera hanging around my neck using my elbow to hit the button.

But – first you need to dissolve 1/4 tsp of rennet in 1/4 cup of water:

Then, you dissolve 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid in 1 cup of water:

(you can see the breadmaker, making a loaf of delicious bread, behind my artistic shot).

Next, you pour 1 gallon of milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized) into a big pot.

Oooooh.....ACTION SHOT!

Oooooh.....ACTION SHOT!

Then, you stir in the citric acid mixture & then heat it all up to 90 degrees:

Then, you remove from heat, stir in the rennet, and then cover & let sit for about 5 minutes (or, if you’re me, 11 minutes). Then you use a long knife & cut the curds, then put the pot back on the stove and heat, stirring slowly, to 105 degrees:

Once you get to 105, remove from heat again, and keep stirring slowly for 2-5 minutes.

Then, pour whey all over your kitchen drain the whey without squishing the curds too much.

Put the curds into a microwave safe bowl & microwave for 1 minute. Drain the whey & smoosh the curds into one piece:

Microwave for 30 more seconds, and then attempt to stretch the mozzarella. Curse at yourself for ignoring the *rubber gloves optional* part of the instructions. Look frantically through kitchen for rubber gloves while blowing on burned thumb. Find rubber gloves under sink behind garbage. Get grossed out. Throw away the top 5 pairs of gloves due to possible garbage contamination. Put on gloves. Swear. Grab camera, put around neck, and then take photo of the best part of the cheese making – the stretching. Realize how hard it is to stretch cheese (which takes two hands) and take a picture (which usually takes another two hands). Use hanging strap & elbow to take crappy artsy shot of stretchy mozzarella:

Form mozzarella into balls & drop in ice water:

Store most balls. Take one, slice it. Go to garden and find ripe tomato:

Slice it.

Remove fresh Italian bread from breadmaker.

Forget to take picture of bread.

Slice it.

Arrange all on plate & pour glass of wine, because even though it’s 1:30 on a Monday, it seems like a good idea.

Take 10 shots. (ETA: I did not take 10 shots of tequila, I took 10 photos. Just for clarity.) Curse at inability to take good photos. Think about asking the architect to come home and take photos of my lunch. Decide against it.

Eat lunch. Drink wine. Be happy.

The awesome part? I made the bread & the cheese, and grew the tomatoes. Although I did not MAKE the wine, per se, I did have a party which caused someone to GIVE me the wine, so it’s almost the same thing.

And even better – I have now (finally) achieved the feeling that the doctors DID warn me about, pre-steroids. I now not only no longer have knee pain, I have this weird extra-pain-free feeling in the knee. The feeling that (except for my sore upper body) wants me to run. And the doctor told me this would happen (unlike the super-pain, he did warn me about the pending absence of pain), and told me not to run, and I know I shouldn’t, but damn. I feel good.

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