At first, he wasn’t sure he would ever be able to make cheese …
Brian Dixon first tried to make our 30 Minute Mozzarella a few months ago, but his attempt was a dismal failure (excuse me – learning experience!). He learned the hard way that his milk had been pasteurized at too high a temperature.
He took pictures and sent them to our technical advisor, Jim Wallace. (Jim’s answer is located at the end of this article.)
I don’t know of many cheesemakers in Alaska, so I asked Brian about doing an article. He responded, “What would be the blog post title? “The Making of a Mozzarella Maker … Almost?” Of course, I knew right then he was going to be fun to interview!
These are the pictures Brian sent to Jim, asking for help with his Mozzarella: (Note: This batch was made with Matanuska Creamery (Palmer, AK) whole milk, pasteurized at 170 F and homogenized.)
This was a classic case of overheated milk. However, in Brian’s neck of the woods, good milk is hard to find. His options are to travel a great distance, purchase a cow share, or pay a lot of money for his milk. There is great milk available at the Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction (vat-pasteurized at 145F), but they aren’t currently selling their products in the Anchorage area. So, he’s working on the possibility of purchasing a cow share (4 gallons/week for $15/week).
Meanwhile, Brian chose to pay more for milk he found in Anchorage, at the Natural Pantry store on the Old Seward Highway. This time, his Mozzarella making experience ended in triumph:
I heated the curds in my large 8-cup measuring cup with steep sides for 1 minute, and the temperature rose to 115 F. I gently folded the cheese a little, outside edges folded to the middle, then heated another 30 seconds. This time, the cheese temperature had risen to 126 F. I sprinkled 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt on the cheese after the second heating so it would get folded into the cheese before the cheese got worked very much.
After one more 30-second heating in the microwave, the cheese reached 136 F and I started stretching it. What seemed to work best for me was to hold the cheese in an oblong shape in my fists, one fist above the other, then to squeeze it as though using too hands to squeeze toothpaste out of a tube. This lengthened the mass of cheese and started the stretch. I finished the stretch by pulling the ends, then folding the cheese lengthwise back over itself a couple of times and then repeated. I did this about 3 times, heating with the microwave 20-25 seconds each time it cooled a little and became less stretchy. As you can see, this worked great and the cheese became very stretchy, shiny, and if not careful with it, would’ve drooped to the floor! Success!!
I asked Brian how he got started making cheese …
The other side of the coin is that cheese making aligns well with my personality. I enjoy (yikes!) food growing and harvest, fishing and hunting, food preservation (smoking, canning, etc), and the science and analysis behind these various skills. I also bake (as well as I am able) artisan breads, make homemade sausages, and used to brew beer as well. My beers competed successfully, sometimes winning silver medals in national contests, before I finally quit brewing since I don’t drink much beer. Cheese is just my next hobby! (Assuming we can get milk that works here in Alaska…)
My goal is to be able to produce good aged, molded, cheeses like Stiltons or similar … my favorite so far. I like stronger tasting cheeses that have character, so mozzarella and similar will just be the first step towards reaching those loftier goals.
What do you do for a living?
Boat? Pure recreation. I’m building a boat for offshore use, primarily for fishing (salmon, halibut, a variety of bottom fish, shrimping, crabbing), but also for family camping in places like the islands of Prince William Sound. Because of bears, it’s easier to sleep in the boat on an anchor than in a tent on the islands. I’m hoping to have the boat done by sometime this summer, but it’s going slower than I’d like.
Note: We know Brian will continue to make cheese, because he just bought a pH meter and he’s very determined. We hope to hear more from him about his cheese adventures …
The following comes from http://www.dairyfoods.com
“The parameters for pasteurization in the United States fall under The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), a cooperative effort of industry and state regulatory agencies in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration. For white fluid milk the time-temperature relationship for HTST processed milk is a minimum of 161ËšF for at least 15 seconds.
Fluid milk processing plants have traditionally pasteurized milk at higher temperatures for longer periods of time as an extra safety factor. (Historically fluid milk is pasteurized in the 166-170ËšF range for 20-25 seconds.) Pasteurizing milk at this time/temperature ratio typically gives a clean slightly cooked flavor with a 14-18 day shelf life.
More recently, under the recommendations of FDA, and its concerns regarding food safety, many fluid milk plants are increasing their HTST pasteurization temperatures to 176-178F.”