We first got to know Rebecca when she shared with us her method for making ricotta with a sous vide circulator (click here). It became apparent from her emails that she is an accomplished cook, as well as a fellow cheese maker. We thought you might like to know more about how Rebecca manages to use her many skills to raise a healthy family in this faced-paced world:
Are you a do-it-yourselfer?
I make all my own breads, rolls, pizza crust, etc. I buy my flour in 25 lb bags. I try to cook from scratch as often as possible for all of our meals.
We have 7 laying hens so I’m always looking for recipes that use eggs. The eggs in the picture are from our chickens. My daughter brought them in while I was digging for the ricotta mold. I included a picture because sous vide is a perfect way to cook poached eggs. You leave them in the shell while cooking.
We have grapes, raspberries, strawberries and mulberries in our yard. Whatever isn’t eaten fresh or made into a pie is turned into jam and canned.
I recently started brewing my own beer after being prodded by the folks at the brewing supply store where I was buying cheese and yogurt cultures. My daughter also talked me into trying homemade root beer.
Much of our DIY is really a curiosity of “how is that done, what is the science behind it, and can we do it ourselves.” We’re really lucky where we live that there is great access to agricultural products and services.
What made you decide to make your own cheese?
Part curiosity and part food prices. Yogurt was my “gateway cheese.” I was never a huge fan, but my husband eats it everyday. When it started getting expensive to buy, I thought to myself, “I can probably make this myself” and I was right.
Now that I’ve started making my own, I actually like yogurt. While looking for information on how to make yogurt I found the cheesemaking.com website where I saw the recipes for mozzarella and ricotta. Since these are two cheeses that my family eats regularly, I tried them and found how easy they are. I then tried some more advanced cheese recipes, but have the most success with mozzarella, ricotta, and yogurt.
What were the issues with the hard cheeses?
Inexperience and aging. On hindsight, I think with one of my first tries the curd wasn’t firm enough when I cut it and that one was thrown away almost immediately. I’m not sure if it was due to the milk quality or my impatience.
Future attempts ended up with great looking cheeses right out of the mold, but then I had problems with aging. I have a basement that stays cool and humid, but I had too many problems with mold.
I wasn’t completely unsuccessful. I made a cheddar that survived the aging process and had a good cheddar flavor, but was a bit dry and crumbly and I use the caciocavallo recipe at your website when I have time to make it, but I don’t age it and use it shredded for pizzas, etc.
I recently bought a new refrigerator and will be turning the old one into an aging space and will be trying again this year with some hard cheeses.
What kind of milk are you using?
I just use my grocery store milk, Martin’s/Giant. If I’m making the caciocavallo or when I made the hispanico I used milk from a local(ish) dairy called Trickling Springs Dairy in Chambersburg, PA.
What has your overall experience been with making your own cheese?