The Fails and Jubilations of a Novice Cheesemaker

I am beyond thrilled at my forays into cheese making, even when the cheeses end up a little more on the not-quite-right side than the shazam! one. I’ve now tried enough cheeses from the One-Hour Cheese book that I decided to add another specialty cookbook to our growing stash. My husband has his pile of artisan breads while I have canning, cake, and cheese ones. We are running out of space for our cookbooks in our too small kitchen.

Last week, I made a Triple Pepper Hack. I struggled with several of the steps for different reasons. For one, I used a pie plate because that’s what it had looked like the author had used in the pictures. The pie plate didn’t have sloping enough edges for me to drain off the whey easily. For seconds, I really needed gloves to protect my hands from the heat. They are not a “maybe” item for me: they’re a necessity. Now I know. The combination of steep-pie-plate sides and the lack of gloves made it difficult for me to successfully drain the whey. The resulting cheese was delicious, but it did not hold its molded shape well. When I moved the molded cheese from the plate to a Tupperware container, it essentially turned into ooze. Tasty cheese ooze, but definitely more spreadable than sliceable. We’ve used the Triple Pepper Hack for tacos, nachos, grilled cheese, and egg and cheese sandwiches. Definitely the perfect combination of fail and jubilation!


Today, I wanted to try my hand at mozzarella because we’re having wood-fired pizza this weekend. Our homemade pizza party seemed the perfect opportunity to craft a new cheese and march toward on my May goals. This time, I had my thick dishwashing gloves and a larger bowl with sloped edges. I was certain that I had the tools I needed to make a successful homemade mozzarella cheese! Alas, instead, I crafted another fail and jubilation. It was not to be. I made a delicious mozzarella spread. So much for shaping into cute rolls, knots, or the traditional ball of fresh mozzarella. Whoops!

My Delicious Whoops Henceforth Known as Creamy Mozzarella Spread

I suspect that I know the reason why I’m making these cheese spreads instead of, well, sliceable cheese. I’m not sure that I’m actually cooking the curds long enough. When I’m taking my temperature readings, I get high temperatures around the edge of the stock pot—so high, in fact, it has been 20 degrees over the recommended temperature—and I panic a little because the curds are about 7 degrees below temperature. What’s a gal to do when she’s instructed not to stir? Well, apparently, the answer is: make cheese spread. Entirely delicious creamy mozzarella spread. Still, I want to make real mozzarella cheese for our pizza parties at the house. With a large garden and a bread-baking husband, homemade pizzas are pretty boss around here. I want to up the ante by adding homemade cheese too. So, I did as I was instructed in Claudia Lucero’s delightful cheese-recipe book and emailed her for Curd Support. Maybe I’ll learn enough that my next cheese will be spot on!

IMG_20170503_121903Of the other cheeses I’ve concocted from her recipe book, I have made the ricotta twice (it’s scrumptious and super easy!). I attempted the raw milk recipe, but I didn’t have raw milk… so it didn’t turn out quite right. I think I should’ve added more lemon juice than I did for coagulation since I was using a lightly pasteurized local milk (and the remaining whey was very creamy). We devoured this cheese anyway as a spread on toast. And I made butter from some leftover cream. Basically, I just need myself a goat or perhaps even a cow and, while I’m adding quadrupeds, that dream country acreage would be nice. Still, dairy progress is progress, and I’m happy to keep experimenting and learning! My husband is too. He particularly liked the not-quite-right Triple Pepper Hack.

As for me? My mozzarella spread is not going to waste, and I’m venturing into cheesemaking with an open mind, a willingness to laugh, a complete acceptance to eating anything tasty, edible, and cheese-like that comes out of my kitchen.

What’s not to love about a little mozzarella spread on homemade bread with homemade cilantro-lemon salt?

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