Thursday, June 28, 2007

Adventures in Cheesemaking

I took a cheesemaking class about a month ago with my friends Jonathan and Stefani (one of the cutest couples I know). The class was held at Alpine Dairy Goats in Webster Groves, and it was extremely interesting to say the least.

Last night, we decided to put our new found cheesemakin' skills to use. We decided to make veggie lasagna with fresh ricotta cheese so on my way to JnS's, I stopped at the Maplewood Farmer's Market. I picked up some gorgeous asparagus, zucchini, pattypan squash, onions, basil (purple and green), and swiss chard, plus three different kinds of mushrooms from Ozark Forest Mushrooms and some whole wheat sourdough bread from Black Bear Bakery.

While Jonathan and I began chopping vegetables, Stefani got to work making the ricotta using organic cream top whole cows milk from Farmers All Natural Creamery. With vinegar at the ready, we eagerly waited for the milk to reach the designated temperature of 180°. When it did, we added the vinegar and watched as the curds quickly began to form, separating from the whey. After a minute or two, we poured the entire mixture into a cheesecloth-lined bowl. We lifted out the cheesecloth, which contained our freshly made ricotta cheese, and poured out the whey (after a bit of investigation today, I've learned that there are many things that can be done with the whey...I'll remember that for next time).

We sat the ricotta to the side and began sauteing the diced vegetables (well, most of them anyway...right, Stef?). Once the veggies were done, we assembled our lasagna, topped it with the ricotta, and into the oven it went. While we waited, Jonathan sauted the swiss chard with some soy and a bit of tomato sauce. We sliced the bread, dipped it in olive oil, and topped it with the swiss chard for a quick appetizer...yum!

Once the lasagna was done, we let it rest for a few minutes, which was difficult as the kitchen smelled so good. Soon enough, we dished up large slices for each of us, and the conversation came to a halt as we gobbled up our very tasty dish. I think it may have even been better knowing that we had made the yummy cheese on top ourselves.

I finished the night with an orange carrot cupcake with maple frosting, this too homemade by Stefani herself (details of which can be found on Stef's blog: The Cupcake Project). Both the cupcake and the frosting were phenomenal, which I found amazing only because I always thought I hated maple syrup. Turns out I hate fake maple syrup, but the real stuff...well, the real stuff I like.

I think for our next cheesemaking adventure we'll be making chevre, so a trip to Alpine Dairy Goats for milk will be in order. Stay tuned.

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