Monday, January 21, 2008

Adventures in Fermentation

Microbe Wrangler Wes

I started out making bread to save money on the sour dough I love. Then I branched out into rice-wine making after finding out that it had short enough turnaround times to be practical for someone living in a small cramped apartment. Then I resumed a practice of home yogurt making I'd dropped 25 years ago in the midst of family problems. Since that time I'd developed a taste for buttermilk. Hey, making buttermilk is as easy as making yogurt. So I'm making buttermilk now, too.

[Addendum: Forgot to mention the rice vinegar. With raisins and tarragon. It's easier than rice wine. You just let the fermentation go. I haven't mastered the rice wine yet but my vinegar is fine. I'm using it in cooking and preserving chopped garlic and such.]

Anitra started clamoring for clabbering. She wanted cheese. Cheap endless homemade cheese. She even looked up mozzarella recipes behind my back and sprang them on me when I wasn't expecting them. "Why don't you make mozzarella, Wes? Read this; it says it's easy."

So I looked for cheese recipes of my own. And today I made my first cheese, an easy-peasy rennet-free cream cheese called labneh or laban from Mediterranean countries that almost makes itself.

The recipe says start with yogurt, add salt, pour into a bowl lined with cheese-cloth, gather the cheese cloth around it to make a bag, and suspend it over a bowl 24 hours. [In a refrigerator so you don't grow bad germs.] It says the whey will drip out leaving the cheese, you press it in your hands, eat.

Well, with the homemade runny yogurt I make from store bought milk that didn't work. The yogurt ran out the cheese cloth with the whey. So I put cheese cloth in a bowl and a paper bag in over the cheese cloth. I filled the bag with the yogurt using the cheese cloth to hold the bag and giving the wet paper support so it wouldn't give way under the weight of the yogurt. I suspended that 24 hours.

It worked! I love this!

Now I'm going to go look for rennet. Large curd cottage cheese and mozzarella loom in my future. Mmmm, pizza from scratch. My bread and cheese, Anitra's garden veggies.

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