Why is Ricki Carroll’s cheese-making book so popular? Because it’s so complete and easy to follow.
After mastering home canning, it was inevitable that I would learn cheese making. At first, my husband vetoed it; he said cheese making stunk. But it was going to happen, sooner or later. The drive was too high to ignore.
But cheese making is difficult, right? You need special equipment, right? I was so indoctrinated into consumer society that I hadn’t acknowledged that people have been making cheese for millennia. It’s now easier, thanks to thermometers, temperature controls, and cheese making books.
This book is clear and thorough… making home cheese making rewarding and fun. Order Home Cheese Making today!
My first cheese-making endeavor was 30-Minute Mozzarella. Though I obtained the recipe from a different source, it had originally come from Ricki Carroll. The instructions were clear and thorough. I successfully made mozzarella my first time. It didn’t stink and I didn’t cry. Everyone was happy.
30-Minute Mozzarella is one of the recipes in Ricki’s cheese-making book. It’s also one of the many recipes which don’t involve a special culture. You can purchase citric acid in the canning section of a grocery store; I obtain my rennet online. I keep ingredients handy and then when we want pizza, I buy a gallon of whole milk and make mozzarella. I have cheese by the time the crust dough is done rising.
After realizing how easy mozzarella was, I looked into Ricki’s other recipes.
Home Cheese Making contains more than 75 recipes within 278 pages. It details how to make goat cheese, both hard and soft cheeses from cow milk, kefir and yogurt. It details making buttermilk, sour cream, and four types of cream cheese.
After the acknowledgments, Ricki’s cheese-making book starts with the history of cheese. It talks about ingredients. Never use ultrapasteurized or UHT milk, the book says, because the high temperatures denature the proteins and they don’t curdle right. If you purchase a cow, look for Jersey. Jersey cow milk production means more cheese because the milk has a higher butterfat content. Goat milk ripens faster because it’s more acidic; Saanen goats have milk with a stronger flavor while the Nigerian Dwarf breed produces more butterfat.
After discussing rennet, the cheese making book talks about starters, which are powdered bacterial cultures. These are necessary for cheese making because they introduce the right bacteria and none of the bad ones. Using the correct starter for each type of cheese is crucial.
The book describes equipment and techniques, using clear illustrations to describe procedures. This is all well-organized so home cooks can refer back to them during the cheese-making process.
Then come the recipes. I haven’t tried all of them, because of a technicality: I live in a tiny, antique house with no basement. I can make Monterey jack in the winter, leaving it in a cool garage cupboard for several months, but cannot guarantee those temperatures within the 10-month curing time of Parmesan. But someone with an insulated basement or root cellar could.
My favorite goat cheese recipe is ricotta. It’s easy, requires no starter culture, and can be made in less than an hour. I make mine in a slow cooker because “heat the milk to 195” can occur quickly or slowly. I can set the slow cooker on low, go to work for several hours, and come back in time to add apple cider vinegar. I drain the cheese then add butter and soda only if I want it light and fluffy. If I want a block of paneer for Indian cuisine, I just knead the cheese then press it into a solid mold, refrigerating overnight.
After the recipes comes a chapter called, “Serving, Enjoying, and Cooking with Cheese.” Here’s where the cheese-making book gets fun. After all, why are you making cheese if you don’t intend to eat it? This section talks about cutting and serving it, then provides recipes for cooking with it. Ricotta pancakes, buttermilk cornbread, green salad with apples and goat cheese, mashed sweet potatoes with homemade butter and sour cream, and mascarpone tarts topped with fresh fruit. It even gives a recipe for pizza crust to hold your 30-Minute Mozzarella.
It will take me awhile to work completely through this book, since I need to find basement space for my parmesan. But each recipe I’ve tried has been a success. This is because all the techniques are illustrated, ingredients are explained, and a troubleshooting guide describes, chart-style, where you went wrong so you can correct the mistake.
I’ve looked at other cheese making books in stores, but those never came home with me because they didn’t describe from-scratch, start-to-finish techniques in the cheese varieties I craved. Some books just confused me. Some made me feel like I wasn’t qualified to make my own cheese because I wasn’t already skilled in certain methods.
So far, I’ve even used techniques learned in Home Cheese Making to teach classes within my community. I mastered the instructions well enough to make mozzarella, butter, and ricotta all at the same time, within the same kitchen. My “students” now make their own cheese, having bought the complete cheese-making book for their libraries.
The next recipe I try will be muenster. I can find the red bacteria online and the milk in my grocery store. But I’ll pass on Limburger. Because then the process really will stink.
Have you tried any recipes within Ricki Carroll’s cheese-making book? How did your cheese turn out? What’s your favorite recipe?