From the Forum: Ricotta Advice Needed

This question came in recently via the Forum:

I do have a question as well. Trying to make ricotta today, I used 2% instead of whole milk. Added some citric acid and salt, heated to 195, and couldn't get the curds to separate, save a few lonely stark white ones floating on the top. After a while (since I assumed all was lost, although I wasn't sure why) I added some rennet to experiment. It separated, those curds sinking to the bottom, wispy off-white. I let them sit and then drained into butter muslin, which is now hanging to drain. Not sure what the finished product will be, or where I went wrong. Should I just not have used 2%?

Thanks,
Heather

I don't think a low-fat milk would entirely prevent the proteins from coagulating, it would just likely lead to a drier, less creamy texture. Perhaps the milk was ultra-pasteurized? If you have any further advice for Heather, leave a comment!

Stinky Cheese on NPR

In case you missed it, I was on WNYC--New York City's NPR affiliate --a couple week's back talking to Brian Lehrer about Stinky Cheese. If you follow that link you can listen an mp3 of my segment (also copied below). You can also see the comments that people left, some of which are pretty hilarious.

What's the best way to properly store cheese at home?

Here are some general suggestions about how to properly store cheese at home. The challenge is that cheese needs an environment that fulfills seemingly contradictory needs; it needs to be somewhere where air can flow in and out, but where moisture loss is kept at a minimum.

  • The first rule is to buy only as much as you need; cheese is best shortly after it is cut from the wheel.
  • If you are keeping cheese for more than a day or so, enjoy it quickly because every day that cheese hangs around in the fridge means a noticeable decrease in quality.
  • The softer the cheese, the harder it will be to keep fresh for a long time.
  • People generally recommend keeping the cheese in the warmest part of the fridge, but I find that this doesn't really matter as long as you give the cheese enough time to come to room temperature when you're ready to eat it again.
  • One method I really like is to wrap the cheese first in breathable paper such as parchment paper, and then cover the whole thing in plastic wrap. Plastic wrap keeps in moisture nicely, but can impart off flavors if left touching the surface of the cheese. And if you use parchment only, you'll lose too much moisture. The combination of the two usually does the trick.
  • Another method is to place some rolled up paper towels in a tupperware container, and then place the cheese on top of the paper. Closing the lid tightly creates a sealed environment that helps moisture stay in, while the paper towels help keep it from getting too wet in there. Be sure to open the container once a day to let some fresh air in.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

My Tour of the Caves at Murray's

Head on over to Big Cheese Stories, the Murray's Cheese blog, for a little write-up they did on my recent visit to their underground caves. I had a great time and learned a lot about what sets them apart. It was a great pleasure to meet Murray's affineur Zoe, who showed me around and gave me the low-down on some of the different techniques they use for bringing out the best in the cheeses they sell. If you haven't done so already, leave a comment here for a chance to win two tickets to tour the Murray's caves! (Oh, and don't make fun of my hairnet. The caves have strict sanitary guidelines.)

Cheese as Beer Carrier

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Did anyone see the cheese-themed Bud Light ad during the Super Bowl tonight? Here's the premise: guy goes with his partner to a "wine and cheese party." Guy brings huge hunk of cheese with him. Takes it into the kitchen where the other guys are hanging out. "Dude, that's some serious cheese." Pulls the top off, and inside is a six-pack of Bud Light, a sight that duly impresses his bros. One of his friends pops open a baguette to reveal another bottle. The punchline? The box of wine is a portable TV set (with a football game playing on it of course). So...is the take-away that wine, cheese and bread aren't for "real men?" Come on.

I actually didn't catch it during the game, but I was in a loud bar rooting for the Giants and could've missed it. I saw it later on MySpace's Super Bowl Ads page, where you can view the whole ad now (look for the section called 1st quarter and click on the Bud Light ad all the way at the right).

Revisiting Fondue

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The Dining & Wine section of yesterday's New York Times ran a great article about fondue, that nostalgic miracle of melty goodness. Indeed, says Melissa Clark in the article, "...few foods are as compelling as melted cheese."

The article goes on to quote Chef Terrance Brennan of Artisanal Bistro and Picholine as saying that pretty much any pot will work, as will almost any cheese. These are reeassuring sentiments that will hopefully help rescue fondue from 1970's dinner party obscurity and propel it into mainstream appreciation.

Win a Tour of the Murray's Cheese Caves!

20080114CheeseCave.jpgThe kind folks at Murray's Cheese are offering CurdNerds readers the chance to win two tickets to one of their new cave tours. I wrote about the tours yesterday on Serious Eats, and they were also covered in a little snippet in today's New York Times. The tours are offered on the third Saturday of every month, and this contest is for the tour that will happen on February 16th at 3:15pm. For details on entering the contest, keep reading.

Menu for Hope Winners Announced!

mfh4roundedsmall.jpgCongratulations to Ms. Deborah Szajngarten who won our prize of a $100 gift certificate for Artisanal Cheese. This year's event raised an incredible $91,188 for the U.N. World Food Program. Thank you to Pim Techamuanvivit (Chez Pim) for organizing everything, to everyone who participated and bought raffles, and of course to Artisanal for donating the wonderful prize! Enjoy your cheese, Deborah! Visit Chez Pim for a list of all the winners.

Cheese Pairing: Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper with Chenin Blanc

20080110LambChopper.jpgFrom Cypress Grove Chèvre in California, Lamb Chopper is a buttery, nutty gouda-style cheese made from organic sheep's milk. Its semi-firm texture and good meltability make this cheese great whether served at room temperature or cooked into a hot dish.

The dry tanginess of this cheese matches well the high acid content of a Chenin Blanc, while the fruitiness nicely offsets the cheese's buttery flavor. Cypress Grove's website also recommends pairing it with Sauvignon Blanc or Vouvray.

Lamb Chopper is available for $26.06/lb at WinePavillion.com

Farm Film Fest, January 13th, Chatham, NY

Farm Film FestHead to New York's Hudson Valley on January 13th for the Second Annual Farm Film Fest. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable item for the Chatham Silent Food Pantry. Farm Film Fest is sponsored by the Chatham Agricultural Partnership, the Chatham Film Club, and the Columbia Land Conservancy. Last year almost 400 people braved a sleet storm to attend!

The program features four short films made by local farmers and filmmakers as well as American Harvest, an award winning documentary feature that explores the complex issue of immigrant workers and their place in the American food system.

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