Thursday, September 13, 2007

The thing about milk (Cheese Attempt #2)

I’ve learned more about milk through my little cheese making experiment than I even knew there was to learn. Milk is typically sold pasteurized and homogenized. The pasteurization kills bad stuff, and the homogenization breaks up the cream so it doesn’t float to the top. I won't bore you with the details, but there are four methods of pasteurizing the milk. For hard cheese making, the milk has to be pasteurized at 145 or 161 degrees, otherwise the proteins are so damaged that the curds turn into a yucky mess. Problem is, choosing milk that is pasteurized at those temps is not good enough. If the milk stays too long in cold storage before you use it, it won’t work, either, so you have to use a local source.

For my first attempt (see "Icky, icky goo" on 8/14) I used milk from a local dairy that had been pasteurized at 161 degrees. It really should have worked. I was hoping that my "goo" was due to my own mistakes rather than the type of milk, so I tried it again last night. Same milk, different mistakes (Correct burner this time, but I forgot to turn it back on!), and same icky result. Sigh. When I ordered my specialty cheese making supplies, they came in a quantity large enough to make 30 batches. Let's hope it doesn't take 29 batches to get it right!

I could use milk from another local dairy (farther away), but I am not overly hopeful. Some people absolutely swear by raw milk. I know a source for raw milk, but the milk is double the price, and I think that pasteurization (named after Louis Pasteur, who discovered microbes) was invented for a reason. I have a toddler and I don’t want to take any chances.

Just recently, I found yet another source: Noris Dairy. They pasteurize their organic milk at 161 degrees and then deliver it right to your door when it is only two days old. Remember the old days when everybody had a milkman? I don’t – I was too young! Noris doesn’t homogenize their milk and my book says that’s the best type. Noris milk is almost as expensive as the raw milk, but I've placed an order for next Tuesday. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will! Stay tuned for the next episode.

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