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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How to make your own mozzarella and camembert

"I'm just crackers about cheese!"
- Wallace, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

We were all crackers about cheese, a group of 18 cheese lovers assembled for the Cheese Making Workshop by McIntosh and Bowman as part of the Sydney International Food Festival.

Much like making one's own bread, creating your own cheese can seem a little intimidating for the uninitiated. It all seems so complex and bewildering.

In fact, cheese making, as we found, is not as difficult as you would think. Most involve heating milk to a certain temperature, adding rennet or starter culture, and then utilising patience and time. Over the course of the day, we discovered that sourcing the best quality unhomogenised milk was key - milk with cream at the top seemed to create far better curds than the homogenised version.

Whilst we were encouraged to use our hands, we were reminded that anything that came in contact with the cheese had to be sterilised by dipping in the diluted chlorine bath.

We made two different cheeses on the day: mozzarella and camembert. Each recipe was made by a team of two people, hence the huge quantities.

Making mozzarella
with Giorgio Linguanti
- That's Amore (Melbourne)

I was so excited about making mozzarella. If there's a sexy cheese, it's the shiny silky globules of mozzarella - cheese you want to rip apart with your hands and savour slowly.

Pouring 10 litres of milk into the pot

Adding the starter culture (citric acid)

After heating the milk to 36C, slowly transfer to a sterile bucket,
trying to minimise the amount of bubbles

Add the rennet (we used a microbial vegetarian rennet).
Stir through for max 20 seconds as it will start to set -
leave to set for about 30 minutes.

Check that the curds have set sufficently by checking that
a wedge-shaped segment will lift out easily

Cut the curds into 2cm cubes by slicing lengthways, widthways
and then down at a 45 degree angle toward the bottom of the tub

Use a slotted spoon or clean hands to gently move the curds
around, which will help them release more whey (liquids).
Leave for 20 minutes.

Wash the curds by adding about 1 litre of boiling water

Use a slotted spoon or clean hands to gently
move the curds about

Use a small bowl to transfer the whey to a colander in a sterile tub.
When you mostly have wet curds left in the tub, pour into the colander.
Keep the whey if you wish to make ricotta, otherwise discard.
Allow curds to drain and sit for 30 min.

After 30min flip the colander and turn the drained curd upside down

Allow the curd to sit for another 30min

Place the curd directly into a sterile tub and dice roughly

Add enough boiling water so the curds are immersed in enough liquid to be
plied together until soft. Use two wooden spoons to help you bring the
curds together, a little like making dough.

When the curds become pliable, use your hands to knead
and stretch the mozzarella until it is shiny.
The cheese needs to be in hot water to melt the curds,
so dip your hands in cold water beforehand so
you can work with the hot water more easily.

Fold the mozzarella back onto itself and continue
stretching and looping

Use your fingers to gently tease out an umbrella shape

Squeeze the umbrella closed through your thumb and index finger
to create a smooth and shiny ball of mozzarella

Continue making balls or twist the cheese into plaits

You can also poke a stuffed olive inside before you close the umbrella
to make fancy mozzarella surprises!

Makes about 4 medium rectangular takeaway boxes of mozzarella balls.

Making camembert with Clare Bailey
Hunter Belle, Upper Hunter Valley

At the same time as were making the mozzarella. we also set about making camembert. All that time waiting around for curds and whey is best invested in making even more cheese!

The camembert making was led by Clare Bailey,
a qualified cheese maker who was the first student in NSW
to study cheese making as part of her HSC.
She is now 20 but has worked with Hunter Belle since she was 15

We heated 6 litres of milk into a pot to a temperature of 40C. We gently stirred in a prepared starter culture, distributing it evenly throughout the milk. Let the milk sit for 30 min.

After 30min, check that the milk temperature is 38C-40C, otherwise reheat.
Add the rennet (stir through gently but quickly) and allow it to stand for 30min.

After 30min you should have soft curds. Create 2cm cubes by cutting
lengthways, widthways and then down at a 45 degree angle
toward the
bottom of the tub.
Leave for 30min (the yellow colour is from the
cream of the
unhomogenised milk)

After 30min use either a sterile slotted spoon or clean hands to gently move the
curds about, checking the corners for large chunks which you can
cut into cubes as necessary. Leave the curds for another 30mins.

Stir gently again and leave for 20min.
Stir gently again and leave for 10min.

Scoop out half the whey off the curds.

Gently ladle the curds into moulds (we used sterile plastic pipes) set on a
rack lined with gauze or cheesecloth above a tray. This stage is known as hooping.
Allow the curds to sit for 15min.

Place your hand over the top of the mould and then quickly flip the mould upside down, back onto the rack.

After 30min, flip again.
After another 30min, flip a final time.

Leave on a rack overnight, covering the moulds with plastic to retain as much warmth as possible.

The next morning, bathe the cheeses in a litre of chilled 20% saltwater solution, 10 minutes on each side.

Transfer the cheeses to a container with holes in the lid and leave in the warmest part of your fridge (usually the vegetable crisper) for at least a week to develop mould. After a week, the cheese can be wrapped as a camembert, or washed in a Brevi solution to create a washed rind cheese.

Clare with camemberts that had drained overnight

Claudia McIntosh gives a briefing on cheese principles and theory

Clare checks the curds

Cheese makers at work

So I have two miniature wheels of camembert sitting in my fridge right now. It's funny how often I feel compelled to check on them, like tending to precious babies. And whilst it's hard to reconcile that the cheese will not be ready for at least a week, it does give some perspective on why cheeses cost as much as they do, especially considering how much love goes into each product.

The fridge is quiet right now, but I know that good things come to those that wait.

Grab Your Fork attended the McIntosh and Bowman Cheese Making Workshop as a guest of TourismNSW for the Sydney International Food Festival.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
SIFF 2009 - Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Food Tour
SIFF 2009 - Nose-to-tail barbecue with Fergus Henderson
SIFF 2009 - Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki
SIFF 2009 - World Chef Showcase

Cooking class - Chocolate workshop with Kimberley Chocolates
Cooking class - Kaiseki cooking with Kei's Kitchen
Cooking class - Modern Mexican with VictorsFood
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/20/2009 02:10:00 am


  • At 10/20/2009 8:58 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I just loved this post. I might even try to make muzzarella and camembert cheese at home. Thanks for posting this.

  • At 10/20/2009 9:00 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Fascinating! You really need to practice patience though! But you're right, good things come to those who wait... I love camembert!

  • At 10/20/2009 10:07 am, Anonymous Tina said…

    OMG! The mozzarella looks amazing - though with all that work, I'm happy to go out and buy it ;)

  • At 10/20/2009 12:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fascinating! Thanks for details that Cheese Slices omit.

  • At 10/20/2009 12:24 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    Wow.. from this post I will never ever complain about the price of cheese! Great post Helen :)

  • At 10/20/2009 2:06 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    That sounds great! I hope your camembert mould turns out well. You'll have to put up a photo for us.

  • At 10/20/2009 2:20 pm, Anonymous MissDissent said…

    Great post Helen, I found it fascinating. I hope you'll tell us how those babies eat? I love Claudia's enthusiasm for cheese. I went to one of her What Cheese Is That? courses and for a Cheese Tour at Fort Denison. I love cheese...

  • At 10/20/2009 3:09 pm, Blogger Colin said…

    That looks like fun; don't forget to post with the important details - how it tastes!

  • At 10/20/2009 6:47 pm, Anonymous Chocolatesuze said…

    Zomg I love the dudes tshirt!

  • At 10/20/2009 7:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's always fun to learn cheesing making but I must confess I haven't made any at home due to laziness and they are so easily available in deli and supermarket. After reading your post, I feel inspired again to make my own.

  • At 10/20/2009 9:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Omg omg omg omg CHHHEEESSEEE XD I want that shirt as well haha

  • At 10/21/2009 1:29 am, Blogger lex said…

    nice! Like you said though, because of the effort involved and the elusive search for good quality unhomo milk in the consumer market, I think I'll stick to paying for mine haha; do let us know how your camembert is turning out though! (More importantly comparison to king island dairy's!)

  • At 10/21/2009 1:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you know, I might have a go!

  • At 10/22/2009 1:46 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Osmar Jardin - Glad you enjoyed the post. Learning the process of making cheese was fascinating. Hope you do make your own - am in the process of getting exact quantities of the rennet etc required so check back here for more details.

    Hi Betty - It does make you appreciate how special cheeses are, especially vintage ones that take several months to mature. I like camembert but I love my blue cheese even more :)

    Hi Tina - The effort involved does make the price of cheese seem so very reasonable. Always good to find out how food is produced - makes you want to seek out the best quality because you know why it tastes so good!

    Hi Evecho - I've always been intimidated by the prospect of making cheese so yes, was great to get involved in the process under expert tutelage.

    Hi clekitty - My thoughts exactly! It really does make you appreciate the treasure that is cheese!

    Hi Arwen - I'm checking on my little wheels of camembert every day. It will almost be a shame to eat it! lol

    Hi MissDissent - There will definitely be an update on the cheeses are they mature. Claudia has an infectious enthusiasm for cheese, although truth be told, I think the whole class was already quite cheese-crazy! I love cheese too. Such a great meal/snack/dessert/pick-me-up! lol

    Hi Colin - I will be sure to post an update on the camemberts when they mature!

    Hi Chocolatesuze - lol. Yes isn't the t-shirt great. Seems like everyone has an "I love..." tee these days!

    Hi Ellie - I think it's a worthwhile experiment to make your own cheese - I am definitely going to start making my own yoghurt cheese as it's so easy to do.

    Hi FFichiban - Yes cheese galore. I didn't even post the pics of our afternoon tea - a huge cheese board! Yum!

    Hi Lex - I don't have high hopes for any worthwhile comparison between my camembert and King Island, but I think I'll be more than a little proud when I finally dissect a wedge from my own little camembert. Will post an update for sure :)

    Hi Jax - Oh please do! And let us know how yours goes!

  • At 10/22/2009 7:51 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    It certainly looks like a lot of fun, but all that waiting around would surely test my patience! The mozzarella looks so lovely and stretchy! Hope your camembert turns out well :)

  • At 10/23/2009 12:46 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jacq - Cheese does require time to mature, but we had so much on, we never had a moment to spare. I guess it's like bread - once you get organised, it's easy to multi-task. I'm quite excited about the camembert, although I expect it'll make me appreciate the professionally made ones even more!

  • At 10/24/2009 4:25 pm, Anonymous Josette said…

    Oh look what i missed out on!! Such a great blog. Last week i went to a whiskey cheese class, also run by Mcintosh & Bowman - it was fabulous. Claudia is so passionate about cheese and her classes are relaxed and fun.

  • At 10/26/2009 2:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a cheesy post...damn I'm funny

    A.V <<<

  • At 10/28/2009 11:40 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Josette - Claudia does love her cheese, although I think on the day she was really in like-minded company! A fantastic day and I'm really looking forward to trying my cheese!

    Hi A.V - You should brie a comedian. lol.

  • At 10/29/2009 12:33 pm, Anonymous Vicky said…

    Hi Helen,

    I was at the very same course. What a great day it was. Thanks to your great report of the day I have been able to show my friends what they missed out on!

    How is your camembert shaping up. Mine are turning into wonderful furry little monsters. Hurrah! :-)


  • At 10/30/2009 12:23 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Vicky - It was so much fun, wasn't it? My camembert aren't quite a mouldy as I thought they'd be, but I've relocated them in the fridge so hopefully things will improve. Oh the anticipation! And glad you enjoyed the post. Hope your friends did too :)

  • At 11/13/2009 10:31 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    After reading this I called McIntosh and Bowman for a slot but apparently the classes are far and few between! Well, at least I can read your blog and pretend I was there!

  • At 11/16/2009 9:49 am, Anonymous www.charlies-garden.net said…

    I'm another attendee at the course (and another Helen :-)

    Thanks so much for the write up of the method ... I'll be adding the link to my cheesy resources!

    We cut into my cheese last night and I was pleasantly surprised considering I'd pretty much decided it was just a science experiment after it seemed to go pear shaped early on.

    (details at my blog)

  • At 11/16/2009 7:23 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Trissa - Giorgio flew up from Melbourne and Claire travelled from the Hunter Valley so we were lucky indeed. It's a shame that there aren't more cheesemaking classes on offer in Sydney - there's obviously a fair amount of demand!

    Hi Helen - Wow your cheese looks fantastic - most impressive!


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