I love cheese. Seriously LOVE it. If I were ever to become lactose intolerant, it would kind of ruin my life.
I also love to do random things. So when Jessica suggested that we go to cheese-making class at Zingerman’s Creamery, I was totally game. For $45, we’d hang out at the Creamery, learn how to make mozzarella, and take a hunk of cheese home with us. We thought it sounded like a pretty good deal.
As it turned out, it was an even better deal than we could have possibly imagined. We ended up getting a pretty thorough grounding in cheese-making techniques and taking home FOUR different types of mozzarella. Zingerman’s, while always good, is NEVER cheap and rarely what I would class as a great bargain, but this particularly experience gave us more than our money’s worth.
The cheese-making lab at the creamery is a pretty hot place – hot like they should warn you to wear very little clothing hot. Jess and I were very quickly sweating as we stood in front of pails of milk from Calder Dairy, adding citric acid and rennet and bucket after bucket of hot water to “cook” the mozzarella.
This first technique, which took about an hour and fifteen minutes, was by far the most complex thing we did that afternoon. We were also informed that no actual cheese shop makes cheese this way. A real cheese maker would let the milk sour naturally, watching the pH level closely as it did so and manipulating it as little as possible. This “real” process would take upwards of eight hours. Our speeded-up process was good to know from a learning standpoint, and taught us to appreciate what goes in to making cheese from a gallon of milk, but is at best imperfect and overly handled.
Everything we made after that first hour and fifteen minutes was made from curd that also came from Calder Dairy. Making mozzarella from curd is probably one of the easiest “food things” I have ever done. Basically, you melt the curd with hot water, drain the water, and form the cheese into a silky smooth ball before throwing it into some salty brine.
We made a ball of plain mozzarella out of the first batch of curd, then stretched the crap out of the next batch and wrapped it up in myrtle leaves to be baked later, and finished off the third batch by basically making a balloon of mozzarella, filling it with grated mozzarella and fresh cream, and tying it up to later be sliced into a creamy, silky treat called burrata.
Two and a half sweaty but satisfying hours later. Jess and I were standing in the Creamery eating gelato and each carting home a shopping bag full of cheese. Needless to say, we were mozz’d out in about two days (if such a thing is really possible). If you’re looking for something fun and different and food-oriented to do on a Saturday afternoon, I would highly recommend looking into the Zingerman’s cheese classes. You learn a lot and get to haul home a bag of cheese. I call that a win-win.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Baumer