Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Homemade Scamorza Cheese

Finally, after being home from vacation for a week, the refrigerator was filled with milk and therefore it was cheese making time on the farm. This time I decided to make Scamorza, an Italian pasta filata cheese which I stretch so that it is similar to really large string cheese.  Not only is this cheese wonderful to taste, but when stretched and twisted in the way I make it, it is also is a beautiful cheese to behold.

To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.

Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

When the milk gets to 96 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of thermophilic culture AND 1/2 teaspoon mesophilic culture over the top of the milk.  I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from and have found his prices to be spot on competitive.  He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

After the culture has moistened for a minute or two, I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk.

For this recipe, I let the culture sit in the milk for 45 minutes with the cover on to maintain the 96 degrees in the milk.  Then stir the milk again and add 16 drops of annatto coloring...

...and then stir in the annatto with another 20 strokes up and down.  Next, add in a 1/2 cups of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of rennet.  I use a vegetarian rennet liquid because it works well for me every time.  Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.

Now cover the pot again and it sit for 1 hour, maintaining the 96 degree temperature.  Just a note on maintaining temperature.  If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 96 degrees also.  But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that heat to disburse.  I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance then is not a problem.

After 1 hour, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.  

With a sanitized knife, cut the curd into pieces.  And then let sit for 5 minutes more so the cubes harden up a bit more before starting to stir - this is the key to getting good curds.

Next, the heat goes on at medium and the curds are slowly heated while being stirred until they reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The curds are then let to settle, about 15 minutes, while I sanitize the items I need to remove the curds and drain them.

Now, with very clean hands, I scoop the curds out of the whey and put them into a stainer that has been sanitized.

At this time, you have a couple of options for using your whey.  Here I have taken a gallon out for a friend who also mixes whey with grains to feed her chickens and a smaller container for myself to use for lacto-fermenting.  Another option for all or some of the whey is to make whey ricotta or as fertilizer for your garden or the seeds you have started for your garden.

Now, back to the cheese. Next, I cut the curd into 4 large pieces and then 4 times over I take each of those pieces through the following process:
First, I cut the piece into smaller pieces within a microwavable glass container.Then I microwave the cheese for a little over 1 minute.

Then with heat resistant gloves, I knead the cheese into a ball, releasing some of the extra whey and then put it back into the microwave for another 45 seconds.

Now, I start stretching the hot melted cheese, 1/2 a batch at a time so that I end up with 8 large pieces of cheese at the end.  I pull and stretch it, making sure to fold it over each time I stretch so that it ends up folded over three times.

I then twist the folded cheese to make the shape of the final product.

Next, I put the ball into an ice brine (salted water mixed with ice) for about a couple of hours.

After soaking, I take the cheese out, place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few days to dry.  Then you can either eat the cheese fresh or freeze. (This type of cheese does not keep long in the frig, but then again how long will it really last with five hungry people in the house?)

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