Sunday, September 02, 2012

Hard simple cheesemaking made simple hard

Cheesemaking is really, really simple, which is one reason why you should say it is very, very hard. It is much more impressive to say something which you find simple is hard rather than something you find simple is simple. This is how Kevin Rudd got to be Prime Minister; he made the English language, which the rest of us find pretty easy, really, seem so infuriatingly complex that we all gave him a vote for his efforts. (And then he did the same with the economy.)

But anyway. Who would have thought that in order to make cheese, pretty much all you have to do is follow a recipe? This is, essentially, what I have been doing for these past few months. Some instructions are, it is true, a little odd. In the recipe 'mozzarella - traditional method', the first instruction reads:

1. Heat the milk to 90 degrees F. The pH should be 6.8. If it isn't, wait and test again. 

Traditional Italians always kept a litmus test around their house, don't you know.

I just made a provolone today: it's twisting around in the shower recess, looking like a rather small white knobbled and ugly thing that no-one would particularly want to eat. Because it is.

Of course there are always problems: starters that don't start, curds that don't set, or won't stretch the way you want them to, not enough ricotta which is so mooshy anyway that you can't collect it without it dissolving into the rest of the whey. It's all quite simple, the recipe book says; just heat it up to the required temperature, or let it mature for such and such a time, and it will magically happen.

Simple? Cheesemaking is hard! I don't know how people do it! The nerve of that book, trying to make something so hard as cheesemaking seem simple!

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