Since I cannot find any cheese not wrapped in plastic, I thought I would try my hand at making cheese. Countryside and Small Stock Journal had an article about cheese making complete with recipes, so I ordered the supplies on-line.
I was a little disappointed when I received the package 2 days later. While it came very quickly, which was great, everything came in non-reusable or recyclable plastic. The rennet, which is a liquid, came in a completely non-recyclable bottle, and the citric acid came in one of those home sealed plastic sheets. I think I may search out a local cheese maker to buy rennet from in the future, but that will be a while as the bottle I bought should make a thousand pounds of cheese. So I suppose given how long it lasts, one reusable if not recyclable plastic bottle isn't horrible.
I thought I would try mozzarella first, since that is supposed to be the easiest. I heated 2 gallons of milk to 90 degrees, added 1/4 tsp thermophilic culture, diluted 1/4 tsp rennet into 1/2 c cool water, and added it to the milk. I was to stir it for 15 seconds then let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes to curd. Well, it thickened, then decided to stop. I left it for hours and it would not curd. I heated it up in the sink to 110, trying another idea from on-line, and it would not curd. So I finally decided to just strain it and see what came out. I put muslin in a strainer and poured in the liquid to drain, putting another pan underneath to catch the whey. After a while, I found what looked and smelled suspiciously like ricotta cheese! So I strained it all out and ended up with 2 pints of fresh ricotta cheese. Half way through I switched to straining through a screen, so more solids got though into the whey, but it went faster. I refrigerated the whey and went to bed.
Next day I thought I would make ricotta out of the remaining product, since there seemed to be so many solids in the bottom of the pan. I put it back on the stove, heated it to 190 degrees, and added 1/4 cider vinegar. I stirred for 15 minutes, but did not see any curds forming that were not already there, and the ones there were pinprick sized. I put more muslin in the strainer, and poured the liquid in, figuring I may get another 1/2 cup ricotta, but not hoping for much. As it strained, I could see the ricotta forming against the muslin, so pulled up a corner and scraped the cheese sticking to the fabric with a spoon to collect it. This allowed the rest to drain more quickly. I got another pint of ricotta this way. By then there was a small enough amount of liquid that I could gather all the edges of the muslin and make a bag, which I could then squeeze to get more liquid out. I squeezed out probably another 1/8 cup, then opened it back up. On the upper edges where it was the driest, the cheese looked and smelled suspiciously like cream cheese. So I continued to scrape and drain until I had about 1 cup of cream cheese, which was the consistency of cold whipped cream cheese.
I had bread already started, so I took one of the unbaked loaves and made bagels by shaping into balls, poking my finger through the middle for the hole, boiling each for 1 minute each side, brushing with egg, then baking for 30 minutes.
So my mozzarella turned into ricotta, my ricotta turned into cream cheese, and my bread turned into bagels. All said, I am pretty happy with the results! Today I will try the mozzarella again, and hopefully will get mozzarella, so we can make lasagna for dinner.