A Lesson in Failure......Cheesemaking 101

OK -- Many of you know that I am teaching adult education classes at Scott Community College.

I have had several classes canceled due to low sign-up numbers. But last week, we were to have our pizza and cheesemaking class. I was excited. There were twenty people signed up ..... with a waiting list.

And then........we got this!

So last night, a week late, the class was on!!

We started out by making pizza crusts. I did one in the bread machine and Jason (the little guy on the far right in the pic .... he was the only one shorter than I was/am!!) helped me make another. The class then went and made their own crusts so it would have time to rise while we were making cheese. We all knew .... everyone wanted to learn how to make cheese.

The class is conducted in a local high school home economics lab. The demonstration kitchen has a gas cook top while the "students' kitchens" have electric stoves. I started to make the mozzarella. We were all standing around the demonstration cooktop ...... just waiting for that magic moment when a gallon of milk goes "poof" and cheese suddenly appears!!!!

Perfect .... like I had rehearsed it a hundred times before. There was beautiful silky mozzarella cheese. One gallon of milk yielded 16 oz (one pound) of cheese. It was perfection.

Then 5 kitchens started making their own cheese. Same milk, same expiration date, same water, same rennet, same citric acid, same recipe...... of course, they could not use the same pan but one kitchen did. ONLY difference.......... the electric stove vs. gas cooktop.

Three absolute failures. No curds.... no nothing .... you could see the yellowness of the whey but that was it. One kitchen had very small curds with very small yield. To be honest, it was better than my first attempt but not good.

And finally, one kitchen had an acceptable product. (Thank you! Thank you, Michelle!! If it wasn't for you I would have thought I was a complete failure as a teacher. Now .... I know that I am an 80% failure as a teacher!!!!) Yield was still lower than mine but not bad --probably about 10 oz.

The only thing I can think of --- looking back and deciphering all the information (Yea ... I obsessed over it all night long!!!) --- the electric stove took it from 90 degrees past 105 degrees much too fast and the curd never formed. In reading (another term for googled obsession!) when many of the kitchens went to 120 degrees ...... the rennet was ineffective. So my attempt to salvage the cheese with additional rennet was futile.

OK -- we knew that all ready!!!!

So as I said when I started the class, I hoped you would learn something. I knew that I would. And I did.

Slow .... slow .... slow.... low... low... low. And if any of the class is reading this...... e-mail me. If you want to try again ..... I will gladly open up my kitchen and we can do it again! No charge. Just buy the milk. I'll take care of the rest! Let's just do it after the holidays!

Thank you all for your patience. Thank you for a fun evening. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And don't give up .... try it again. I know you can do it.

Miss Effie


Peg Wheeler said…
My daughter and I had a great time last night. Failures happen!! We will take you up on trying again after the holidays. Peg Wheeler
Oh, I wish I had done this! I would LOVE to learn how to make my own mozzarella!
Anonymous said…
I had a wonderful time. Cheesemaking is not as easy as one might think - we are asking for miraculous chemical transformations! I learned a ton last night and if you think about a sports analogy, how many times did Babe Ruth strike out (1,330) in order to have his record setting number of home runs (714)- can't learn without a few strike outs! I am already planning my first at home experiments for after the holidays! Michelle
girlwithasword said…
Miss Eff, I am SURE it was a fantastic class regardless. this is how we learn! I bet your students had a blast!
Susan said…
My husband and I had a great time at class regardless that our cheese failed. I am up for trying it again after the holidays. I look forward to signing up for more of your classes in the spring.
Gin said…
I've had this happen before. I've been able to salvage the mozzarella by waiting about 30 minutes, gently stirring, then returning the pot to the burner and bringing it back up to 105 degrees. Set the pot off, cover and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. Voila! Curds! The only differences I notice are that it yields a pound and a quarter of mozzarella and I get a smaller amount of ricotta out of the whey the next day.
Connie said…
Note from a professional cheese maker, pizza crust and cheese in the same room....very bad idea, the yeast will over power and ruin the cheese effort.
It's worth trying again only them and change your clothes too....yeast is a persistent thing!

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