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October is American Cheese Month!

October is American Cheese Month!

 

                American Cheese Month is a celebration of North America’s delicious and diverse cheeses, and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheese lovers of all ages and chefs who bring them to your table.

                Americans are eating record amounts of cheese—10.6 billion pounds were produced in the U.S. in 2011, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Cheese has merits, including its bone-building calcium. But the way we usually eat it—slathered on pizza, poured over nachos, stacked on crackers—cancels out any health benefits. After all, cheese is high in calories (about 100 per ounce, on average) and fat (6 to 9 grams per ounce, most of which is saturated), and it often contains a lot of sodium. Still, small amounts can fit into most people’s diets. Like all dairy foods, cheese provides calcium and protein, as well as some vitamin A, B12, riboflavin, zinc and phosphorus.

                If you have an hour of time and an adventurous spirit, you can easily make your own mozzarella cheese.    Mozzarella cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make and since it can be used in a variety of dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, etc.

                Two ingredients you’ll need for your homemade mozzarella cheese can be purchased cheaply online - rennet and citric acid.  Besides rennet and citric acid, the only other ingredient that you’ll need is whole milk.   Read the label carefully and make sure that the milk is NOT labeled “ultra pasteurized”.  Ultra pasteurized milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese.  If you have access to it,  raw milk works well.

  • Over medium low heat, bring one gallon of whole milk up to 55 degrees and add 1.5 tsp of citric acid (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in thoroughly but gently.
  • When the mixture reaches 88 degrees add 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in gently for about 30 seconds.
  • Over medium heat, bring up to 105 degrees and hold for five minutes or until curds begin to form and separate from the side of the pot.  The whey should be almost clear, if milky white, allow to heat longer.
  • With a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds.  Don some rubber gloves and gently squeeze out as much whey as you can with your hands forming balls of cheese.
  • Place the cheese balls in the microwave (this is the faster method) for 30 seconds and then knead it, just like you would bread, squeezing out whey as you go.  Repeat this step several times, until the cheese has a slightly glossy sheen to it and can be pulled like taffy.  Add salt after the second kneading.

                Just in case you need some ideas for what to do with your delicious homemade mozzarella cheese, check out this recipe for homemade mozzarella bites.

 

MOZZARELLA BITES

 

1 cup vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

16 oz. of fresh mozzarella cheese

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

1½ cups bread crumbs

1 cup marinara sauce, warmed for dipping

 

                 Line a large plate with several layers of paper towels. In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it reads 360°F to 370°F on a thermometer. (Note: This is a relatively high frying temperature, which gets the outside crust crispy before the inside cheese can melt too much)

                Drain the mozzarella and dry well with paper towels.  Cut into bite size pieces. Place the flour in a medium bowl, the egg in a second medium bowl and the bread crumbs in a third medium bowl.

                Working in batches, dredge the cheese balls in flour to coat, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. Repeat until all the cheese is breaded.

                Fry the mozzarella in the preheated oil until golden brown on the outside, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to the prepared paper-towel-lined plate. Serve immediately with a side of warm marinara sauce.

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