Feels like love: A story about dairy
MANILA, Philippines – I am at the Back of the House kitchen in Xavierville for the love of cheese. It's a Tuesday morning and I'm listening to Mark Todd aka The Cheese Dude wax poetic about his “most awesome job of traveling the world to talk about how cheese tastes good.” He's in Manila at the behest of the California Milk Advisory Board to talk about California milk and California cheese.
The USA is currently the top producer of cow’s milk in the world, and California has had the biggest yield for the past 20 years. The Cali milk farms are part of the CMAB. They all contribute to a fund that lets them raise awareness about their produce around the world. You’ll find these products in all our major local supermarkets.
Cheese Dude starts off with a talk about cheeses, the different kinds, their unique characteristics, and what they're good for (pizza, sauces, or just popping in your mouth). He's passionate about the stuff, talking with gusto about fresh mozzarella and good cheddar. Sometimes he veers off to things like pesto templates and his work with local fast food and convenience chains. He’s in a bit of a hurry, though, because he wants to get to the day’s main event – cheese and butter making.
I'm in a group with Lizzette and Harvard of Always Hungry PH and we get to make Quezo Blanco and butter. We’ll basically take a gallon of California milk, heat it to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, add vinegar, and wait for it to curdle. This takes 25 minutes. While we wait, we take turns shaking a jelly jar full of cream to make the butter. You can do this in 3 minutes with a food processor, but Mark wants us to learn the old fashioned way, which takes 30 minutes of shaking, making the fat literally separate from the water in the cream. It's a bit of a workout. Someone points out that it could be a great activity for kids.
After about 15 minutes of vigorous shaking, a yellow blob magically appears in the middle of the jar as the butter begins to form. After 15 more minutes, we empty the stuff into a bowl and knead it with a spatula to get more moisture out. Using cheesecloth, we give it a final gentle squeeze and voila – our precious little bowl of soft butter.
In between the shaking, we manage to take the milk off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes after adding some cider vinegar. I’m pretty stoked when I take the big slotted ladle to skim the milk. It’s a pleasant surprise that there’s some heft to the curds floating on top of the liquid (now called whey). The curds are then squeezed with cheesecloth and put in a mold to drain. It's a surprisingly simple process. We break for lunch where we try our butter on toast. When we get back to our fresh cheese, it’s solid enough to gently slice with a knife.
The cheese and butter are luscious. It makes me realize that you really have to start with good milk when the only things you’ll add to it are vinegar and salt. I finally got to make one of my favorite foods and it was gratifying and awesome! The transformation from dairy to taste bomb is pretty cool. – Rappler.com
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