Yesterday I was at the University District Farmers’ Market bright and early. I stocked up on meat and eggs and, since I don’t have to be back at work until next Wednesday, I picked up a gallon of milk to try making some mozzarella cheese (first impossible thing, after lunch). I stopped at The Cellar Homebrew to pick up a soft cheesemaking kit. I had to pasteurize the milk first, so it took longer than I expected, but the results were really good. I ended up with about 3/4 pound of really nice, stringy mozzarella. Next time I’ll need to spend a bit more time with the kneading and pouring off the whey, but for a first try, it isn’t bad.
But then, I had just short of a gallon of whey left over. I couldn’t stand the idea of just throwing out that much nutritious liquid, but it was too much to store. What to do? Make ricotta! It turns out that “Ricotta” actually means “twice cooked” and although it can be made from whole milk, it can also be made from the whey that’s left over from making cheeses such as mozzarella. So I reheated the whey, added a little vinegar, and put the whole thing through the butter muslin that came with the cheese kit, hung it from my kitchen faucet, and let it drain into a bowl. (Second impossible thing, after dinner.)
But there was still a whole bunch of whey left when the ricotta finished dripping, way too much for a single person to use right away or to store, given that I have no deep freezer. So I did some poking around through Google and found out that I could cook that whey down still further, way down until it caramelized, and have something called gjetost (or I guess more properly, mysost). So this morning, before I even started my breakfast, (third impossible thing, if you’re still counting) I put the pot of whey back on the burner and brought it to a boil, and let it simmer for a couple of hours. With the quantity I had, it took about 2-1/2 hours to boil down.
I’ll have to get some commercially made gjetost, just to see what it’s like, before I try that again. What I ended up with was a lot like a really sticky caramel in consistency, only salty, with a hint of vinegar from the acid I’d used for the ricotta, and really too hard to slice. It was actually a little too close to caramel for comfort. I’m not sure it’s the best use of my whey or my time. But it sure was fun experimenting! And the mozzarella and ricotta are very good and will both end up in the lasagne I’m planning to make tonight.