Reinforcing a Wisconsin Stereotype

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

-Aldo Leopold

Let’s talk about cheese.

If you’re wondering what a post about cheese is doing on a nature blog, I guess I don’t blame you, but in my head it makes perfect sense. When I started this blog I never intended for it to be just about natural history. In my head my interest in plants and animals is all mixed up with my broader interest in how people interact with the environment, which includes knowing where our food comes from. Hence posts about maple syruping, harvesting honey, and now making cheese. After all, I do live in Wisconsin. My license plate literally says “America’s Dairyland.”

Turns out making cheese – soft kinds, at least – is not actually all that hard.

Citric acid being added to a pot full of ordinary whole milk from the grocery store.
Citric acid being stirred into a pot full of ordinary whole milk.
After you heat and stir it for a while, the curds start to separate from the whey. (Paging Miss Muffett...)
After you heat and stir it for a while, the curds start to separate from the whey. (Paging Miss Muffet…)
Curds, transferred to a mesh bag and hanging over a sink to drain. Ta-da! Ricotta cheese!
Curds, transferred to a cheesecloth and hanging over a sink to drain. Ta-da! Ricotta!
I had to leave before the ricotta was done draining, but someone else ended up with this beautiful chunk of mozzarella.
I had to leave before the ricotta was done draining, but someone else ended up with this beautiful chunk of mozzarella.

I meant to also take a photo of the cheesy bread we made for dinner, with its bubbling layer of fresh mozzarella, but it was so tasty that we ate it all before I remembered. Oops. I can’t imagine making all the cheese I ever eat myself, but trying it out to see the work that’s involved is a good reminder of all the effort and resources that go into things we casually toss into our grocery cart.

Have you ever made cheese from scratch? Do you agree with me that this is a perfectly relevant thing to be writing about on a nature blog? Or do you wish I’d get back to birds and bugs?

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10 thoughts on “Reinforcing a Wisconsin Stereotype”

  1. Bought my wife a “Home Cheese Making” book and a bunch of related supplies for Christmas a few years ago. She was expecting a big-screen TV. She was not amused.

  2. i made some paneer (sometimes referred to as Indian “cottage cheese”) which was super easy but i couldn’t get it to taste nearly as good as the paneer from my favorite local Indian restaurant in KC (of course, my chana masala wasn’t as good either), but it was fun, and chock full o’ science, right? so it fits in perfect with your blog.

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