The cheese making process has driven me to drink. Granted, it's only Dr Pepper, but still...
On Saturday Mike made me a cheese press for our 15th anniversary. I was thrilled! I was even more thrilled when he brought me home 5 gallons of fresh raw milk from a local dairy. That night and the next day the milk stayed outside on the back porch in it's sealed bucket because it wouldn't fit in the fridge (luckily it's been cold!) Last night I had finished my research, found a recipe to turn 5 gallons of milk into 5 pounds of farmer's cheese and was finally ready to start. I skimmed some of the cream off the top of the milk to make some butter later. I had a minor hiccup when I found out I couldn't fit 5 gallons of milk in any of my pans. After a frantic few minutes I realized that it would fit in the turkey fryer my mother had given me. Whew. I sterilized the giant thing and had my big, strong hubby pour in the partially skimmed milk. I turned on the stove and gently warmed the milk to the exact right temperature before adding a cup of plain yogurt to inoculate the milk with good bacteria. I put the lid on and went to bed feeling like I totally had this whole thing down pat.
This morning I got up at 6, took a peek at the milk, got the three big kids onto their school buses, milked Sweetie, cleaned out the car some and then got Lilybug up. With my very own tiny cheerleader looking on I measured out the rennet, added it to some water, stirred it in and put the lid on. Now, at this point it needed to sit undisturbed for 1-3 hours (according to both the rennet package AND the recipe I was using) so my munchkin and I headed out to get new tires and meet Mike for breakfast. Getting the new tires on the car took forever and I was dying to get home to check on the cheese (and because I'm antisocial and being out in public makes me slightly crazy.) 11 o'clock was the 3 hour mark and I made it home just in time. I expected to have a big mass of solid curd and a bunch of liquid whey in the pan. Instead I had...slightly thickened milk. Hmmm, maybe the house was too cold. I turned the heater on and waited a couple of hours and checked it again. Slightly thicker milk. I did some research online and checked it again, now it looked like cream. Some more research and another couple of hours and it still hadn't separated into it's component parts like it was supposed to.
By now it was 3 o'clock and it had been sitting for 7 hours and I was getting more and more frustrated, but it was time to clean up some so I wouldn't be embarrassed by my house when Gabe's therapist showed up at 4. After cleaning the kitchen I took the trash out and found Tiger the kitty eating one of my young chickens. All that was left was the head and she was gnawing on that and looking at me all like, "What? I'm a cat remember." I threw my hands into the air and walked to the end of the driveway to wait for Gabe's school bus. Gabe got off the bus without his shirt again, having pulled his Incredible Hulk routine during a meltdown at school. I got him settled in with a snack and checked the milk again, still nothing doing.
Gabe's therapist showed up and the twins got home and things got hectic (including a minor meltdown from Gabe), but I kept checking on my milk. By 5pm I was passed irritated, past frustrated and headed right for pissed off. The kids were running around like The Lord of the Flies and I had no idea what was for dinner...because I was so focused on the milk.
At 5:30 my husband walked through the door, (carrying pizza, thank goodness) and amid the chorus of "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, pizza, pizza, pizza!!!" I told him that it didn't work. He took the lid off of the pan and started to move it across the stove. I snapped at him not to move it and he snapped back with something and then I burst into tears. He immediately came over to hug me and said, "It's just milk, baby. No big deal. You can try again."
So I will try again. And I haven't quite given up hope on this batch, it looks more like custard than milk now. Maybe by tomorrow morning it will decide to get it together and become cheese!