Monthly Archives: July 2009

Kitchen Curds: I’ve Got your 180 Degrees Right Here

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Three girls (Penny, Molly and Kirstin), two non-reactive pots, a book with misprinted temperature instructions, and a whole lotta curd love = a Kitchen Curd Party!

We met at noon, on a dark and stormy day. The eagle had landed, and she brought whole milk, citric acid, rennet, butter muslim, a thermometer, strainers, and snacks for sustenance until the cheese was ready. After nourishing ourselves with sparkling water spiked with peaches and lime and Blue Bottle coffee, we decided we were ready to start the Curding Process. It was time to heat up the milk.

Using the recipe from Kathy Farrell-Kingsley’s Home Creamery book (pgs.84-86), we brought the milk to 88 degrees and added the citric acid. After the milk reached the prime temperature, we dissolved rennet in cool water and added the mix into the pot. 15 minutes later, we returned.

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Back at the pot, curds were ready to greet us. Not the type that one could slice into one-inch sqaures like the Home Creamery book suggests, but curds just the same. No one was discriminating. They were little, they were real and we made them.

Next step – heating the curds to 108 degrees for 15 minutes, and stirring frequently. As the mixture rose in temperature, the whey slowly expelled, the curds became tighter and firmer, and Penny and I brought eight cups of salted water to 108 degrees in a separate pot while Molly cooked us fresh scallops (not in book, but highly recommended).

Penny and I took bringing those eight cups of water to 108 degrees very seriously . Between scallop bites, we took the water’s temperature. A lot. Both of us. I think I even heard Penny assuring the water to come to the proper temperature only when it felt the moment was right, that we would wait just as long as it needed.

While the water was warming, we spooned the curds into a butter muslin-lined strainer. They were beautiful. After letting them sufficiently drain and cutting them, we placed them in a bowl, over which we prepared to pour the 108 degree water.

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Then we added the water to the bowl to melt the curds.

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The girls told me I should be the first one to stretch the melted curds. Having heard before that only people with Italian blood running through their veins were allowed to stretch mozzarella, it was with wide eyes and a happy heart that I washed my hands, did a few lunges and neck rolls, and slipped my fingers in the bowl.

Instead of becoming a lovely lump, however, ready to be stretched into taffy-like submission, the curds separated. They fell apart in my fingers.

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While Penny worked to convince me that it wasn’t my Norwegian-American touch that caused the curds harm, Molly scanned the internet for what went wrong. We soon learned that, just like the twins in the Parent Trap, the “8” and the”0″ had switched places. Unfortunately, this was in the part of the text that read “heat to 108 degrees.” But there was still hope.

Next post: How to Fix Broken Curds: A Life Lesson.

Check out these other awesome Kitchen Curders who made mozzarella. Successfully. Anyone else who would like their link added to this post, please email it to me at [email protected], or slip it in to the comment section below. Thank you for participating!

Girlichef made hers in the microwave in 30 minutes, and she stretched her curds magnificently.

Simona, at Bricole, made mozzarella two or three months before everyone else. That’s skill.

* many pictures taken by Molly, the official “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” group and goat photographer.

Cheese Club! A Dynamic Partnership

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I am pleased to announce a dynamic, synergistic, fermented-milk-loving partnership between “Its Not You, it’s Brie” and Solano Cellars Wine Shop & Wine Bar. Starting this coming August, yours truly will be crafting a cheese club of my two to three favorite cheeses that month, every month. So if you love cheese, live near Albany, El Cerrito, Berkeley or Oakland, California, or feel like taking frequent road trips to pick up the goods in the land of lovely weather, consider joining.

Interested? Take a look at what I wrote up for Solano Cellar’s newsletter below:

“Do you remember when you were aching to take some of that oozing, buttery triple-crème you had at the wine bar home? What about that seasonal sheep’s milk Pecorino Foglie di Noce wrapped in walnut leaves and rubbed with olive oil you sampled in the Regional Italian Wine and Cheese Class? They remember you too.

In the tradition of our world famous wine clubs, Solano Cellars is starting a club that brings the world of artisan cheese into your home. Every month, wine bar manager, cheese instructor and author of “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” Kirstin Jackson, will choose her favorite two to three cheeses- some wine bar favorites and some club exclusives- for you to sample.

Every club will come with wine recommendations for bottles available on the shop floor and (there’s more!) write-ups similar to the descriptions found on Kirstin’s cheese blog and at Solano Cellars. At least one of the club cheeses will be ripe and ready as Frog Hollow peaches in late July, and the other one or two will be happy to sit tightly wrapped in your fridge for a couple-three weeks. The club will total $25 and will be available mid-month, every month.”

Some sample cheeses to come:

Alta Langhe La Tur: natural-rind, cow, sheep and goat’s milk, Italian

Redwood Hill Camellia: bloomy-rind, camembert style goat cheese, California

Crawford Family Farm’s Vermont Ayr: semi-hard raw cow’s milk, amazing, Vermont

Mimolette Extra Vielle: hard cow’s milk, aged two years, French

Manchego Pasamontes: raw sheep’s milk from a small-production creamery, Spain

Prima Dona Aged Gouda: nutty, caramel, earthy, Dutch (see picture above)

What do you do if you want to join the pick-up only cheese club?

Call Solano Cellars. Be sure to mention you heard about the club through “It’s Not You, its Brie,” and the nice and friendly wine geeks will be happy to hook you up:

Solano Cellars, 1580 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94707, 510.525.9463

Wine clubs are also available through the store if you’re want to taste their monthly finds, and are shipping-ready to most states even though the cheese club is not.

P.S. Kitchen Curders, coming early next week- the first post of the Home Creamery Mozzarella edition. Thanks for your patience, and please send me your links if you haven’t already.

Redwood Hill Kids, Come Home with Me

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When my friend Molly and I took a tour of Redwood Hill Goat Farm, we decided to take some kids home with us. Did you know they wag their tails when they’re happy?They do, and it makes your heart break from cuteness. Molly also wanted to take goat manure home because the owner Jennifer Bice informed us that it was it that made her beautiful garden bloom. But the goats wouldn’t fit under our shirts and the manure certainly wasn’t going in my car on the hour-long ride back, so all we have to show are photos.


If you get a chance to visit (appointments welcome) this wonderful farm, please do so. It’s family place, with La Mancha, Nubian, and Alpine goats which make some of the best goat cheese in California. Of course you’ll be hearing more about this soon, and here’s a couple photos from our trip.

If you’d like to learn more about seasonal goat cheese, check out an article I wrote for Edible East Bay, called “Tasting the Seasons in Cheeses.” And Molly, thanks for being the designated photographer.


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Cheese & Kirstin Will Return

Hello It’s Not You, It’s Brie readers and Kitchen Curders.

I’m taking a brief respite from writing this blog for a couple/few weeks to move and take care of some things that need a mighty amount of attention. Wanted to let you know so you didn’t think I don’t love you any more.

However, although my Kitchen Curd event posting will be delayed, if you have a blog and participated, you can send me a link to yours anytime. I will incorporate it into my post-to-be. Sorry to delay this again, I know there are some folks out there who are super excited to report their results (and I’m excited about hearing them), but sometimes life just kicks you in the butt and you have to sit down. Or unpack. Or….

Anyhow, I will write more soon, and go ahead and check back within the next couple weeks. I may sneak some tasty tid bits in if I have time.

You can also follow my cheese life here at Twitter.

Thank you for eating cheese, making cheese, and reading my writing about cheese, which must sound like a cross between a mother cooing at a baby and a horribly loud stomach growl.

American Cheese for Independence Day


Three of my favorite American dairy morsels that, if I were having a grand fourth of July party, would be all over the cheese plate and maybe even on a burger or two. American Cheesemakers, I love you.
One of the few soft cheeses in the U.S. made with raw milk, Constant Bliss is based on a Chaource cheese recipe and, says Jasper Hill, is at its finest in the summer months, when the microflora are at most active in the aging process. Go 4th of July! Although it’s not technically a double or triple-creme, Constant Bliss tastes nearly as buttery and sexy as the creamiest wedge of Pierre Robert out there.
type: bloomy rind
wine: creamy cheeses like this crave the bubbles and high acidity of a sparkling dry wine
Of course you can’t find these. That’s right, the cheeses of SoYoung Scanlan are so in demand that unless you are dining at Chez Panisse or San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton, they’re practically unavailble. But its my imaginary party, and as they’re three of the best goat cheeses available in this country, they’re going on it. If you aren’t related to Scanlan, Redwood Hill Farm and Pugs Leap’s delicious goat cheeses are more readily on shelves.
type: natural rind goat
wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, or Cab Franc- choose high acidity, low-oak versions
Clothbound Cheddars
Most times I like to make sure my cheese plates have cow, goat and sheep cheeses, but it’s Independence Day, and we want to stick some Cheddars on the platter that are as good as, if not better than, those cheeses made by the Brits we separated from on that noted July 4th. And I’m just picking three gems today (Bellewether Dairy rocks!), so here goes- 3 of my favorite cloth-bound beauties are made by : Shelburne Farms, Cabot Clothbound (aged by Jasper Hill), and Bravo Farms Silver Mountain Cheddar.
type: Semi-hard
wine: deep, spicy reds love the earthy nuances in Cheddars: Bordeaux & Rhone blends, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, ++++
Some all American Hip Hop & Funk mixes to listen to with your cheese- an excellent pairing: