Anyway, the three of us spent Sunday morning making mozzarella cheese from the cheese kit that Mom Pony sent me. It was a good thing that we did it as a group for the first time, since it meant that we had, at all times, one person reading the directions and two people interpreting them and fetching equipment as needed.
The first thing I learned is that my Dutch oven holds just over a gallon of liquid. That is to say, it holds the gallon of milk, plus the cup and a half of water containing the dissolved citric acid and rennet to curdle said milk, and thank God for surface tension. Next time, cheese will be made in the stockpot, which is bigger. Amazingly enough, mozzarella cheese doesn't take all that long to make. I'd say we worked for about an hour and a half, and we had edible cheese balls at the end of that time.
The process itself is fairly simple -- you heat and curdle milk, first with citric acid and then further with rennet. The toughest part is separating the curds from the whey. We went through several types of skimming tools and techniques, and we still ended up with a bowl of curds and whey (which we did not take to our spider-infested tuffet, thank you). Fortunately, the next phase of cheesemaking involves heating up the remaining whey to kind of cook the cheese a little bit, so while that's heating, you can devise new and interesting ways to strain the curds. This turns out to be the original purpose of cheesecloth, and whaddaya know, it worked like a charm. I've got some ideas for how to do it better next time.
Next, you squidge the curds into balls and cook them in the whey a bit. I think this is supposed to firm them up. Then you salt them and roll them into mozzarella balls and chill them, and bada bing bada boom, you have fresh mozz!
The texture of the cheese we made isn't quite that smooth rubbery texture of the fresh mozzarella you can get at a deli. It's a bit lumpy and a bit more crumbly than that. But it tastes like deli fresh mozzarella, and it is recognizably cheese. You can spread it on bread or crackers, and I think it could go very well into mattar paneer. Maybe when I try cheesemaking again, I'll get the folding process down better and really figure out how to knead it into a smooth ball (I wonder if it'd be like bread dough that way), but at least I can verify that the process works. Between the three of us, we produced cheese! And a fun time was had by all.
We also toured the university, did a boat tour, had the Birthday Dinner, and a stab at some city-sponsored entertainment, but those are fairly standard Birthday Weekend types of activities. The cheesemaking was something new, and definitely exciting.