The Highly Cultured Weekend AKA Deranged Squirrel Weekend

Another apology as this post was also written on November 23 and was delayed till now for publishing.

It had been about 9 days since I had last made cheese and I was feeling the pressure to get my cheese on in time for Cheesepalooza Tasting #3 so under the influence of Ian’s posts over at Much To Do About Cheese and his Secret Squirrel Cheese Project he was running; I was feeling intense pressure to get something done so like I usually do when stressed about too much to do I decided to act like a deranged squirrel and instead of just making mozzarella I decided to scurry too and fro making as much stuff as possible over the course of a single weekend; sort of like a squirrel storing nuts before the first snowfall.

This is the first part of the story of my 32 hours acting like a deranged squirrel.

The Highly Cultured Exploration

After an evening of highly cultured wine tasting at an unnamed club with my Cru – The Boys From My Hood- Jonathan The High Priest and leader of the pack, Hari The Greek, Gunther ‘The Baptizer’ an ‘Irish’ Lapsed Lay-Priest and yours truly Sailor Rick the babe in the woods (roll eyes here), I arose bright and early Saturday morning with the thoughts of cheese making dancing in my head.  Actually those thoughts were doing the Rumba with the stale tannins floating in my head.  After checking the family calendar for Dad & taxi duties I discovered I had an ‘opening’ so headed off to various stores to collect my proverbial ‘nuts’ to begin my deranged squirrel fun.

Being totally unprepared I quickly discovered that the Traditional Mozzarella recipe required some method of pH measurement (oh yeah I was going to order a pH meter but had procrastinated and then forgot, just like a squirrel).  So I decided to go for the next recipe in the book – Junket Mozzarella.  So I headed to a couple of shops that I thought might have it, I remembered seeing it somewhere but where (more squirrel like scurrying to and fro)?  I can’t find junket anywhere so I gave up and procured a large volume food processor and 3 gallons of homogenized milk and 3 litres of heavy cream and headed for the nest.

I got back to the nest to review the recipe to try and figure out what the heck Junket Rennet was.  There was lots of discourse on the WWW but nothing I thought that was definitive. Of course on Ian’s blog there was a conversion table for converting Junket amounts to regular rennet.  The next hurdle I found was the recipe called for 1 gallon of pasteurized NOT HOMOGENIZED milk, great!!!!  What am I going to do with 3 gallons of milk??  Way too much too drink so I decided to go for it and use it.

I did some more research and decided I wasn’t comfortable with the recipe I had so I did some more research and came up with Modified Sailor Rick “MSR” Mozzarella Recipe.  If you too would like to feel like a deranged squirrel click SQUIRREL and jump to that post after which you can jump back to this post.  I will sprinkle hot links SQUIRREL throughout this post to help with your squirreliness allowing you to jump back and forth when you feel the need arise.

Cultured Butter

The first product I began was cultured butter.  We had enjoyed Val’s cultured butter at Cheesepalooza Tasting #2 and what kid hasn’t been intrigued with making butter at some point in their life?  After decades of listening to the admonishments of my Mom telling me to be careful and to not beat the whipped cream into butter I was finally going to make butter…..lots of butter!

I followed Mary Karlin’s recipe but increased the cream volume to 3 litres; we like butter in this family!  This was a nice simple recipe to start the weekend with.  There are 2 ingredients: heavy cream and Aroma B Mesophilic Starter and some simple arithmetic to calculate the Aroma B amount required in the scaled up recipe.

The technique is as follows:

  • Het the cream to 60degF,
  • Turn of the heat
  • Sprinkle starter over the cream, wait 5 minutes

Photo 2012-11-17 8 35 33 PM

  • Whisk in the cream
  • Cover and put it in a quiet place to cogitate for 12 hours
  • Refrigerate for 12 additional hours
  • Remove from refrigerator and allow to warm to 54degF before churning

Photo 2012-11-18 11 49 54 AM

  • Fill bowl of food processor half full or half empty depending on your mood.

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  • Start ‘churning’ on high; in about 5 minutes or so (it was more like 3 minutes for me) the cream gets veerry stiff like the best whipped cream you ever saw.
  • Next the ‘whipped cream’ will suddenly collapse and liquid will spray out of the food processor into your eyes if you are looking down the hole like I was.
  • Stop food processor and wipe buttermilk out of your eyes.
  • Dump food processor contents into a strainer, collecting the buttermilk in a bowl underneath.
  • Collect the butter in your hand and knead lightly to remove additional buttermilk.
  • Rinse and knead butter under cold water to remove any milk residue.
  • Repeat churning steps as required.
  • Form butter into your choice of decorative shape (I choose a squirrel, just kidding) and refrigerate or place on display.

Photo 2012-11-18 8 55 07 PM

This butter was amazing; it was the best I think I have ever eaten.  Unfortunately 10 days later it is all gone but I have plans to make it regularly because it is so SQUIRREL easy to do and amazingly tasty.

My confidence was building.

Cultured Buttermilk

I had only tried buttermilk from a carton at the grocery store.  It was sour and not very good tasting but it was a great ingredient in a lot of recipes I have cooked over the years.  I saved the buttermilk from my butter churning experience; it was sort of thick and yummy looking so I refrigerated it for future consideration.

Photo 2012-11-18 12 29 09 PM

The next day I was preparing meatballs with mushroom sauce but didn’t have any cream or milk to use in the sauce (I had used all of it on the weekend making cheese and butter).  I decided to try tasting the buttermilk.  It was refreshing and pleasantly flavoured, sort of like a light kefir and not very sour.  I decided to use the buttermilk as the base to my sauce.  I was worried, unnamed primates in our home don’t like tried and true ‘family’ recipe favourites to be adulterated.  I served the meal and got into a discussion with our youngest about her day’s activities.

I glanced over at our eldest’s plate and it was empty.  I thought ahh here it comes…. what did you do to the sauce?  I ain’t eatin’ this.  But no, he had already finished his second helping and was moving in for more.  Success!  I then gambled and decided to tell them what the sauce was made of.  The primates had no buttermilk experience so couldn’t judge other than to say that the buttermilk was great just like the butter.

I will be making this again soon!


My next cultured product which I guess isn’t cultured was Mascarpone.  I once again followed Mary Karlin’s recipe.  This was another simple recipe but now required 3 ingredients:  heavy cream, skim milk powder and the juice from one lemon.  I made a double batch as well so some simple math was again required but my confidence was up after successfully combining the 2 ingredients for the cultured butter.

First whisk together the cream and powdered milk and heat slowly to 180degF.

Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon

Photo 2012-11-17 8 36 03 PM

Photo 2012-11-17 8 56 21 PM

There isn’t a a clean break after adding the lemon juice but rather it coats the spoon like above.

Add the remaining lemon juice and stir with a spoon to mix.

Cover the pan and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

When the cream is firm to the touch transfer into a colander lined with damp butter muslin:

Photo 2012-11-18 1 39 43 PM

Squeeze out the moisture and the Mascarpone is ready for use.

Photo 2012-11-18 1 47 11 PM

I had left my cream an extra 8 hours and drained it well.  This left a very stiff Mascarpone which would be ideal for my Burrata.

Whey Ricotta

I saved the whey from the Mozzarella to make Whey Ricotta.  I had made this about 8 months previously after making a batch of cheese curds.  It made a great dessert when a little flavoured syrup (strawberry) was poured on top, so I was keen to try it again.

I followed Mary SQUIRREL Karlin’s recipe once again.  The difference with this batch was the curds began forming before the milk and whey came to temperature and before the addition of the vinegar.  This must have occurred due to the residual acidity from the Citric Acid addition in the Mozzarella recipe.



Curds already forming before addition of vinegar.

Photo 2012-11-18 7 03 29 PM

Drained Whey Ricotta

Photo 2012-11-18 7 03 26 PM

Close-up of the Whey Ricotta after the addition of heavy cream

This batch of Whey Ricotta was as good as the first batch I made and some would be used in my Burrata below.

Burrata; AKA Faux Burrata

The night before the Cheesepalooza tasting I took two of my mozzarella balls from the refrigerator and followed the directions for heating the mozzarella curds and stretching them.

First I created the fillings by mixing equal parts of my mascarpone and cultured butter together.  For the second Burrata I mixed some of the Whey Ricotta with some heavy cream.

Next I heated the mozzarella balls until they were pliable enough to stretch flat.  The tricky part here is the mascarpone and butter mixture melted quickly so it was tough to contain the mixture within the Burrata.  But if you don’t heat the mozzarella enough you won’t be able to seal the ball with the filling inside and once at this stage SQUIRREL can’t reheat the ball or the filling will get water logged; it is a fine balance of heat and workability.

Photo 2012-11-22 9 33 44 PM

My Burrata ended up having a small tear on one side that I couldn’t repair as there was melted butter on the tear and it wouldn’t stick; oh well it still looked pretty good.  The Whey Ricotta and Cream Burrata went together smoothly; maybe due to the practice with the first one.

Photo 2012-11-22 9 42 48 PM

For the Cheesepalooza tasting I took the Burrata out of the refrigerator a couple hours before the tasting, hoping they would warm sufficiently.  Alas, they were still pretty solid and need a few seconds in Val’s microwave.  I thought they were delectable and was glad there were leftovers to take home.  We ate slices of the leftovers for a number of days.  They were delicious even cold straight from the refrigerator.

At the Cheesepalooza tasting Val suggested that I use a special >50% milk fat cream that I didn’t know existed until then.  I agree that would make the Whey Ricotta Burrata extra good.

What a weekend it was!  The refrigerator was full of home made delights.  I survived the weekend and really enjoyed all of the cultured products I produced.  However, it is winter now and I don’t feel a need to duplicate my Deranged Squirrel Weekend again in the near future.  But who knows what next year will bring?

Thanks for humouring me!  And one oh yeah, one last SQUIRREL!

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