Monthly Archives: August 2009

Cheese Curd. Everywhere.

The cheesemaking process is something that has always fascinated me, despite my aversion to hot milk. As I would stroll through Pike’s Market in Seattle, my destination was usually the fishbowl that is Beecher’s cheesemaking room, to marvel at the SHOVELS full of curd that 2 men in oompa loompa suits were pushing around in a giant stainless vat. It wasn’t something I ever saw myself trying though, since the joke on the gal from the dairy farm is that she’s lactose intolerant…


A mad scientist friend of mine suggested we try making fresh mozzarella this weekend and I jumped at the chance. I had no idea where to start, and was given a simple list for shopping. Buy a gallon of pasteurized whole milk and lots of tomatoes. Yup. Tomatoes.

You can probably guess that there’s more to making cheese than milk. And that tomatoes probably don’t have much to do with making cheese. And you’d be right. The mad scientist showed up with citric acid and rennet, 2 ingredients instrumental to creating cheese curd. He also makes a mean tomato sauce.

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

After a bottle of homemade Elderberry wine was uncorked, poured, and partially consumed, we set to making cheese. We probably should have waited to open the wine, as our first batch of curd, well, didn’t really “curd” the way we needed it, because we were too busy being silly, and not busy enough watching the thermometer. In fairness to the scientist,  I should note that as we were reading the directions online, the guy switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and this critical after-the-fact find isn’t helpful if you have a sensitive concoction on the stove. So I won’t blame the mad scientist for either mishap. I enjoyed the wine and we didn’t let the first batch of curd go to waste.

The mad scientist went to work quickly on our mishap, straining and draining and squeezing and kneading, and the result was a boursin-like cheese that with a little roasted garlic butter (which we had made a few days earlier to put on our flat irons) and some basic herbs, became a delectable spread that tastes amazing on just about anything.

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

So, did we actually make mozzarella? Yes! After another trip to the store for more milk, and another glass of wine (or 2), we went through the whole process again, and the curd formed a nice solid chunk that we were able to cut with a knife. We then proceeded to go through the strain, reheat, strain, reheat, knead process and the result was cheese curds everywhere and an incredible full-size ball of fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella Success!

Mozzarella Success!

And it TASTED like mozzarella. It actually sliced much cleaner than what you would buy in the store, and because it had not been sitting in a brine for weeks, our palettes were expecting it to be  little more salty, and so we decided that next time, we would add just a touch more.

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

What we ultimately created was a wonderful afternoon full of good food, wine, laughs and lots of dishes. The mozzarella landed on grilled pizza where the sauce, caramelized onions and the dough were also made from scratch, as well as a few fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and vinegar. We hatched a plan for more cheesemaking in our future, that included buying a few goats (ok – maybe that was the wine talking), and we’ll share that whole experience with you too! For now, see a quick list below of what you’ll need for making your own mozzarella, as well as a link to the instructions we followed.


  1. Large stainless or enamel stockpot
  2. Large mesh strainer
  3. Candy-making thermometer
  4. Stainless measuring cups & spoons
  5. Microwave safe bowl


  1. 1 gallon of Pasteurized milk (NOT Ultra Pasteurized)
  2. Sea salt
  3. Unchlorinated water (we used Pelligrino)
  4. Citric acid
  5. MALAKA BRAND Liquid Vegetarian Rennet, 0.5 Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)

Kneading the Cheese Curd

Kneading the Cheese Curd


  • It is extremely important to watch the heat and the time. Don’t let the milk get above 90ºF.
  • Have lots of towels around as making cheese curd is messy business.
  • It really helps to have 2 people. The straining process is a lot of back and forth, and it really helped to have one person holding the big pot, while the other holds the strainer and kneads.
  • We used this website as our basis for the recipe/process. I suggest you read it through carefully from start to finish because timing and heat is crucial to success.

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Pizza Suggestions:
For our grilled pizza, we made 2 batches of  basic white pizza dough ala Cuisinart, and then topped the first with the mad scientists amazing homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and dried Italian salami. The other pizza was half BBQ sauce, my homemade caramelized onions, blue cheese, and the other half more red sauce, mozzarella,

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Greek olives, basil and salami. We heated the pizza stone on the grill, but would suggest pre-cooking the crust for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings and putting it back on the grill. Watch the bottom! It will burn fast if the heat is too high. Add a couple of cold beers, and a great view and you have yourself a really nice afternoon.

Happy Cheese Curding!
~ Gal Foodie

Mainely Grillin’ and Chillin’ Country BBQ State Competition

Not only do I love good BBQ (I’m planning my next road trip to the South based around the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) … I’m a V.I.P Judge for the State Competition this Saturday!!

So, if you love BBQ, and want a fun afternoon, come visit me at the BBQ tent on Saturday, August 8th, to see the Iron Chef BBQ competition in action! I’ve posted all the details below…

Maine State BBQ Competition

Maine State BBQ Competition

VIPs Judge Iron Chef at BBQ Competition

Five food experts judge at the Celebrate MAINE Festival’s ( inaugural event, “Mainely Grillin’ and Chillin’ Country BBQ State Competition” in Eliot, Maine.  They will be judging Iron Chef Competition on Saturday, August 8th.

The event’s sponsor, J.P.’s Shellfish (, will reveal the “Secret Ingredient” at 10:30 a.m.  The teams will then have just over four hours to prepare their signature dishes for turn-in to the VIP judges at 2:00 p.m., at the Main Tent.  A total of twenty competition-level BBQ teams have signed up for a chance to win the bragging rights of “Mainely Grillin’ and Chiilin’s Iron Chef.”

The esteemed panel of judges includes:

James King, Director of Marketing, J.P.’s Shellfish. James has worked with shellfish throughout his entire life.  He expanded this experience to a professional level through 20 years of work at premium restaurants and distributors.  Raised in the coastal community of Kittery, Maine, James took the ocean like a fish takes to…He really liked it.  At a very early age, James came to appreciate the Earth’s oceans as an invaluable, yet terrifically fragile, resource. He champions environmentally sustainable fisheries and the premium product distributed by J.P.’s Shellfish.

Chef Paul Kirk, Baron of BBQ. Chef Paul has a huge reputation within the BBQ community.  He has won over four hundred and seventy-five cooking and barbecue awards, including seven world championships.  He is the author of several notable BBQ cookbooks, including his latest work, co-authored with Ardie Davis, “America’s Best BBQ.”

Jean Kerr, Editor, Taste of the Seacoast Magazine. Jean Kerr has been writing and publishing books for more than twenty years. She is Editor of Taste of the Seacoast, the Boston-Portland, Maine food and wine magazine. She is author of Mystic Seafood, Union Oyster House Cookbook, and the forthcoming Windjammer Cooking: Recipes from Maine’s Windjammer Fleet.

Ali Goodwin, blogger, Ali Goodwin, a.k.a Gal Foodie shares her passion for great food through stories and recipes surrounding her day-to-day culinary adventures An award-winning specialty food designer and former restaurant owner, Gal Foodie shows you what she’s cooking, where she’s dining, her “foodie” favorites, and more. Life is short. Eat well!

Kathy Gunst, World Renowned Food Entrepreneur. Kathy Gust, former Culinary Editor for Food & Wine, is the author of 13 cookbooks. Her most recent books, Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast and Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations will be out this fall, Chronicle Books. She is the “Resident Chef” for WBUR’s award-winning show, Here and Now, heard on over 150 public radio stations. She writes a blog for Down East called “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” found on

Rachel Forrest, Food and Dining Editor & Content Manager, Dow Jones Media Group & The Portsmouth Herald. Rachel Forrest is the restaurant critic, food writer and food editor for the Portsmouth Herald and Dow Jones Local Media Group. She has written about food and drink for Taste of the Seacoast, Accent, Yankee and NH Magazines and is co-authoring a new cookbook all about Maine cuisine with Arrows Restaurant chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier due out  next year. Her radio show, Wine Me Dine Me can be heard on alternate Wednesdays at noon on Portsmouth Community Radio.

Celebrate MAINE Festival ( is an authentic family event that honors the people, places and products that make Maine so attractive to visitors from around the world.  It is held August 8-9 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum, 2077 State Road, Eliot, Maine.  Admission is $5.00 per person, children 12 and under are free.  Plenty of free on-site parking.  FMI: (207) 748-3303.

Premium sponsors of the event are Prime Motor Group, J.P.’s Shellfish and Piscataqua Landscaping. Supporting sponsors are Shipyard Brew Pub, Jasper Wyman & Son, Cabot Creamery Cooperative, The Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, Sturgeon Creek Enterprises, LLC, DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff, Maine Veterinary Referral Center and Raitt Signs. The media sponsor is Taste of the Seacoast. The festival will also highlight Maine BBQ products from Maine Grilling Woods, Wicked Good Charcoal, Raye’s Mustard and Vic Firth Gourmet.

The Raitt Homestead Farm Musuem ( is dedicated to the preserving farm history and promoting valuable farming heritage.  The 33-acre farm on Route 103 in Eliot is only five miles north of the Kittery Outlets.

Don’t miss it!

~ Gal Foodie