A year ago, I wrote about the combination of cheese and pears in a post called cartolina da Orvieto (postcard from Orvieto) after enjoying it in a restaurant. I recently enjoyed the heavenly pair at home and a good portion of the enjoyment was due to the fact that the cheese was of my own production.
The road from labneh to my first small wheel of cheese was not without bumps. My first attempt at mozzarella and at cottage cheese were both failures. In the first case, I was able to save the curds and used them in a gratin dish; in the second, the garbage bin was the only option.
I paused a moment before investing money in a cheese press, then proceeded to purchase it. Not long afterward, out of my brand new Cheesypress press came a lovely lilliputian wheel of cheese that I left to age for a week (I could not wait any longer). What a thrill when we first tried it and it tasted good!
To make the cheese, I followed this recipe using yogurt to inoculate the milk. I used a quart of fresh (less than a day old) goat milk (latte di capra) and 3 quarts of non-fat cow milk (latte di mucca scremato). Based on the ingredients, I will dare to call it caciotta di capra, since it was fairly soft. You could taste the goat flavor as a delicate nuance. Pears from the new crop bought at the farmers' market were the right companion for my little success.
I then decided to try and age the cheese a bit longer. For my second attempt, I followed the instructions for Farmhouse Cheddar from "Home Cheese Making" by Ricki Carroll. The main differences from the printed recipe were that I halved the quantities and used 2 oz. of cultured buttermilk to inoculate the milk instead of mesophilic starter.
The aging of my second tiny wheel lasted almost a month, while we traveled to Italy. I omitted the waxing, using a coat of oil instead: this resulted in a drier than desirable cheese. Still, the formaggio was good and the organic pears that went with it were honored (though I am afraid that is not apparent from the photo). Asian pears got to meet my cheese as well and they got along well with it, i.e., we liked the combination.
The funny thing about my adventure in cheese making is that the strongest motivating factor behind it was the production of whey to make ricotta. I did get to make ricotta, using two different recipes. But that is a story for another day.
This is my contribution to Fresh Produce of the Month, an event created by Marta, An Italian in the US. The current edition, as you may have guessed, has pears as its theme. Here is the roundup of the event.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the formaggio fatto in casa con le pere audio file [mp3].