Caroline Chirichella of New York City doesn't exactly match our typical customer profile (not that any of you are typical - you make your own cheese!). But, we probably don't have too many Italian opera singers making our 30 Minute Mozzarella.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw the blog article below where an opera star was raving about it. She had found our kit at Uncommon Goods and she had made her own Ricotta. And although she is a unique cheese maker, she represents a growing legion of urbanites who are taking control of their own food and making it with healthy ingredients.
Caroline is only 23, but she has studied in Italy and she knows what good Ricotta tastes like. So, it means a lot to us that she appreciates our kit. If you haven't made your own Ricotta, this just might get you going.
(For more about Caroline's amazing career, check out this New York Daily News article.)
Cheesemaking Kit and Garden-in-a-bag from Uncommon Goods
By Caroline Chirichella at La Cucina Prima Donna*
Ciao a tutti!! I am so excited to be posting my first product review with UncommonGoods, be sure to take a look at Uncommon Goods. When I was browsing their site, some of their products, especially the food kits sounded too good to be true! Mushroom kits, beer making kits and the ones that I just had to choose, the Cheesemaking Kit and the Grow Your Own Marinara Kit. I mean, the opportunity to make fresh mozzarella AND fresh Ricotta AND grow tomatoes, basil and oregano?!!? Come on!! How could I not jump at the chance to try it? These just seemed like the perfect fit for me. After all, my blog is completely devoted to Italian food and let’s face it; we love our cheese, tomatoes and herbs!
When I got the kits in the mail, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was SO excited to open them and give them a try. I have always wanted to make fresh cheese, but I have honestly never gotten around to it. I know it can be a lot of work and I felt a little intimidated. But what seemed so appealing about this kit, (besides the obvious aspect of preparing fresh cheese) was that it really made it appear very easy to do. Just a few steps and before you know it, you have fresh cheese!! Oh, the fun that we’ll have together. I have a few photos that I took of the products, but if you would like to see some more, you can browse Uncommon Goods.
The Grow Your Own Marinara kit includes seeds to grow lovely, juicy tomatoes, fresh oregano and fragrant basil. What’s fantastic about this kit unlike so many other plant kits is that you can grow it right in the bag that the seeds come in, so you don’t even need any extra space. These are lovely to put in your garden, on your patio or if you’re in an apartment, your kitchen. All you need is some sunlight!
|Ricki's Cheesemaking Kit|
Now, onto the cheese!!! As I mentioned, I’ve never made cheese, I was too afraid of having to live up to the expectations of creamy, milky, buttery fresh cheese. But this kit took all of my worries away. Plus, everything you need is included; all you have to do is add milk. If you want, you can even make it with goat’s milk or powdered milk. Yes, it’s just that simple!! (I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, aren’t I?) This kit also has the ability to make 30 batches of cheese! That’s right, 30 batches!! And it only takes 30 minutes to prepare (Okay, I’ll stop now). Seriously though, as you can tell, I was very excited to get started. The kit includes an easy to follow recipe booklet, dairy thermometer, citric acid, butter muslin, vegetable rennet tablets and cheese salt. Fresh cheese, tomatoes and herbs, here I come!!
I decided to make ricotta for my first time. Last summer when I was in Italy studying Opera, I remember having the most amazing fresh herbed ricotta. It was so good, I just….I can’t even tell you, that’s how good. It was so creamy; I spread it on fresh bread and ate it for lunch with tomatoes. To make the cheese, it does involve a good amount of steps, but don’t get nervous, even though it looks like a lot, they are all very simple steps and it is easy to follow as long as you read it carefully. I would suggest reading through all of the instructions a few times just to familiarize yourself with the steps, so when you make it, you know exactly what to expect.
|The cheese over the hot water|
Basically, you first pour your milk into a pot, add citric acid and salt and stir. Then, you heat the milk and continue to stir some more. As soon as you start to notice the curds and whey separating, you turn off the heat and let it sit. You line a colander with a butter muslin and ladle the curds in the cloth. All you have to do next is tie the cloth into a bag and let it drain for half an hour. Then…drum roll please……you can eat the cheese!!!! It’s so easy.
As I said, I added some Tuscan spices to my cheese, along with a swirl of pesto and mamma mia, was it good!! It is hard to find fresh ricotta in most places, you usually just have to settle for whatever brand the supermarket has, so this was a welcome change. This really reminded me of the fresh ricotta I had in Italy, it was so creamy and smooth. Seeing how easy it is to prepare, I would without a doubt get this kit again or give it to one of my foodie friends as a present.
|The finished product with some Tuscan herbs and pesto|
1 gallon of milk
1/4 piece of rennet tablet
11/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 tsp. salt
Now…the herbs. These are literally a Garden in a Bag, in fact, that’s what it says on the bag!!! This kit includes the bags for tomatoes, oregano and basil. For all of these fresh and tasty herbs and tomatoes, all you have to do is cut open the bag; take out the packets of soil and seed. Pour the soil into the Garden-in-a bag and level the soil. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the soil and then lightly water seed into the soil. You then place a plastic bag over the top of the Garden-in-a bag and put it in a warm area out of direct sunlight until the seeds sprout.
Within ten days when the seeds have started sprouting, you remove the plastic bag and place in a bright location. The oregano and basil will take around six weeks and the tomatoes take about sixty days to grow. I will post again when they have all fully grown and let you know how they come out! I have always wanted a full garden, I love the idea of growing my own herbs, but I live in an apartment and while I have a terrace where I could grow some stuff, I just wasn’t sure about the whole idea. These make it very simple and you don’t need tons of space and you don’t have to invest a lot of time in maintaining, the way you would have to with a garden. Be sure to take a look so you can get some even more detailed information about these kits and all of the other fun goodies that they offer at Uncommon Goods.
So, what exactly did I do for dinner with my beautiful homemade creations?!?! Well, I served my fresh herbed ricotta on lightly toasted whole wheat ciabatta and drizzled with some pesto and had some yummy tortellini with meatballs. As for the herbs, I’ll just to have to wait and see!! Buon Appetitio!!
* Caroline's blog features lots of Italian recipes and pictures from her trips to Italy -