For the final project in 3rd grade Stella’s teacher gave the class an open-ended project. Choose a topic, research it, and present what you find to the class. (Kudos to teachers who trust kids to tackle something like this.)
We spent a weekend considering topics – rocketry? the Apollo 13 mission? sheep shearing? Then a random, and real, question she asked ended up being the best topic to explore: what is cheese?
We’ve made butter before (by shaking a jar full of whole milk with a marble inside). But she wondered how you would transform milk into cheese and not butter?
As part of the project each child has to choose a way to present their research to the class. She’s decided to write a newspaper called The Daily Curd filled with informative cheese-making articles.
We found a great recipe and set to work with a bottle of pasteurized (not ultra pasteurized) whole milk and some white vinegar. The process was really neat (curds and whey!) and I thought I’d share it with you. If you’ve got some time on a summer afternoon and don’t mind a few minutes over a boiling pot, this would be a great summer activity with kids.
The most tedious part was stirring the milk while it came up to temperature. Once it reached 170 degrees we were ready for the next step – adding the acid. Stella chose to use white vinegar instead of lemon juice because we read that it would make a cheese with a more neutral flavor.
After three tablespoons, it separated in a most dramatic fashion! We were very impressed.
We waited a few more minutes to allow the curds to fully separate from the whey, then she ladled them into cheesecloth laid over a strainer.
We mixed in some salt and left them to drain, then gathered them up into a hockey-puck like form and pressed them for an hour and half with a heavy weight on top.
A delectable snack spread on some sliced baguette. Next Stella says she wants to make bread AND cheese for a fully homemade meal (when we do it we’ll use the whey as the liquid for bread making).
The newspaper is due on Friday. So far she’s written the feature article – “Local Girl Makes Cheese,” composed three silly cheese jokes, and made a crossword puzzle with cheese vocabulary (she’s writing the actual research paper in class). A totally fun school project!