Fenton Twp. — On a Tuesday afternoon, eight women gather around a kitchen. A pot of milk heats up on the stove, and there are cookies and crackers on the table.
Kim Emmert is teaching a small class how to make mozzarella cheese.
Her 11-acre property is home to goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats and a hen. The sound of turkeys gobbling comes in through the open windows, giving Emmert’s lesson an authentic feel.
“It’s whole milk,” she said, stirring the pot. “You cannot use ultra pasteurized milk because we heat it to a very high temperature and it breaks down the protein molecules and you will not form very good curds.”
She said there are two basic types of cheese.
“One is thermophilic,” she said. “Those are your very, very hard cheeses.” These cheeses are heated to over 100 degrees when being made. Parmesan is a thermophilic cheese.
The other type is mesophilic.
“Those you don’t heat to such high temperatures and those are almost all the other cheeses — cheddars, colbies and the fresh cheeses we’re making here today,” she said.
They add cultures, or bacteria, to the goat cheese which determines the flavor. But since she’s only using buttermilk from the store to make mozzarella, she’s going to add citric acid “that’s going to partially curdle the milk and give it the springy texture,” she said.
When the milk on the stove reaches 55 degrees, Emmert adds a teaspoon and a half of citric acid mixed with water. She mixes it with a slotted spoon.
She then turns the burner up.
“Temperature is very important,” she said, adding that the order in which ingredients are added is also crucial.
When the milk reaches 90 degrees, she adds animal rennet, which separates the curds from the whey, which is the left over protein-rich liquid. It coagulates and resembles cottage cheese in less than a minute as Emmert stirs the pot.
She goes through the rest of the process as her students watch. It doesn’t take long for the mozzarella to look like mozzarella. After kneading the mixture, putting it in the microwave for intervals of 60 seconds, and periodically draining the juices out, she cuts off small pieces and passes the mozzarella around.
People share nods and give small hums of approval, voicing their opinions after they’re done chewing. The group agrees — the cheese is delicious.
The entire process takes approximately 30 minutes.
Sometimes Emmert puts the cheese into molds, hangs it in a bag or presses it. The cheese that is hung will be softer and more spreadable, she said.
After cheeses have been tasted, she takes the class out to see her animals in the backyard. The goats and sheep flock to her in the pen, as she leads one of the goats out.
The goat is named Puddin,’ and she recently gave birth. Emmert gets her to climb up on a slightly raised platform and shows the class the proper milking technique.
She milks Puddin,’ twice a day and usually gets about a gallon of milk every day.
This class is small compared to her typical ones, where she’ll usually teach more than 20 people. She’s holding two free cheese-making classes on June 25 and 26, from 12 to 2 p.m. Call (810)-210-4458 to reserve a spot.
Emmert has been making cheese since 1994. Her friend gave her a baby sheep, and she got a goat not long after. Her first goat’s name was Charleen.
“My friend gave me a cheese-making book and that was that,” she said.