Sunday, July 24, 2011

Make Your Own Cheese (I call it 2-1 Cheese)

Alyce's Cheese
I always wanted to make my own cheese.
I'm not talking brie. I'm somewhat aware of my limits.  (Not that I would turn down a trip to France and an apprenticeship.)
I'm thinking goat's cheese.  I've been thinking (dreaming) goat's cheese for a long while.  But was my first try or two from goat's milk?  No.  Cow's milk it was.  And a lovely, firm (or soft...) kind of ricotta was my choice.

I have to admit I made this cheese by mistake.  I had read the directions for making ricotta and misremembered them.  Note to self:  keep recipe in front of your eyes the first time you make something.  The ricotta recipe called for 2 quarts of milk.  My memory called for 2 cups of milk.  So my cheese was firmer, denser, cutable, etc.  It turned out, unbeknownst to me, more like Indian paneer, which I didn't discover until later.

To digress a second time:  Goat's cheese is next--stay tuned.  First, read Goat Song by Brad Kessler.  If I could only read one book in a year, it would be this book.  Not because it's about goats and cheese, but because it's a beautifully written testimony to one man's decision to live a new life...and also ends up teaching a lot about the history of humankind.  NPR called it, "a wondrous little miracle of a book," and I couldn't agree more.

courtesy Scribner
 Anyone can make ricotta, but not everyone realizes that you can make it with a much smaller amount of milk, a longer drain, a harder squeeze... and you'll come out with a beautiful round of cheese you can slice (rather than a soft, spooned cheese).  This firmer product is perfect topped with a bit of honey and pepper, served on grilled salt and pepper baguette.  Or you could make lemon-ricotta pancakes (if you use the cheese before it's drained too long).   But I get ahead of myself.

  Note:  To make light, fluffy, fresh ricotta (maybe better for the pancakes) try David Lebovitz' directions on his guest post for Simply Recipes.

Let's ask, "Why you want to make cheese?"  There are a ton of reasons, but here are a few:

1.  You want to.
2.  It sounds like fun.
3.  You're tired of the price of fresh cheese in the store.  (Around 8 bucks for a small portion of this cheese.)
4.  You have whole milk about to go bad or yogurt you're not going to eat.
5.  You want really good quality.
6.  You want something special to take somewhere that tastes incredibly good and is easy and inexpensive.

Note I didn't say cheap.

Here it is...the soft stuff.  Yum.
 If you're a solo cook, you're well on the road to truly cooking well for yourself if you learn the difference between inexpensive and cheap.  You just don't want cheap.  You DO want inexpensive sometimes, but you want quality for your buck all the time.  Hence homemade cheese!

If you make this cheese, it will keep a week in the frig.  You will eat it all.  A bit each day.  (Try some of the fresh, soft cheese with peaches.)  Or you can take it to a party and be a bit hit.  You can double the recipe easily; just make sure you have a big enough piece of cheesecloth, a larger colander and a big bowl.  Then you can take some to your friends' house and keep some at home for your breakfast.  It is a bit like queso fresco, but not absolutely the same because it's yours.

Equipment you'll need to make this cheese:  2-3qt saucepan, colander, 4 layers of cheesecloth big enough to fit in the colander, a large bowl in which to catch the whey (the water that drips from the cheese.)

Cheese by You  or 2-1 Cheese 
2 cups whole milk
1 cup whole milk yogurt
2t white vinegar  (or try lemon juice some time)
1t salt
  • Mix all the ingredients together in a 2-3 qt saucepan.
  • Bring to a gentle boil and simmer 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour milk mixture through a cheesecloth-lined (about 4 layers) colander or sieve into a medium bowl.
  • Let drain 15 minutes for softer cheese or 30-45 for a more firm cheese.  You can decide yourself how long you want this to drain.  It's your cheese.  The cheese police aren't coming any time soon.
  • If you choose soft (15 minutes), spoon cheese into a bowl, cool, and refrigerate until needed.
  • If you choose firm (30-45 minutes), squeeze out all of the whey (the watery liquid that drains out of the curds) until you have a  solid, firm cheese in the cheese cloth.  To accomplish this, pull  the corners of the cheesecloth up together and twist/squeeze to create a cheesecloth "balloon."  Repeat 2-3 times.  The more you squeeze, the drier and firmer the cheese.
  • Unwrap the cheese and turn it out into a bowl for eating or storing in the refrigerator.  
  • Eat soft cheese as is or use in recipes like lasagne (or just mix into hot pasta).  It's excellent with ripe stone fruits, berries, etc (as you would with yogurt).  Slice the firm cheese cheese and eat as is or top with local honey and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve on grilled or toasted baguette dusted with salt.
  • Makes one approx 6" round of cheese.
      You need more cheesecloth than this, though I made it work...just!
      This is perfect with a little fresh pasta or peaches.  Needs nothing else.  Maybe a little pepper for the pasta.

      Drain longer and squeeze for a more firm cheese

      Drizzle a good dose of local honey on top and sprinkle with black pepper.

       If you think you can't make cheese, you're wrong.  In 20 minutes, you'll have something so tasty that you'll wonder why everyone doesn't make cheese every day.   If you're unsure still...  google around the internet and check out other takes on fresh ricotta.  You'll find lots of information and be comforted.  Fyi:  here is a BON APPETIT article with details for the soft, fresh cheese rather than the firmer cheese I've made here.

      Looking for fast summer dinners?  Go back and read NYT Mark Bittman's 2007 column on incredibly easy meals in 10 minutes or less here. 

      P.S.  As a Blogger Against Hunger, I receive a lot of information about starving people.  The situation in Somalia is critical.  One woman walked for days searching for food; three of her children died in the meantime.  Read about it?  Just a little bit of money goes a long way for food in Africa.  Thanks!

      Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

      No comments:

      Post a Comment

      Love hearing from you! If you don't have gmail or a blog, you can choose "anonymous" from the comment pull-down menu. Sign your name within the comment box if you'd like. Thanks, Alyce