Let’s Make Cheese!
I started making cheese about a year ago, and expected it to be really hard to do. It’s not. I had visited my cousins in Ireland over the summer, and learned about a wonderful chef named Darina Allen. She wrote a book that a cousin’s wife, also named Susan, swore was her bible, so of course I had to get it. It’s called, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Oh my goodness, I have had a lot of fun with that book.
So my cousin Fergus and I decided to both try some recipes out. Next thing you know we were sharing YouTube videos on cheese making and having a blast. It helped take the edge off leaving them all to come home, I suppose.
The first cheese I tried is a soft cheese. Some call it Farmer’s Cheese, others call it Fromage Blanc. I believe some even call it Buttermilk Cheese. It’s all of those and doesn’t matter what you call it because it’s wonderful. Here’s what you need:
- 1 qt of whole milk. (Unpasteurized would be perfect, but as long as it’s not ultra-pasteurized it’s fine)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp lemon juice (or lime juice or white vinegar)
- ¾ tsp salt ( I use cheese salt, but for this recipe it can be regular salt)
- Cheesecloth, string, a colander and a heavy bottomed pot.
I actually forgot to take the pictures I intended of the ingredients and the first stages of this recipe. But I’m hoping my easy to understand instructions will get me off the hook. And I did begin taking pictures with the curd in the cheese cloth. So let’s start:
Pour the milk into a pot with a heavy bottom, over low heat. Heat it to 175F, occasionally stirring it to keep it from forming a skin on the bottom of the pot. If you don’t have a thermometer, when there is a good amount of bubbles formed around the edge of the pot, and it begins to steam, that’s when you add the buttermilk and lemon juice and slowly stir to begin the separation of curds and whey. Turn off the heat, and let it set for about 10 minutes.
Ok, while you’re waiting for the curds to separate from the whey, line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth. Set the colander into something to catch the whey, because you know how I am about wasting anything. Or you will if you are just meeting me, but I digress…
Once the timer goes off (that you remembered to set because you’re better than me), go ahead and begin to ladle the curds into the cheese clothed lined colander. When you get tired of that, go ahead and pour the rest of the pot into it.
Gently fold the cheese cloth over and with the back of a spoon press lightly to get a head start on draining some of that whey out. Let it set now for 5 minutes or so, then pull up the edges of the cheese cloth and tie it as close to the cheese as possible (see picture) then tie again around a spoon to drain over the colander some more. Leave it alone for 30 minutes.
When you come back, more of the whey will have drained out. Unwrap it and put it in a small bowl, and sprinkle the salt over it.
Work the salt into it with a flat spoon or whatever you have handy. Roll it into a ramekin or other small dish, and press lightly to shape it to the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
You did it, you made cheese! NOW, what about the whey? There is a ton of it, right? Well you can save it to add to soups or stocks during the week for extra nutrition, or:
- Freeze it, even in ice-cube trays to add to soups and stocks later
- Use it in grain and bean preparation as a soak that helps avoid indigestion
- Cook your vegetables in it
- Use it in smoothies
- Give it to the dog, or chickens, they love it!
There are more ways I have not tried, I’ve even heard of folks adding it to their preserves when making jam, or using it in homemade shampoos. Something I am actually just starting to make.
I hope you try this, and share your results with me! Or the cheese, share the cheese.
To serve, turn out of the ramekin onto a plate, if you’d like, to slice and spread on toast or crackers. I like to drizzle a little olive oil over it when I turn it onto the place, then grind a little pepper over it. I dress it up with fruit and crackers to make it look like I went to a lot of trouble.
Hope you love it, let me know!