“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese”
~ Luis Buñuel
Have a last minute potluck and no idea of what to bring?
Friends coming over unexpected and you haven’t done your groceries?
Want to make a midnight homemade pizza and suddenly realize the cheese is gone?
What about eating healthy and knowing what’s in your cheese?
Well…now you can make a variety of cheeses, at home, with just milk, vinegar or lemon!
There are many ways to make cheese…when I started years ago, my concern was time and the need for all those strange names: rennet, citric acid, cultures…not only they were nowhere to find (now you can buy them from Homesteaders’ Junction if you live around Vancouver, or from Cultures for Health if you are in the US, but a few years ago these were rare things to be looking for), they were also expensive and difficult to ship: cultures usually require some refrigeration…
I have been making my own feta cheese (with culture) for a while now (I make it every other week as that’s the favourite at home), and cultures are great to create that specific taste you are looking for (the taste that differentiates a Parmesan from Feta, Mozzarella or Asiago, for example), but those delicious cheeses require time and specific cultures (as mentioned before) and you may end up investing much more money than what you would if you just buy them from the store.
My other concern was sustainability and resilience: if I want to make cheese and can’t buy cultures, rennet and so on, how do I do it? In ancient times, people didn’t have Amazon, or a home delivery mail system. But they did have cows and goats around…
Thankfully, getting the milk is not that difficult (any milk would do, except the ultra-pasteurized as everything living has been killed there)…so I started to ask around, experiment and…remembering!
My mom and grandma used to make ricotta and “queso fresco” (fresh cheese) at home without any of those strange things: they used milk that was going to go bad and lemon. Some of my Indian friends would also make paneer (an Indian cheese) the same way!
With time and playing with all types of milks, acidic stuff (from lemons to all types of vinegars), salt, herbs plus different amounts of time and heat and different proportions of one or other of those same things, I created a few different cheeses.
And then one day, my partner came with a book I could have written myself! “One Hour Cheese” by Claudia Lucero, founder of “Urban Cheese Craft”: a compendium of many of the cheeses I was already making (and mom and grandma and the Indians), plus some other great ideas!
This coming Saturday, I’ll be facilitating a workshop to learn how to make your own “easy cheese” at home (and it’s already sold out!) but don’t worry: I’ll be facilitating another one in South Surrey Food Bank on July 9 (2016) at 10 AM…(see details at the bottom of this post)
Here a small treat for you to try:
“Queso de Cabra” (Goat Cheese, or Fresh Cheese)
What you need:
A non-reactive pot with capacity for a gallon
A big spoon
A strainer (such as pasta strainer)
A butter muslin
A cheese thermometer (but don’t fret if you don’t have one)
A glass container to put your cheese once is done
1 quart of goat milk (if you don’t have goat milk, just use regular milk, but the taste will be slightly different, you can also make this with the 2 quarts of goal milk, just experiment!)
1 quart of regular milk (not ultra pasteurized!)
¼ to 1/5 cup of vinegar (I like the flavour of apple cider vinegar, but you can try any and see how it goes, each vinegar will provide a different flavour, the apple cedar is the one that leaves the least flavour)
salt to taste
herbs (dried or fresh)
How to proceed:
Open the butter muslin on the top of the strainer and put all this over a big bowl to catch the whey
Heat the milk in the pot until it reaches around 200F or when you see it is about to boil (but don’t allow it to boil or it will taste a bit “cooked”
While the milk heats up, stir a bit to avoid it to stick to the bottom or form a layer of fat on the surface
If you don’t have a thermometer, just check until it is foamy and about to boil and turn it off
Add the ¼ cup to max 1/5 cup of vinegar and stir gently with a long spoon
You’ll see the separation of the curds happening right now and the whey (that yellowish liquid) differentiating from them
Take the pot from the stove and stir slowly for about 1 minute
Ladle the curds over the butter muslin, slowly
Take the butter muslin by its borders and make a ball, like a package (see picture below), you can press this bowl a bit or hang it for a few minutes so it dries a bit more. (do not leave for hours or you’ll end up with another type of cheese…unless you are looking for a hard cheese instead!)
Take the cheese from the butter muslin and mix it in a bowl with salt and herbs of your taste.
Once is good, put it into a glass container and press it down: it will take the shape of the container…
Tada! you have cheese! You can eat this cheese with crackers, jam, fermented apple butter, small berries, or allow it to dry and age a bit and cut it for a pizza…it should keep OK up to 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator (it doesn’t keep more than a few hours at home!)
What to do with the whey:
Freeze it to use later
Save it in the fridge for is using within a couple of days
Use as base for broths, soups, casseroles, sauces, etc
Use it instead of water when making bread
Use it instead of water or milk when making smoothies and shakes
Add a few table spoons to any fermentation project such as fermented apple butter, sauerkrauts, etc
Use it to water your plants (make sure is well drained so no curds stay afloat or you may be attracting pests)
Bonus: Fermented Apple Butter (delicious with this cheese and crackers!):
Non reactive bowl and spoon
Glass jar with lid
Apples, cored and peeled (about 4 if you want two 500ml jars). They can be a bit “old” (actually this is an excellent way to use those old apples that nobody wants anymore)
Honey (I use raw honey, organic), about a cup
Apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (from a lemon!)
½ teaspoon of cinnamon ground
Whey (from the cheese above, about 1-2 tablespoons)
Some thyme (optional)
Cut the apples into chunks and put them in the tray, cover them with half of the honey
Bake the apples for a few minutes (until they are tender, don’t overcook, about 30-40 minutes at 350F)
Take them from the over and puree them with a fork or masher, let them cool down
Add the rest of the honey, the lemon and cinnamon, the vinegar and the whey and mix until it becomes a paste
Leave this to rest for about an hour, covered with a cheese cloth
Pour the puree into the glass jars, bury some thyme into each and put the lid on
Allow if to ferment overnight at room temperature
Put inside the fridge the next morning and allow it to “age” for a few days…if you can resist the temptation!
Enjoy! (It should last about a month if refrigerated, same as the cheese, it doesn’t last more than a week in my house!)