I’m really excited about this – it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while, since reading the great cheese-making posts on John’s blog, from the Bartolini kitchens – in fact, here is his page of cheese recommendations and resources. He made it look easy, and was so encouraging of all his readers to try it out, but still I never took that extra step and did it myself.
Until last week, when I bit the bullet and went for it.
And it turns out, the extra step is hardly a step at all. It’s a baby step, if anything, like when you used to play Mother, May I? and you took the tiniest steps you possibly could. One of those steps. It’s easier to make the cheese I’ll be sharing today than it is to make almost anything else I’ve posted here on Rock Salt, but at the end you get to say ‘I MADE CHEESE!’ and people go ‘whaaaaaaaaaaaat?’ and you say ‘yes.’.
The generic term for this recipe is curd cheese – you’ll see why – but I’ve seen it called paneer and crowdie, too. You can end up with a crumbly cheese or a cheese that you can cut into soft cubes, depending on how you make it, but the recipe is just the same. It’s a soft cheese – you could also add some cream at the end and you’d have a spreading cheese for your bagels (I think). It can be used in sweet or savoury recipes, and you can add herbs, spices and any other flavours you can imagine to fancy it up. I kept it really simple for my first time out, but I can see me revisiting this often. I tried a few squares rolled in one of the spice mixes from last month’s Foodie Penpals, as you can see above – the rest I ate with a little smoked salt.
Ingredients for one small block of soft cheese:
- 2 pints of whole milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
I swear, that’s it.
You can add seasoning etc later, if you want to – I’ll let you know when.
Prepare a very large bowl, a sieve and a big square of cheesecloth or muslin – or probably a scrupulously clean pillowcase or cut out sheet would do the trick. I do mean proper clean – something that has been bought for the purpose of food prep only.
Put the milk into a pot, over a medium-high heat.
Bring to a boil – it will all foam up. Stir in the lemon juice. Keep stirring.
It will curdle. The crucial thing about this is that it’s not actually sour, so it doesn’t smell or taste bad – like soured cream, that we put on Mexican food by the truckload. It looks weird, I’ll give you that.
Drain the pot through the sieve and cheesecloth, then pour another cup or so of cold water through the cheese curds.
Lift the cheesecloth away from the sieve, then tie into a bag and hang somewhere to drain.
Hang for 20 minutes, then squeeze firmly to get any residual whey out of the cheese.
Oh yeah! See the bits in the bag? Those are curds. See the liquid you left in the bowl? That’s whey.
Little Miss Muffet was eating both, apparently. I’m not sure why. Curds, yes. Whey, noooooo. No whey. Ahahaha.
Now, if you just want crumbly cheese I rather suspect you could go ahead and use it right now, but most recipes suggest you press it to get the remaining water out. If you want to be able to slice the cheese, you have to knead it a little bit, first.
If you want to add anything – salt, sugar, herbs etc – do it now.
I used the cheesecloth to help me knead the curds into a block.
Fold over in the cloth and press, remove the cloth and press again. Repeat until the cheese is firm and doesn’t crumble any more when you press it.
Flatten into a rectangle, making it as even in thickness as you can, then re-wrap in the cloth and weigh down with something heavy. I used a baking tray with several jars of chutney on it. Leave for an hour or so to get any remaining whey out, and you’re done.
You’ve made cheese.