A Simple Guide to Successfully Making Cheese: You Can Do It!

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You Can Do It: A Simple Guide to Successfully Making Cheese

Can you finish this sentence: “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her…”? Ever since I heard that nursery rhyme as a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of making cheese. I was fascinated in much the same way that I’ve been fascinated with welding torches and translating hieroglyphics–interested but pretty much too intimidated to do anything about it. Now I know that making cheese offers options from the extremely easy to the (much) more challenging. Here are two methods of making cheese that are neither too easy nor too hard–safe middle ground.

I chose these two ways of making cheese because they are methods that my great-grandmother may have used. They use utensils that I have at home–no purchasing high-tech thermometers or pH strips–and use ingredients that I can find at my grocery store and/or natural foods store.

Making Cheese in 3 easy steps:

If you can make a simple pasta sauce, you can make this cheese. I describe this cheese as a Queso Fresco, Paneer, or feta-type cheese.

Supplies:

8 cups whole milk (Most recipes call for raw un-homogenized milk. I’m certain that this would be great, but I couldn’t find any. So I used local, organic whole milk, and it worked fine.)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as basil, chives, or rosemary (optional)
large 6-quart pot (stainless steel is recommended, not a coated pot)
cheese cloth
colander or sieve
large bowl (the colander should be able to rest comfortably on top of it)
slotted spoon
2 plates
kitchen thermometer

How To:

Step 1:

Over medium-high heat warm the milk and cream to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir milk occasionally to avoid scalding; this will take about a half hour. Add vinegar and salt, stir only once, and cook for another two minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. The mixture should separate into clumps of milky white curds (the firm clumps floating on top of the mixture) and whey (the watery mixture under the curds).

Step 2:

While the mixture is resting, line the colander or sieve with two layers of cheese cloth and place on top of your large bowl. When the 10-minute resting period is up, use a slotted spoon to gently spoon the curds into the strainer. Let drain for 15-20 minutes. When it is done draining don’t throw your whey away–it can be used in other recipes.

Step 3:

Carefully wrap curds in cheese cloth and place between two plates. Press on the plates to squeeze out any excess whey. Refrigerate the curds for an hour or up to a day or two.

For added flavor, mix in fresh herbs such as basil, chives, or rosemary to your cheese before squeezing between plates.

Making cheese the (slightly) more challenging way:

This mozzarella-type recipe may take a couple of tries to perfect, but your efforts will be rewarding.

Supplies:

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
8 1/3 cups whole milk (Most recipes call for raw un-homogenized milk. I’m certain that this would be great, but I couldn’t find any. So I used local, organic whole milk, and it worked fine.)
1/4 teaspoon rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water)
2 tablespoons salt
large 6-quart pot (stainless steel is recommended, not a coated pot)
cheese cloth
colander or sieve
large bowl (the colander should be able to rest comfortably on top of it)
slotted spoon
chopping board
large bowl filled with ice water
long slicing knife
kitchen thermometer

How To:

Step 1:

Heat the milk in the large pot just until the chill is off–about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Add lemon juice and heat to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the dissolved rennet and heat to 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes.

Step 2:

While the mixture is resting line the colander or sieve with two layers of cheese cloth and place on top of your large bowl. When the 15 minute resting period is up, use a slotted spoon to gently place the curds in the strainer. Let drain for 15-20 minutes. Add the salt to the whey and heat to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 3:

Place the curds on the chopping board and cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices. (Alternatively, some cooks chop up the curds with a spatula before they leave the large pot.) One at a time dip the curds into the warm whey for about a minute; they should begin to soften and stretch. Remove from the whey and gently stretch, folding it back on itself, and work until it’s stretchy, shiny and smooth. Resist the urge to overwork the cheese. Drop the cheese in ice water. Remove when cool; refrigerate for up to two days.

Share either of these cheeses on a platter with fresh fruit and a selection of crackers at your next book group meeting, holiday party, or dinner party, and proudly work a few humble-brags about cheese making into the conversation.

What’s your experience with making cheese? Tell us on our Facebook page or Tweet at us @organicauthority.

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photo of cheese and basil via Shutterstock

The post A Simple Guide to Successfully Making Cheese: You Can Do It! appeared first on Organic Authority.

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