Cheese . . . not as difficult to make as you might think
April 17, 2012 § 3 Comments
When we were milking two goats, there were times when we had surplus milk. We’d make ice cream and yogurt with the extra. With only Brie providing our milk needs now, I have to forgo my chai tea for a few days in order to gather three or four quarts of milk to make something wonderful – goat cheese. I always wanted to try my hand at making cheese, but the process seemed at the very least, daunting, and at the very most, magical. How did one go from milk to this solid yet spreadable substance? I had no idea how it was done. A quick YouTube video – again – and I learned that the art of making cheese is not rocket science. It’s just a few simple steps and a couple tools of the trade.
The first time I made cheese, my cousins Uli and Peter were visiting from Austria. Peter had cheese making on his Bucket List and I needed a partner-in-crime in order to attempt the feat. We prepared our supplies. All was moving along smoothly but when it came to separating the curds from the whey – no go. We kept adding more lemon juice, tried vinegar, went back to the lemons. Just as we decided that making cheese did require some magical words that we did not know, we looked back into the pot and there it was: curds holding together surrounded by the whey or liquid. In the end, we had made a tasty, herb goat cheese resembling mozzarella. I haven’t been able to reproduce this exact cheese since. That’s the thing about my cheese – sometimes it’s soft and spreadable. Other times, it is more like feta and crumbles over the salad. No matter. I remind myself that it is an art and embrace the fact that it is handcrafted – does not require magical words – and is always enjoyed. Here is my simple recipe for an easy cheese to make – fromage blanc.
The most important tip when making cheese, is that you need clean and sterilized stainless steel tools. Gather together a large pot with lid, spoon, strainer, bowl, fine cheese cloth, a fabulous culture, rennet, and of course, goat’s milk. Not all of these things are readily available in one’s pantry but I’ll include a web source for the supplies at the end of the entry.
Next, warm your milk in the pot over a medium heat until the milk is right near a boil. (Here I attempt to do several other things while the milk comes to temperature. The outcome when I refuse to stay focused on one task is always the same: the milk boils over and makes a mess. It doesn’t ruin the cheese – just makes a mess. Stay focused and enjoy the quiet moments without doing anything.) Hold the milk there for about 10 minutes or so. The idea is that you need to kill off any bacteria in the milk because you are going to add a new culture and you don’t want anything to fight with it or your cheese will not be what you are planning. Let the milk cool to about 80 -100 degrees F before adding the culture. Remember, this is a living organism and if you add it when the milk is too hot, you’ll kill that bacteria too – and then – not the cheese you were planning.
After you have stirred in the culture, add a drop – yes – only a tiny drop of rennet to a gallon of milk. Traditionally, rennet is made from the lining of a young animal’s stomach. But the rennet I use is an all-vegetable product and is now readily available. The results are the same: the enzyme action of the rennet causes the milk to coagulate in an hour or two. (This was the part that Peter and I did not understand – it takes a little time for the magic to happen.) The curds will separate from the whey. Works every time. Voilà. Cheese!
All that is left to do is to strain your curds through a piece of fine cheesecloth. I wrap the top of the cloth together and let the curds sit in the colander over a bowl in the fridge overnight. Do not discard the whey. It is an amazing source of protein – extremely nutritious. Mix it in your smoothies, bake with it, or at the very least, give a protein boost to the dogs, cats, and chickens. They love it!
In the morning, if you find that your cheese is too dry, stir in a bit of the whey until you have a consistency that you like. Next, add finely chopped garlic, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and herbs of your choosing to the cheese. Mix in well and enjoy. The longer the cheese can sit in the refrigerator and take on the flavor of the garlic and herbs, the better. Day three or four is when the cheese is at its best. There are countless recipes for making so many different varieties. This one is my favorite. Easy and delicious.
When Tim begins talking about “goat stew’ because one of my goats has done something very bad on the farm – like eating the new growth coffee – I know it’s time to make him some cheese. So far, I still have all of my goats.
Find all your cheese making needs at: http://www.dairyconnection.com