Monday, April 4, 2011

Making Cheese

Following butter, next in the homemade dairy adventures was cheese! As I've mentioned, I get raw milk from the Bushwick Food Coop. I find that the raw milk goes sour tasting faster than I can drink it. I was ready to throw it out, until a fellow coop member filled me in on the fact that soured raw milk is still edible and can be saved for other uses. Apparently, raw milk has beneficial bacteria and enzymes that make it more easily digestible and kill pathogens, so it continues to be safe and nutritious after it starts to taste sour. In contrast, pasteurized milk extends the initial shelf life and eliminates disease risk, but becomes putrified and unsafe after it goes sour. I don't fully understand it, but you can find more information on this here and here and here.

I looked up uses for sour milk - I don't like yogurt so that was out. I wanted to make cheese, but nothing complicated involving rennet. Then I remembered Rachel's simple paneer from Heart of Light. Sold. Then poking through some old magazines I stumbled across directions for making ricotta in an old Diner Journal (offbeat food publication made by the folks behind Diner restaurant in Brooklyn). The directions for both are quite similar, one calling for lime juice and the other for vinegar. After making it, the texture reminded me of the goat cheese my mom made when I was young, and sure enough, she said she used the same process but calls it "farmers cheese." So whatever you want to call it, it was a snap to make.

Heat whole milk until nearly boiling, add an acid such as vinegar (which is what I used) or lime juice, and then let the curds (solids) separate and rise to the top from the whey (liquid). My instructions told me the whey would turn clear, which it never did. I also found curds hanging at the bottom of my pan in addition to the top, so maybe I didn't cook it long or hot enough for them to separate sufficiently. Not sure. Regardless, I spooned out the curds with a mini colander (or slotted spoon would work) and then laid them in a rag (any thin dishcloth or cut up sheet or cloth napkin etc would work here if you don't have actual cheesecloth) over a larger colander and let drain for a half hour. Then twisted the rag around the curds to strain out more liquid and let it drain another half hour before putting in the refrigerator to firm. I added the olive oil and rosemary later, mashing it up into small pieces which is the texture you see below. My cheese was still good in the fridge a week after making it.

Coming from soured milk, it had a little sour tang, and then I thought it still needed a litle something extra, so I mixed in rosemary and marinated it in olive oil. It tasted great on pizza and melted well. I think I will make cheese again next time I have sour milk, although I will play around with a different final preparation.


  1. oh wow - this is awesome. I've never actually seen this done before so maybe I should try it - it's good to know that you don't need an actual cheesecloth to get the job done.

  2. yeah, i originally thought i needed cheesecloth, but a friend reminded me any old cloth would do.

  3. Mmmm ... ricotta is next on my list, for sure.

    If I don't get a fairly clear whey, I'll sometimes add a tiny splash of additional acid and that usually clears it up pretty well.

    I don't use cheesecloth either - a dish towel works fine!

  4. i cannot believe that you made cheese. no whey.

    nice :)

  5. I always have a hard time letting it drain for long enough to really become crumbly. I just want to eat it immediately! Preferably on toast, with lots and lots of olive oil.

    Yours looks delicious.

  6. meag - LOL

    Jay - agreed on lots of olive oil. i need to invite you to my next potluck!

  7. wow! i'm so IMPRESSED!!! nice work julia!!