The timing of my new-found obsession couldn't be better, as the garden seems right on schedule, offering up perfect pairings for the cheese.
1 gallon whole milk
(we use raw milk, but if you are using store bought, look for milk that has not been ultrapasteurized as this will not be easily coaxed into cheese)
12 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. rennet (half if using double strength), mixed in equal parts cool water
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. sea salt, divided
- Pour vinegar into a stainless steel pot. (I use vinegar in place of citric acid, which I don't have. If you do have citric acid, use 1 1/2 tsp. dissolved in 1 cup of cool water). Add the milk, stirring well to mix.
- Heat milk to 90 degrees over medium-low heat, stirring gently.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rennet solution, stirring well for about 30 seconds. Let the pot rest for five minutes. The curd will look like custard, with the light yellow whey clearly separating from the curd. If the curd is still soft or the whey is milky white, let stand a bit longer.
- Cut the curd into a grid using a knife that reaches to the bottom of your pot.
- Return the pot to the stove and heat to 110 degrees, slowly moving the curds around with your spoon.
- Using a ladle or slotted spoon, remove the curd from the pot and set aside, draining off any remaining whey. Turn up the heat on the stove, warming the whey to 175 degrees. Add 1/4 cup of salt to the whey.
- Shape the curd into one or more balls and use a ladle to dip the curd into the hot whey for several seconds. Remove and knead the curd with spoons or with your hands between each dip.
- After the second dip, knead the remaining salt into the curd. Feel free to take a pinch to taste for the right level of salt. Return the curd to the hot whey, dipping and kneading until the curd is smooth and soft like taffy.
- Enjoy the cheese warm or cool it quickly in a bowl of ice water before storing in the fridge.
I've made this cheese four times in the past few days (it's a great way to use all the milk I bring home from the farm). Each time it has turned out with a perfect texture and firmness throughout. One gallon of milk yields about 3/4 - 1 lb. of cheese. You can also cut the recipe in half with equal success.
And it is oh-so-good with garden fresh basil and tomatoes, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction (to make the reduction, simply heat 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on low heat, stirring from time to time, until the vinegar clings to a metal spoon).
If only all obsessions could be so delicious!