Monday, July 18, 2011

homemade cheese

The other morning, I came home from the farm with our usual milk and eggs and a basket of fresh-picked raspberries. The berries and eggs went right into the makings of breakfast, but I had a different plan for this morning's milk.

I've been wanting to make cheese for a while now, but try as I might, I couldn't find a local source for rennet (which is surprising to me here on the outskirts of a big, food-happy city). Oh, but I do love the internet for moments like these. I ordered a liquid vegetable rennet from this store, so I was ready to go.

Except of course for the usual hemming and hawing that accompanies any new task I undertake, as I read and think and debate the best way to do it. As usual, I decided to just jump in, and as usual, it wasn't bad at all.

I used this recipe for farmer's cheese as a guide, cutting it in half to accomodate the half gallon of milk on hand and adjusting the rennet amounts per the instructions on the rennet bottle.

Garlic and Dill Farmer's Cheese

Heat 1/2 gallon of milk to 80-90 degrees in a stainless steel pot. Add rennet (I used 4 drops of double strength rennet). Stir thoroughly, turn off heat and let stand 45 min. - 1 hour until it has reached the firmness of tofu. Cut through in a grid pattern of 1/2" blocks.

curds cut into a grid pattern

Slowly heat to 100 degrees, stirring, over the course of about 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the curds and place in a bowl. Add the salt and herbs, oversalting since some will drain out with the remaining whey.

seasonings for the cheese: sea salt, dill, cracked pepper and garlic powder

Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth lined colander. Wrap the cloth around the curds, tying the corners together, and hang over a bowl to drain for about 1 hour.

hanging the curds to drain

Return curds to bowl and break into small pieces. Place curds in a clean cheesecloth and press for 12-24 hours. For a press, we placed the cheese between two plates under a large cast-iron pot filled with water.

after pressing, the finished product

The fresh cheese had that unmistakable cheese curd "squeak" when bit into, a quality that mellowed after refrigerating. I've discovered that I may not like dill in cheese, but aside from that, I am happy with how the cheese turned out. Now that I've gotten my toes wet, I'm ready to forge ahead, trying out a variety of cheese recipes. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out!


jessi said...

Just so you know, I'd be happy to help sample the cheese. I'm selfless like that.

Pavil, the Uber Noob said...

Is rennet really necessary if the milk is raw? If one were able to allow more time, could one use the curds from making whey?
Anyway, I like to see these cheese posts, so good job!

Ciao, Pavil

Amanda Greco Holmes said...

Hello Pavil

Yes, I have heard that you can leave raw milk at room temperature until it clabbers (what a great word!), but I haven't looked into it much more to know what types of cheeses that curd produces or whether it needs additional enzymes. This whole process is so new to me, but I am inspired to keep on trying. I'll let you know if I find out more about the topic. Thanks so much for sharing the thought!