Photo by Pinkybird
I love everything about cheese: Carving delicious mild cheddar and enjoying it with crackers. Eating hard, tangy Parmesan in thin, block-devouring shavings. Melting an assortment of cheeses on top of my favorite savory dishes. Incorporating my own flavor twists with herbs and spices in my homemade cheeses.
I imagine there are kindred spirits out there, but to the majority of people, making your own cheese sounds complicated. Most cheeses, including nearly all of the classic varieties, are produced with circumstances or tools that are tricky to replicate in a typical kitchen. For instance, cheddar requires a cave-style curing area that maintains a constant temperature, while mozzarella needs hand-stretching to come out smooth. Many living cultures also aid in development and flavor in more complex cheeses.
Though making cheese can be incredibly complicated, you’ll find that the cheeses in this article are exceptionally simple, with minimal hands-on time and simple tools and ingredients. The only specialty equipment you’ll need is a kitchen thermometer.
So, if you’re ready to discover simple cheese making in the comfort of your own home, you’re in the right place. You’ll love these cheeses, even though they won’t be the melty, stringy types. Remember that this is just the first step on your cheese-making journey. Once you’re acquainted with the process of transforming milk into cheese, the sky’s the limit!
Starting with the Basics
We’ll be focusing on two great starter cheeses in this article — ricotta and queso blanco — and recipes to use them in. They’re both fresh cheeses, rather than aged. They’re also classified as acid cheeses, meaning that some type of acid — most often vinegar — is used to curdle the milk, separating the milk solids from the whey. When the acid has done its work, you drain the whey from the small curds and you’re left with cheese. This process is called coagulating. You’ll only need to assemble basic items that are likely already in your kitchen.
- Milk. Farm-fresh milk is ideal, but these cheeses can also be produced satisfactorily with commercial whole milk. If you’re using local milk, be sure to give it a taste test before making cheese; if it isn’t quite fresh or has any disagreeable flavor, it generally won’t improve with heat.
- Acid. I prefer to use apple cider vinegar to do the coagulating. Lemon juice or a different type of vinegar will also work. The flavor will only vary slightly.
- Salt. Sea salt or coarsely ground salt is best.
- Dried herbs. If desired, you can also include dried herbs for added flavor, according to your personal palate and creativity level.
The equipment you’ll need to make cheese is straightforward and available in most well-equipped home kitchens:
- Large stainless steel stockpot
- Long-handled stainless steel or wooden spoon
- Cheesecloth or a large, open-weave towel
- Kitchen thermometer (one with a clip is ideal)
- Large bowl for the finished cheese
More Simple Cheese Recipes:
Photo by PENCHAN
Maggie Bullington lives in rural Alabama with her family of homesteaders. She gardens, assists with several home businesses, and tries new recipes with farm-fresh ingredients. Follow Maggie at www.TinyRanch.com.