Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cheese, Wonderful Cheese! Oh, and Eggs.

Last week I was the delighted recipient of some gorgeous mohair locks delivered graciously by Jason and Larissa Rook. Along with the locks, they brought along a dozen fresh eggs, a very nice bonus. You wouldn't thing there would be such a difference between home grown eggs and the store bought variety, but yowza! there is. Check out the glorious orange-gold of the beaten eggs. An omelet beckoned for Saturday lunch and I used my favorite combination, had in a restaurant in San Francisco when I was in high school: onions, mozzarella cheese and sausage.

A couple weeks ago I came across a recipe for farmer's cheese that seemed simple but I hadn't any time to try it. Saturday dawned with a cheese-flavored light bulb going off. The recipe had few ingredients: a gallon of whole milk, salt and lemon juice. First step was to bring the milk to a simmer after adding a teaspoon of salt. Next time I would add more salt. Damn, a gallon of milk is a LOT of milk once you pour it all in a big pot. It seemed to take forever to get the milk to boil and I could feel it scalding to the bottom of the pot. (I still haven't managed to scrub the browned milk out, so keep that in mind if you undertake this recipe.) Perhaps I had the heat too high in my impatience to get the milk boiling. While I was waiting I juiced two lemons to get the requisite 1/4 cup of juice. I actually had a bit more than that, but decided to just use it all. Once the milk came to a simmering boil, I turned off the heat.

Next I added the lemon juice to the hot milk. According to the recipe, big curds were supposed to immediately form, leaving a watery, yellowish liquid (the whey) behind. Unfortunately, I only got a few squishy curds forming, so I decided to add a splash of plain white vinegar to further encourage the curds. And, voila!

I lined a colander with cheesecloth and poured the hot curds and whey (hello Miss Muffet!) into it. I must admit it was pretty exciting to see the creamy white curds formed in the colander.

After a little more draining, the curds looked firmer and drier.

I let it sit and drain for quite a while, maybe an hour, but I still thought it could be more dry so I tied up the cheesecloth and left a loop to hang from the sink faucet for further draining.

After letting it drain for another hour or so (and with some squeezing to get rid of the last bit of moisture), I had decided how I wanted to flavor some of the cheese. At this point I had, of course, sample a curd or two and was quite happy with the creamy taste. The texture was quite like ricotta, though a bit drier. I kept a portion plain, which I plan to use this week in some sort of pasta dish. Another third I flavored with fresh lemon juice and zest, plus a bit of garlic and salt. I whirled it all in the food processor with a splash of milk to make it creamy rather than crumbly. The third bit i pressed into a small glass coated in olive oil, freshly ground pepper and fresh chopped chives.

I hadn't remembered to buy any sort of bready medium to spread the cheese upon so I made a simple round white loaf to go along. And the cheese was good! The creamy lemon flavored was the favorite. Both the flavored cheeses were definitely lacking in salt, hence my resolution to add more in the simmering process.

So this is totally easy and it's very satisfying to make your own cheese.


Anonymous said...

Is this final product anywhere near a cottage cheese? I like your detail procedure you wrote.

Cat Pick said...

Well, I'd say more like a ricotta cheese texture, particularly after the draining. For cottage cheese, I believe the procedure is to add rice vinegar. And I would imagine a vigorous stirring whilst adding it would aid in getting smaller curds.