Remember back when I said that we would post more details of our New Year’s Eve dinner later? I figured now that we’re halfway through January, it was time to actually post about something from that dinner, so here we go…
One of the potentially more ambitious things we decided to do for this dinner was to make our own cheese. It wasn’t something we’d really considered before stumbling upon the instructions in our Bittman cookbook How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, but as soon as we saw it, we knew we wanted to try it. He made it look so easy! And ya know what? It really was. It’s something I’ll definitely do again, though with a few tweaks. Here’s the process:
First of all, a confession. The process involves milk/buttermilk and some time. Clearly when making cheese, you need some fat, right? Well, we neglected to think of that when getting our ingredients, and it didn’t dawn on us that the skim milk we keep on hand wouldn’t quite do the trick. Luckily we had some cream on hand too, so I just mixed it into the milk to make a quasi-2% mixture. Next time, we’ll buy whole milk.
- 1/2 gallon milk (not skim – Bittman suggests anything above 1% will work. Ours amounted to 2% in the end)
- 1 quart buttermilk
- Salt (optional)
- You also need: A big pot, a big bowl, cheesecloth, some twine, a strainer, and a strong wooden spoon.
- Put the milk in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching, until the milk bubbles up the side of the pot – 10-15 minutes.
- Line a strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth, and have a long piece of twine ready.
- Add the buttermilk to the boiling milk all at once and stir constantly until the mixture seperates into curds and whey. It will look like cooked egg whites suspended in a yellowish liquid (no, really!). Remove from heat and stir in salt (or other flavours of your choice… mmmm).
- Carefully pour the mixture through the strainer with cheesecloth so that the curds collect and the whey strains off. Gather the cheesecloth and form a tight ball. Run the cheesecloth ball under cold water until it’s cool enough to handle, and squeeze out the whey. You’ll want it as dry as you can get it.
- Tie the twine around the top of the ball-o-cheese, and then tie it to a heavy spoon. Rest over a bowl for an hour or two (see picture for what I mean by that). This strains off the last of the whey and gets it nice and firm.
Ta-dah! Cheese! Maybe not the most exciting cheese *ever*, but it’s definitely cheese. Very very mild flavour. Next time, I think we’ll add pesto or nuts to make it a bit more interesting.
Note, this does *not* make a nice melting cheese. We had kind of hoped it would work for one of our favourite Mexican apps, Queso Fundido, but not so much. What we made was still tasty, but not quite what we were hoping for. After further reading, I think what we want is actually called Chihuahua Cheese… now to see if it can be found anywhere in Toronto!