I have a kitchen bucket list. On this list are things like mastering souffle, ice cream, and eggs, among a lot of other things. The list is constantly getting longer and luckily I’ll never get to the end of it.
This weekend I successfully made an attempt at one of the things on my bucket list: making cheese. I mean sure, it was a fresh cheese much like (technically, exactly like) ricotta – the easiest cheese to make, but it was successful, and I feel very accomplished and proud of myself now that I’ve tried it. This just opens the door to a lot of other cheesy possibilities.
If you are so inclined, I very much encourage you to try it yourself. There is no fancy equipment needed – just quite a bit of patience, a bit of dairy, and a vessel with which to eat it when it’s warm, fresh, and ready to eat. This entire recipe comes together in about an hour, if that. In return for about $5, you’ll get a pound of warm, fresh cheese, and a warm, happy feeling. You’ll also get 2L of leftover whey that you can in turn use to make another pound of ricotta (using a method I’ll post next weekend).
To make your own fresh cheese at home, you will need:
2 quarts whole milk
1 C heavy (whipping) cream
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp lemon juice
along with a large pot, a large strainer, a wooden spoon, and some cheesecloth.
Let’s get started.
Put the milk, cream, and salt into a large pot over medium heat.
The liquids must come to a rolling boil, and you need to be mindful to stir it frequently and heat it slowly to avoid the dairy scorching on the bottom of the pot. This is the longest part of the cheese making process. Bringing the liquids to a boil will take about 25 minutes (this is a completely approximate estimate). It’s important not to rush this step.
While you’re waiting for the liquids to boil, take the time to line a strainer with cheesecloth and put it over your large bowl. It’s also a great time to juice your lemon (or get your handsome assistant to do so).
Through the magic of blogging, we’ll say that about 25 minutes have elapsed and your liquids are now boiling!
Pour in the lemon juice and immediately turn the heat to low to allow the liquid to simmer until it curdles – this can take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. This part threw me for a loop. I thought I was waiting for a larger curd to form, but they’re actually quite fine curds that look like this:
Once the curds have formed, pour the liquids into your cheesecloth-lined strainer, over the bowl.
The whey will drain out of the curds into the bowl and the cheese will begin to take shape. Let the curds drain as long as you’d like, keeping in mind that the longer they drain, the drier and firmer the cheese will be.
You can now remove the cheese from the strainer with the cheesecloth and squeeze more liquid out of it if you’d like.
Now is the time to taste the cheese, to see if it’s salted enough for your liking. This is a tricky step, since once you taste this warm cheese, there is no going back. We enjoyed it drizzled with olive oil, with salt and pepper, off a spoon. Trust me, this is a very smart thing to do.
In the end, we wound up with just under a pound of cheese. This was after our tasting too, so I’m sure we would have ended up with just over a pound of cheese.
You can see below, I managed to get a very civilized picture of the cheese, to make it look like I didn’t eat it right off the spoon. At any rate, this is an experiment I’ll be recreating often, especially knowing now how easy it really is. Next time, maybe we’ll move on to mozzarella. Or goat’s milk!