Friday, December 3, 2010

Fresh Homemade Soft Cheese

First we need to make curds (caillé) and whey (petit-lait). Curds are harvested by curdling the milk and draining off the liquid portion or whey. In some regions of England, curds produced from the use of rennet is referred to as junket, with true curds and whey only occurring from the natural separation of milk due to its environment (temperature, acidity). So today we will be using only temperature and natural vinegar.

Fresh Homemade Soft Cheese

12 C (3L) milk
2 tsp (càc) salt
5 tbsp (càs) white vinegar

In a large pot bring 12 C milk + 2 tsp of salt to a boil.

At the first sign of bubbles add the 5 tsp of vinegar. Stir, if the curds separate from the whey, then take it off the heat and don't touch it for two hours. (If the curds and whey do not immediately appear continue heating and add more vinegar until they begin to separate, then remove from the heat.) Once the separating process has begun, it will continue on it's own.

I have tried to cheat and only let the cheese set for a half an hour before straining it, but um, don't do that. I only got half as much cheese! The longer it sets the more curds it creates. So let it set while you go do something else. :)

After two hours you'll need to strain your cheese, catching all the curds and allowing all the whey to drain out. To do this you'll need a cheesecloth or a fine weave linen tea towel. Line your colander with this cloth and slowly pour the cold curds and whey into the middle of the cloth. Then when all the curds are piled up on the cloth, pull up each of the four corners and grab them with one fist, grab the bulging towel full of curds on the other end with your other hand and twist. Twist, Twist, Twist.

When no more whey is dripping, or if the curds start squirting through your towel, unwrap the cheese into a very large mixing bowl. You should have about 2 lbs (900g) of cheese.

I make this fresh cheese so often that my dear husband has purchased me a real cheese press. If your hands get tired from twisting and pressing the cheese cloth, as cheese press is a great idea. You can even get a similar effect without the fancy kitchen gadget, just place something heavy on your cheese bag so that the weight does all of the work for you.

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