My all-time favorite is extra sharp cheddar, but any cheese is worth my time! After making yogurt last week, I had about a quart of milk left over. So I made some cheese!
Farmer cheese, and its cousin paneer, is by far the simplest cheese to make - you don't need rennet, it doesn't need to age, and there are only two ingredients.
Got milk? Got vinegar? Great - let's make cheese!
~ 1 gallon milk (local, pasture-fed, raw milk is ideal)
~ 1/2 c. vinegar (any kind works - I prefer apple cider)
~ optional: 1 tbsp. Real Salt (for a harder cheese)
+ extra goodies, like rosemary and cracked black pepper
Alternately, you can use 1/2 gallon milk + 1/4 c. vinegar, or 1 quart milk + 1/8 c. vinegar... proportion is key!
First, heat your milk to a slow boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn.
Remember Miss Muffet, who sat on the tuffet? This is what she was eating:
Next, strain your curds & whey through a cheesecloth-lined colander. Really, you can use any finely-woven cloth. Or even a fine-meshed strainer. I, inexplicably, had a cheese bag (I really don't know where it came from!)
If you want to save your nutrient-rich whey, put a bowl beneath your strainer - once you've collected the whey, check out 16 Ways to Use Your Whey, then use it!
After straining, you'll have a pile of curds:
If you want soft, ricotta-like cheese: Lift the edges of the cheesecloth and join the corners together, then twist the cloth to force water out from the ball of curds (see photo below). You can suspend the ball for a while to let water drip out (also shown below). Ta-da! Farmer cheese. Great in lasagna, on Bianca pizza, in blintzes... etc.
If you want a harder cheese that holds together: Sprinkle 1 tbsp. salt (per gallon of milk used) over the curds and massage it in thoroughly. This draws out moisture, and helps the cheese become more solid. You can also add extra herbs and spices now, or roll the cheese in spices after it has solidified - or both!
Once you've had all the cheese-massaging you can handle:
Twist the cloth around the curds to squeeze out whey.
Alternately, you can put the wrapped cheese on a sloped surface (like a propped-up cutting board) and place another flat object on top, weighted down. This will squeeze out excess moisture and give you a nice-looking cheese patty.
Paneer cheese is delicious cubed and fried, as they often do in Indian cuisine, or raw on crackers.
I went the raw paneer route, with a gourmet twist: I coated the sliced cheese in cracked black pepper and freshly chopped rosemary.
If you try this, let me know how it goes! Did you add any exciting herbs? Got any good recipes that use farmer cheese or paneer?
You might like:
~ Yogurt Cheese: How-To
~ Make Yogurt!
~ Raw Milk Convert
~ Vegetarian, Flexitarian, Locavore... Intuitive Eating
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