Sunday, January 1, 2012

January Cheese Challenge - Nothing but Curdled Milk

It's our very first cheese challenge! Are you ready? This won't be too difficult to do. We're going to start with a simple cheese that only uses ingredients that you can find easily or may already have in your kitchen. There are several different types of cheese you can make here. I'll show how I make one of them but you can choose to make that one, one of the others or all of them if you want. Feel free to get creative by adding herbs and spices.

All of these cheeses use an acid to curdle the milk. There is no need to add cultures to make these cheeses.

Paneer is a traditional Indian cheese made with whole milk, lemon juice or vinegar.

Ricotta, which is traditionally made from the whey left over from making hard cheeses, can also be made with whole milk. Again, you use vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk.

Yogurt Cheese is simply that - cheese made from yogurt. It's also called Lebanah and is common in the Middle East and Greece. You simply strain plain yogurt until you create a cheese from it. The resulting whey I suspect you can make traditional ricotta from because the yogurt is cultured. By making traditional ricotta simply heat up the whey to near boiling. You'll see tiny specks develop which is the albumin protein separating out. This is what makes up the ricotta. Simply strain the whey again and you'll have a small amount of ricotta.

Buttermilk cheese can be made with whole milk, some cultured buttermilk and salt.

The recipe I've decided to take on is Queso Blanco, a spanish unaged white cheese that is traditionally made with cow milk. I don't have any cow milk, so goat milk it will be.

For this recipe I'll be using 1 gallon of raw goat milk, distilled white vinegar and kosher salt. This recipe doesn't require the milk to be raw because I will be heating it to a high temperature, which will basically pasteurize it anyways.

I started by heating up the milk to 185 deg F.You can bring it to boiling, but this imparts a cooked flavor to the milk which I would prefer to avoid.

Once it reaches 185 deg F I took it off the heat and stirred in 1/4 cup of vinegar (you can add an additional 1/4 cup slowly if you don't have curds yet). I slowly stirred until curds began to form. They are white masses and the whey that separates out will have a yellow color to it. I then allowed it to sit for 5 minutes to allow them to develop more and settle a bit.

I then strained the curds and whey through a cheesecloth lined colander over another pot. We save the whey and freeze it in ice cube trays to add to smoothies. I allowed the cheese to drain for 10 minutes. I then put the curds in a bowl and mixed in 1 Tbs of kosher salt. I took the cheesecloth, lined a cheese basket (mine came with the hard cheese kit I previously purchased from here) and put the curds in it. I gently pressed out a bit more whey and then put it in the fridge to chill. Once chilled I gently pulled it out and put the cheese on a plate.

We used some of this cheese our our pizza. This type of cheese doesn't melt. Also, it doesn't improve with age so it must be eaten fresh. If you can't eat it all fresh, you can freeze it, but the texture may change a bit.

So, your challenge is to choose one of the cheeses above to make. Feel free to build on the recipe by adding herbs and spices. Try new milks if you can find them, like sheep or goat. Then tell us what you did and how you used it.

I look forward to hearing how it goes!


  1. even though i dried off the goat and don't have another one preggers, i'm going to try and do the cheese challenge with you. still some left in the freezer. also this year on my blog i'm going to do a year of breads - not buying any and experimenting with lots of kinds.

  2. I am all over that buttermilk cheese! Going to get some supplies today and give it a whirl.

  3. I'm not ready to take the challenge for a whole month, but I will definately try making cheese at least once. I've actually wanted to try it for a while, but have never gotten around to ordering a culture. Your recipes look like a much easier way to start with cheesemaking.

  4. Tony, you don't have to make cheese all month long. You only have to do it once per month to be part of the year long challenge.

  5. I did it! I used cow's milk and lemon. I think I'd use less salt next time. I crumbled it on a salad, which sadly was not from my indoor greens as I found a spider infestation in them and had to put them out in the snow to avoid infesting other plant life. I mixed green onion on the salad and I found some reasonably good tomatoes in the store (which I was craving...we've had a foot of snow in 24 hours) and it was fabulous! The left over cheese is going to work with me today and we will spread it on crackers for a taste-test.

  6. Made my first cheese of the Year. I did the Queso Fresco - had to buy cow's milk as I don't have any animals that produce it. I think I didn't heat it or add the vinegar slowly quite enough as my whey was pretty cloudy. So as planned I made whey ricotta! I used 1/2 gal whole milk and got about 12 oz cheese total. I made Pasta e Fagioli using anazazi beans, garlic, tomatoes and fresh spinach from my garden, my own stock and crumbled the queso over the top. It was yummy, but the flavor was a bit lost on the soup - it was better spread on the bread! So easy - I'll make it again. Can't wait to see what to try next month.

  7. Jessica sent me here from her blog, and I'm just in awe of what you're accomplishing.

    I'm going to try buttermilk cheese this weekend, I think.

  8. I did it!

  9. I am going to make this tomorrow! Thanks for the simple easy to follow directions!


  10. I make paneer all the time. I grew up vegetarian and it's our Thanksgiving "turkey" and Christmas "ham". I slice it into 1/3 inch thick slices, fry it in ghee or butter until lightly browned and dip it into soy sauce then into nutritional yeast. My entire family goes gaga for it and I have to make about 5 gallons of milk for it to be enough. I use the whey and the pan drippings along with the left over soy sauce and yeast for the gravy.

  11. Ok, my friend and I made our first cheese of the year and our first hard cheese, Gouda. Just finished waxing it and now comes the long wait. I sure hope it tastes good!

  12. Pamina, I just cracked open my first Gouda. It was a raw milk gouda so I had it age for 2 months. Really good but it has a tad bit of sharpness to it. Could be because it's from goat milk too.

  13. I did the Queso Blanco. On it's own we found it a bit too salty. Then I did a batch of cheese buns with it. The cheese kind of disappeared, but the flavour is still there. Thanks for letting me play along!

  14. Soooooo, I know I'm late getting started, but I did it!! I did the queso blanco as well. It was so easy and the fam loved it. Thanks for the encouragement.