I battened down the hatches...let out the mainsail and ran with the wind.
Look out fromage...she's coming about!
I've tackled a new realm....an unknown. Set forth on a dream and followed the setting sun.
Ya, so I have no idea what I'm talking about really. But I do know that I've always wanted to try cheese. Well, not always but ever since I heard how easy it is. But check out that album ...errr...cd cover above... A big ole sea of cheese (and other weird things floating about). The band, Primus is really weird (a lot more weirder than I am....I swear!) and I can only tolerate a song or two of theirs. Sir Sportsalot is a huge fan though. But the title of this cd has always intrigued me. Sailing The Seas of Cheese. Where would such a sea exist? The moon perhaps? When I was a kid, I always heard that the moon was made of cheese. Which I thought was weird and unappetizing. But not as dumb as the "man on the moon". I'm sorry, but when I look at the moon, I don't see a face. I see cheese. Swiss cheese!
hmm...sooo....where are all the cows on the moon?
Apparently they're all here on earth providing us with the milk needed to make cheese. And if we all get moving, we too can have a sea of cheese, right?
A while back I saw that Heather over at Girlichef is into making cheeses. And I've been checking things out, taking it all in. Just waiting for the right time. The right kind of cheese, the right mood.....and most of all, the right frame of mind. How does one know when there mind is in cheese mode? For starters, one begins to think of songs and cartoons that have to do with cheese (I know there's a cartoon out there, where some mice try to build a ladder or something, trying to reach the moon for endless supplies of cheese). Then one notices that during trips to various grocery stores, one finds one's self looking for cheese making ingredients....like rennet. And then one finds one's self spending a little more time than usual in the deli, admiring the various cheeses. (ok, I'm done talking about one's self in such a strange manner)
Now when it comes to cheese, I prefer the more mild versions. And I stay away....far far away....from the kinds that stink. Especially the kinds that smell like feet. Sorry folks....can't do it. I just can not get past the odor.
I do not plan on playing with mold. I'll leave that up to the experts. I'm just having fun with the soft stuff. The super fresh stuff.
When I saw Heather's recipe for Queso Blanco....and that the ingredients were pantry staples....I knew I had found my starting point and that it was time to set sail in the seas of cheese....
1 gallon whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 or 3 tsp salt or to taste
That's it. Can you believe it? Are you excited? Oh come on.....this is cheese!! And you can make it all by yourself! That's exciting stuff, I tell ya.
You will need some basic equipment as well (I'm sure you have most, if not all of this on hand as well)
Large heavy bottomed pot
Large slotted spoon
Pour your milk into a large heavy bottomed pot. Slowly heat to 180'F over a low heat, stirring frequently so that a skin doesn't develop and the bottom doesn't burn. Be prepared though....this is going to take a while. Like...an hour or so?
But it will get there. If the temperature stabilizes and has not reached the 180' mark...turn up the heat a tiny bit.
Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the curds and whey to separate. (Little Miss Muffet has nothing on us you guys!) Check out those beautiful curds!
Fold the cheesecloth into 4 layers and place it into a sieve. Place the sieve over a very large bowl or another large pot and spoon your curds into the cheesecloth lined sieve.
What you will be left with is a big pot of whey. I used it in my bread dough, instead of water. I also cooked some rice with it....very good stuff. It gave the rice a hint of sweet. Which would be wonderful with sweet and sour chicken, dontcha think?
I put all this whey in ziplock baggies and put it in the fridge. I read somewhere that you treat it like milk as far as it's "shelf life".
As for those lovely, beautiful curds....the whole point of this voyage, I might add, fold the cheesecloth over the top of the curds to cover. Place a small plate on top and then weigh the whole thing down with something heavy (that's my marble mortar, upside down on top of it all) to help press out the remaining whey. This whole contraption should then be placed over a small bowl and then moved to the refrigerator where it will just hang out for about 5 - 7 hours.
Save the whey. From what I've heard, if you're wanting to make ricotta cheese...you'll need whey. Remove everything from the sieve.
Unwrap the ball of now smashed curds. Admire your fresh ball of Queso Blanco...with the sexy cheesecloth marks
Now is when you use the salt to flavor your cheese. I just mixed it all up and then pressed my cheese into a container with a lid for easy storage. I used some of the cheese in a tomato sauce based casserole. It's not the melty kind...just so you know. I think it would be great in lasagna...or any dish that requires a soft cheese.
I also scooped up a cup of cheese and placed it in my mini food processor along with a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a teaspoon of garlic powder and whipped it up into a fine smooth, incredibly tasty spread.
You just can't beat the fresh flavor. You get about a pound of cheese for the price of a gallon of milk. Not to mention all the whey that you now have to play with.
Now that you see how easy it is, are you ready to come aboard and sail the seas of cheese?