By Heather Carr, Green Options
An omelet with homemade cheese and chives for breakfast, spinach salad with tomatoes and homemade cheese for lunch, in a pasta sauce, with fruit — homemade cheese is so versatile. It’s also incredibly easy to make with tools and ingredients you already have around the kitchen.
The process of making homemade cheese is fairly consistent no matter the precise recipe.
- Heat the milk. During this step, the milk just looks like milk in a pot.
- Add the acid. At this point the curds begin to form. They are visible in the pot. Don’t progress to the next step unless you see the curds. If the curds don’t form, reheat the milk and add more acid.
- Drain the whey. Pour the curds and whey through a cheesecloth.
You’ll need a pot to heat the milk in, a kitchen thermometer, cheesecloth, and a colander and bowl. You’ll need a thermometer that can distinguish between individual degrees in the 155-190 range. Candy or digital thermometers will do this; most meat thermometers will not.
As for cheesecloth, you’ll need a thin, fine-weave cloth. Most of the cloth sold as cheesecloth is a very loosely woven cloth — good for catching butterflies, but not so good for draining whey from the curds. I use men’s handkerchiefs, since they’re thin and have very little lint. Just hand wash them straight out of the package. They don’t need to be dry before draining the whey, but they shouldn’t be dripping.
Fresh cheese uses only two ingredients: milk and an acid. The milk can be pasteurized or raw, and skim, low-fat, or whole. I find whole milk makes a tastier cheese. I’ve never used ultra-pasteurized milk, but I’ve heard it doesn’t form curds very well. You might want to avoid ultra-pasteurized milk until you have made cheese a few times.
The acid can be just about anything food grade. Regular white vinegar works fine for a plain cheese, but red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and any other vinegar you have in your kitchen will work as well in the same quantities and add some flavor. Citrus fruits are well-known for their acidity.
What to do with the whey?
Whey is the liquid portion of the milk and curds are the solids once they been precipitated out. You will have almost as much whey as the amount of milk you started with. In other words, if you use one quart of milk to make your cheese, you will have very nearly one quart of whey at the end.
Whey is very popular these days as a protein supplement, but the liquid whey you’ll have is not the concentrated form sold in stores. You can drink whey, use it to make other cheeses, or bake bread with it. Pets like it, too, and they always appreciate the treat.
Next: Two Recipes for Homemade Cheese