Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lemon Cheese

Did you know you can make a pretty decent cheese in about half an hour's actual work with nothing but milk and lemon juice? Well, I did, but hadn't ever done it before. I like the process of fermentation too much to be put off by the extra work it entails. So the other day when I got hit by the urge to make cheese but no starter to ferment it with, I dove into the wonderful world of acid precipitated cheese.

All you need is a quart of milk (I recommend whole, but any kind will work), and 1/4-1/3 cup of lemon juice, preferably straight from the lemon, but bottled works ok too.

Simply heat the milk on the stove until it is 180-185 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer the milk will be steaming and will hold a froth when you stir it. It is far from critical that the temperature be exactly right, but you definitely don't want to boil it or your cheese will taste like cooked milk.

Once it's hot, turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup of lemon juice and give it a good stir. It'll curdle almost immediately. Let it sit for 10 minutes. It should look like this:

Yum, right?
If the whey (the watery part) is still cloudy, add the rest of the lemon juice, stir, and let it sit another 5-10 minutes.

Place a piece of muslin or several layers of cheesecloth in a bowl and pour the whole cheese mix in there.

Tie up the corners and hang the bag over the bowl for an hour or so. This type of cheese drains pretty quickly too, which is nice.

Hanging cheese
I had just hung it up, and most of the whey just gets left behind.
When it's pretty much stopped dripping, put the cheese in a bowl. Add some salt and stir it in. Taste and add more salt as needed. You can eat it right now if you want, but I like to refrigerate it for a couple hours so it's a bit more sold and sort of sliceable. That and room temperature cheese sort of squicks me out. That's right, squicks. It's a technical term for what slightly icky but not quite gross things do to you. Anyway, this particular cheese I wrapped in basil leaves (yes, I did just read the Hunger Games, why do you ask?), which was kind of a pain in the backside, but the next day the cheese had picked up a lovely basil flavor I really liked. I do plan on doing the basil thing again with a real fermented cheese, since this type of cheese doesn't have really any sour cheese flavor at all. I think an actual goat cheese would be fantastic wrapped in basil if I could find a place to get goat milk around here for less than $20/gallon.

This is a really great option if you want to make cheese, but are worried about messing up the entire fermentation process. This process is pretty hard to mess up, even for a total beginner, so long as you're careful not to burn the milk when you heat it up.

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