Homemade Cheese: as easy as it gets
It might sound wrong, but a rush of smiles will take over when you see milk curdle for the first time and it is of your doing, of course. Making fresh white cheese is easy, fast, uncomplicated and delicious.
Queso blanco in the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America and Mexico, Paneer in India, Beyaz peynir in Turkey to name a few. To all regions this is a food staple, where pretty much the same process is used to make pretty much the same cheese. Perhaps the most distinct difference between the different regions is the use of salt, spice, drying and pressing time.
Queso blanco can be made from cow’s milk, or goat, or ewe, or buffalo, or even a combination, for example goat and cow, or buffalo and ewe. It does not require rennet (enzymes) or any special equipment, just milk, a pot, a stove, lemon juice and cheesecloth. Excellent for grilling, diced in soups, deep-fried in batter, in salads, in toasted sandwiches, with fruits, sorry for those not mentioned but please carry on and if you want to jump waiting a couple of hours for the cheese to be done, use the curdled milk as ricotta or cottage cheese for baby food and or cooking, etc.
1 ½ L Whole Milk (3,8% – 2% fat)
Use organic, as the pasteurisation process is milder than UHT (ultra-heat-treatment) used for longer shelf life and it will provide better results. Conventional milk will not curdle.
3-4 Tbsp of lemon juice
Salt to taste (optional)
Large bowl (to reserve the whey for cooking or drinking) optional
Something to weight the cheese down. For example a some heavy books, a kilo of rice or lentils.
Pour the milk into a large pot and at medium to high heat bring it to mild boil. Keep an eye on it, stirring lightly with a slotted spoon every now and then. This will break the fat on the surface and stop the milk from boiling over. Once it has reached boiling point, turn off the heat and add 3 Tbsp of lemon juice, stir until it curdles and the whey has separated from the solids made from the milk. Use the last spoon of lemon juice if it is not separating enough. Set the pot aside.
Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curdled milk into the sieve and once it has cooled off enough to handle, lift out the curdled bits from the sieve with the cheesecloth. Wring out the excess fluid until the ball inside the cloth feels solid. At this point you can decide to keep the whey or discard it and you can also choose to skip the last step and move onto using your cheese as ricotta or cottage cheese.
Place cheese ball still inside the cheesecloth on a plate with a lip good enough to catch any whey that might further seep out. Pack down with a cutting board and press until the cheese looks about 2-3 cm thick. Weigh it down with something heavy for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. After pressing time, drain off the excess liquid and remove the cheesecloth. The cheese is ready to use. Eat it, or cook with it or store it in the fridge wrapped in plastic foil. It will keep for about a week, during which time it will get firmer. You can add salt and or herbs to make it more flavourful, or keep it simple. Either way it is delicious.