I recently joined the wonderful societies at the Daring Kitchen (Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers) which provide a challenge recipe each month which everyone then attempts. So a few days ago I received my first challenge recipe from the Daring Cooks group – cheeeeeeese. This immediately brought to mind the childhood classic that is Wallace and Gromit, especially the wonderful scene where they fly to the moon and discover it is made out of cheese.
I must admit, at the beginning the concept of making cheese was fairly daunting to me. My little sister tried making cheese once in high school, and though the outcome was technically cheese, nobody really wanted to try eating her science project. But I do like trying new things, so I decided to give feta a whirl.
Firstly here is the introduction for the host who provided this lovely challenge:
Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
Now, the wonderful weirdness of curds and whey. My feta started with the following:
8 cups of whole milk
1 tablespoon of plain, live culture, yogurt
1/4 rennet tablet
1. Mix the yogurt in with 1 tablespoon of the milk.
2. Dissolve the rennet in 6 tablespoons of room temp water.
3. Heat the milk to 86 F stirring every once in a while to avoid burning.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt mixture. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
5. Stir in the rennet, cover, and leave overnight.
6. Test for a clean break – this is ensuring that the milk has properly separated into curds and whey. This is done by poking one clean finger into the cheese…if it comes out clean the cheese is set. Otherwise leave the cheese to set for a few more hours. Mine was firm enough after sitting for approximately 8 hours to pass this step.
7. Cut the curds into cubes, stir gently, then allow to rest for 15 minutes (allowing further separation of the curds and whey).
8. Strain the cheese but save the whey. (This is where things started going downhill for me.)
Here’s what not to do at this point: Do not line a bowl with three layers of cheese cloth, ladle in the curds, then pick up the cheese cloth. If you do this all the curds will go straight through the cheese cloth and remix with the whey, then you’ll try adding more rennet and letting it sit for another several hours but no matter how much you hope it will not reset into a solid block again.
Here’s what you should do at this point: use a colander or a strainer of some sort, and line it with tons of cheese cloth. Ladle in your curds and let them sit for a while. Then slowly gather up the edges of the cheese cloth and proceed to the next step.
9. Tie the cheese cloth around the curds, and hang for 2-4 hours. Make sure you put a pan underneath to catch the whey.
10. Cut down your cheese ball, mix in the salt, and press it into a mold with drainage holes that has been lined with cheese cloth. Press overnight. (I used an aluminum loaf pan that I jabbed holes in with a pair of kitchen shears. This was actually nice because a second pan fit inside the first perfectly and allowed me to provide even pressure during pressing.
11. Add 5 1/2 tablespoons of salt to every 20 ounces of whey to create brine.
(Do NOT use this much salt. I assume the reason you want a very salty solution is because it will help draw out any remaining water from your curd as the system equilibrates, but it also forces more salt into the cheese. The result for mine was that it was way to salty to eat after a 5 day soak. If others have gotten a brine to work on cheese please give me a heads up on what I’ve done wrong here.)
12. Remove the weights from your cheese, cut into cubes and place in the brine for 5 days.
13. Rinse the cheese and marvel at what you’ve created!
In the words of the ever iconic Wallace: Wensleydale? Stilton? Hmmm, I don’t know lad, it’s like no cheese I’ve ever tasted.
So true Wallace, so true….though I wouldn’t feed my first batch of cheese to anyone (except if they like licking salt blocks- it might be a good treat for pets), I had a lot of fun making cheese. I was a little nervous at first, but think I would like to try it again…maybe after I’ve gotten a proper stock pot and a slightly larger kitchen! (I really want to try making my own herbed gouda, but you need some place to age it.)