I came to making my own cheeses by a rather indirect path. Almost 4 years ago, on some cooking show, I watched as labneh was made by straining plain yogurt using coffee filters. I tried it, liked the result and then, following their lead, seasoned it with some herbs. I was so pleased with the end-result that I served it that Thanksgiving and it was well-received. Shortly thereafter, on another sleepless night, I was searching the web looking for more things to do with labneh when I stumbled upon one of the many cheese making websites. Soon I was jumping from site to site, surprised to learn how relatively simple cheese is to create depending, of course, upon the type you’re making — and I’ve been making a few select cheeses ever since.
With the right equipment, supplies, and environment, you can make almost any cheese. Living in the city, however, I cannot get many of the dairy products needed to make some cheeses. Neither do I have, nor am I going to build, a temperature-controlled room to age the hard cheeses that require it. So, right off the bat, I’ve eliminated most types of cheese — and that’s just fine. I’m very satisfied making just goat cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, and mozzarella. Besides, no matter how good the home-made parmesan, I don’t use nearly enough to make it worth my while to make some. (The Bartolini kitchens prefer Pecorino Romano, anyway, but try to find lactating sheep in Chicago.)
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Recently, when I decided to share my cheese making experiences, I mapped out a game plan starting with the easiest cheese to make. In my opinion, ricotta is that cheese, especially since my recipe is non-traditional, meaning not made from the whey created when mozzarella is made. (Having made ricotta both ways, I’ll stick with the recipe I posted for reasons of both taste and ease of preparation.) Somewhere along the way I had planned to talk about making butter at home but Celi did such a good job with it that I’ll just send you to her kitchen’s garden for a look-see. So, having already shared the ricotta recipe and with the butter instructions out-of-the-way, that brings us to the next cheese in the schedule: goat cheese.
To make goat cheese, you begin by adding a little rennet to a combination of goat’s milk and cultured buttermilk. That mixture is gently warmed and then set aside to allow the formation of curds. Once formed, the curds are separated from the whey and the resulting goat cheese is ready for use in your favorite recipe, or, once salted and possibly herbed, can be used as a tasty spread. It really is that easy, as you’ll soon see.
Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.
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Home-Made Goat Cheese Recipe
yield: about 20 oz. of cheese
- 1/2 gallon goat’s milk (never ultra-pasteurized)
- 1 pint (2 cups) cultured buttermilk (no substitutions)
- 1/2 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
- salt (optional, though strongly recommended)
- herbs (optional)
- olive oil (optional)
- Place the goat’s milk, buttermilk, and rennet into a large, non-reactive pot. Over med-low heat, slowly raise the mixture’s temperature to 180˚, stirring occasionally to prevent its scorching on the pot’s bottom.
- Once it has reached 180˚, remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a large glass bowl, cover it, and set it aside, undisturbed, for about 12 hours. If the curds have not yet formed, leave it undisturbed until they do. It could take as long as another 12 hours (although it has never taken that long for me).
- Take some sterilized cheesecloth or a handkerchief and use it to cover the inside of a strainer. Slowly pour the mixture into the cloth-lined strainer. Once most, if not all the liquid (whey) has passed through the strainer, gather the corners of the cloth and tie them together, forming a sack, of sorts, with the curds inside. Hang this sack over a bowl and refrigerate at least overnight.
- Remove the goat cheese from the cloth and season with salt, to taste, and whatever herbs and olive oil you prefer.
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You can do many things with goat cheese and much depends upon how well it is drained. If you intend to use it as a spread, do not drain it fully and leave it a little on the moist side or, if you like, add a little olive oil. Season it with your favorite herbs and spices and you’ll have a delicious spread for crostini and crudités, or you may crumble it and use it in salads. Drain it more thoroughly and although you can still season it and use it as was already mentioned, you’ll find that you can, also, use it as you would ricotta in lasagna, cheesecake, or stuffed shells, or on top of pizza or bruschette.
There are any number of places where you can purchase molds used to press various cheeses into recognizable shapes. If I were to make more kinds of cheese, I would probably buy a few of them. Since I really don’t make enough cheese to warrant purchasing molds, I made do. Using a large can that had been used for pineapple rings, I removed the can’s top & bottom, saving one of the lids, and filled it with goat cheese. I placed a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and covered it with a piece of waxed paper in which I’d punctured some holes in an area a little larger than the size of the can. I placed the cheese-filled can over the holes, replaced the lid, and placed a heavy can on top of the lid, thus applying pressure to force more whey out of the cheese. Everything was refrigerated overnight and the cheese was used later that day to make the stuffed shells pictured above.
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In the weeks ahead, look for my posts detailing the making of cream cheese, mascarpone, and mozzarella. Speaking of mozzarella, please let me know if you are aware of a nearby water buffalo herd.
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Inspired by Fankhauser’s How to Make Farmer’s Cheese web page.
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Here’s Flat Ruthie Now …
Flat Ruthie visited Chicago and stayed long enough to take part in my 2 day birthday celebration. Click on Day One to join us as we get the party started and to learn the story behind the picture below. The celebration continues on Day Two with a mini-tour of Chi-town and concludes that evening with my birthday dinner.
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