Snap Cook: Make Cheese!

While in Portland, Oregon last month, I kept running into these cute little kits for making different kinds of cheese (info about getting your own to follow). One time, many years ago, I made paneer. It was good! It was also much easier than I thought it would be. Of course paneer is not aged. Like paneer, queso fresco and/or “farmer’s cheese” are not aged. That means you get a fairly instant result. While I love a good three or four day project making green chile, or a Fall harvest of months of gardening….I love a quickie project too. So here’s my Snap Cook (demonstration in snap shots) of making Farmer’s Cheese. Note: You don’t need the kit, but it sure is cute and makes it that much easier to get started (I am in no way affiliated with the makers and sellers of these kits – I just bought one and liked it!). FarmCheese101 Here it is…everything I needed to make my first batch of farmer’s cheese. A half gallon of milk (I used 1% even though they recommend whole for the super creamiest results), Citric Acid, Cheese Salt, Water. Those are it for ingredients for basic cheese. Of course I also added some herbs and spices to mine as you’ll see later. Equipment is pretty simple, a pan to cook the milk in, a bowl, a thermometer, a strainer, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, cheesecloth (fine), and a slotted spoon or skimmer type tool that drains. Off to the races! FarmCheese104 First step is to dissolve citric acid into water, stirring till clear. Set aside. FarmCheese105 Set up your strainer with a bowl underneath to catch the liquid that drains out of the curds you’ll see later. Place cheesecloth over strainer as shown, covering fully. The liquid you’ll be catching is called “whey”. I’ll tell you more about that as we go. You’ll want to save it. Good stuff! FarmCheese106 Now you’re prepped to get cooking! Pour your milk into the cook pot and turn the burner on over medium high heat. Get your thermometer involved. The instructions recommend getting the temperature to 185 degrees, but I found that I got a better result if I went to about 190. This will take awhile, and you want to stir slowly and regularly to prevent sticking. You might adjust the heat to lower as you near your thermo-destination (yes…I made that up). FarmCheese107 Once you hit your target temperature, you’ll pour in your citric acid solution, leaving on heat, stirring very gently. FarmCheese108This is the point where the milk separates into curds (the cheese) and whey (the magical liquid full of nutrition, and which can be used in all kinds of things). Leave heat on for about a minute. Continue very gently stirring (you don’t want to break up the curds) for several minutes. FarmCheese110 FarmCheese111 Prepare your spices (cheese salt is all you need, but I added some other herbs and freshly chopped chives). FarmCheese112 Snap Cook hiccup…I didn’t get a photo of the process of carefully spooning the curds into the cheesecloth/strainer using the slotted spoon. That part of the process is quite zen and takes some concentration, so I didn’t realize I missed getting a shot of it. So the above photo is after I’ve spooned all of the curds, and then carefully poured the remaining contents of the pan to catch remaining curds and strain out the whey. I then wrapped the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze out more liquid, making the curds stick together. In the photo, you’ll see that I added the herbs and chives. FarmCheese113 Here is the mixed cheese and herbs. Be careful when mixing. You want to blend the spices/herbs into the curds without breaking them up too much. Or at least that seemed to be what the instructions encouraged. FarmCheese115 After squeezing and shaping the cheese using the cheesecloth and a cutting board, I turned the cheese out onto this board and was able to sample it immediately. For my first attempt, this was a huge winner. I loved it on a variety of crackers, and will certainly be wowing my friends with it when I bring it to parties. I’ll be talking more about whey in a later post…and what? I also made homemade pumpernickel rye crackers! Here’s a sneak peak…watch my facebook page for the latest greatest on homemade cheese & crackers, along with all of my other fun cooking and gardening projects coming up! Here’s where to find the kits!

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