Sunday, July 24, 2011

Queso Fresco or "Hey, I just made cheese!"

If you are a close friend of mine you've probably heard me talk about my 649 dream to buy a goat farm in Prince Edward County where I will make artisinal cheeses that I will sell at farmer's markets until Lynn Crawford and all the other hot Toronto chefs discover my amazing cheeses and make me independently wealthy (which I am already anyways in the dream having won $25k in the lottery duh!) by using them in their restaurants.

In addition to my small Anglo Nubian herd, I will also have a Jersey cow named Daisy for milk, 2 little pink pigs that will always look like Babe, and at least 6 chickens.  And the chickens will be Araucana ones from Chile, which will lay the pretty blue eggs for me, and some Cochins with feathered feet,  in case you wondered.  Cochins make excellent pets apparently.  I know...wake up, right?  Ah well, maybe one day.

A few months ago there was an article in Toronto Life Magazine about making your own ricotta, and I kept meaning to do it but never did.  Then...inspiration struck...I am taking Chorizo Sloppy Joes to my friends' this weekend for their annual Lane Party and I thought I would try making cheese to sprinkle on them.  Ricotta wasn't right, so I started looking into fresh cheeses.  Now I am no expert on fresh cheese nor any kind of cheese, but I love to eat it and from what I saw on the internet it seemed pretty easy to make.  There are only three ingredients:  milk, vinegar and salt.  Generally it is called Queso Fresco or Queso Blanco.  

It is not quite feta but not really mozzarella or ricotta either.  I think it will be a nice mild slightly salty cheese to sprinkle on pizza or sloppy joes, and there is no goat milk in sight, which will make my friend James happy.  Junior Chef J-Man thought it was a fun project tonight and so did I.

As an FYI, this cheese will not melt nor can it be shredded but it can be crumbled or sprinkled.  And it can be made using any kind of milk - the only difference being the yield of cheese.  I did it with 1% and only got a small amount of curds, but using 3.8% organic homo (the highest fat milk I could find), I got quite a nice yield.  If you don't have white vinegar, other kinds like rice wine or apple cider will work but you will have a slightly different tang to the cheese.

When adding salt, remember that some will drain out with the whey, so what might seem salty at first, might not have much salt to it in the finished product.  What I did here was crumble my cheese into a container, and grind some additional salt in, and shook it around.  Worked well.

This entry level foray has inspired me to pick up some ingredients to try more complicated cheeses.  Next thing poor Glen knows, goats and chickens are living in the back and our garage is converted to a cheese cave.  Sorry about that...but you know it is inevitable....the dream never dies.

Queso Fresco

2 litres (1 gallon) homo milk
1/3 cup of white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sea salt (adjust how salty you want it)


Rinse the inside of a medium saucepan with water to coat the surface.  Add milk and heat on medium for about 12-15 minutes or until it comes to a low rolling boil.

Add the vinegar. The curds will separate from the whey almost immediately, and the mixture will start to look grainy.  Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and stir using your spoon to assist in the curd separating.  If the whey doesn't seem to really separate (the whey is the yellowy liquid left after you separate out the milk fat), add another spoonful of vinegar.

Pour the pot’s contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle with salt until it has the taste you are looking for.

Gather the curds in the center, and squeeze out what liquid you can.  You can tie the cheesecloth’s ends and hang the cloth on the faucet so it can drain for a few hours.

Or like I did, squeeze out what you can and then place a bowl on top of the cheese, and weigh it down with weights or a couple of heavy vinegar bottles to drive out more moisture.

Leave like this for a few hours or overnight if possible.

The next morning, untie the cheesecloth, and admire your cheese!  It should keep for a while in the refrigerator (did you look at the expiry date on your milk...) but plan to use it in the next few days.

That's it!  We made cheese.  Next step is looking into ordering liquid rennet, tartaric acid and mesophilic culture on-line. 

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