One thing I really wanted to try was making fresh cheese like I ate in Ecuador. While it's probably a pale comparison (I don't have a cow outside my door nor a woman whose been making it since childhood), it seems like a relatively easy process. As well, I am using queso blanco in my Ecuadorian-themed EPIC Christmas Eve brunch this year and because it is one of the stars of the meal, I thought I should try it out beforehand.
The process is super simple and basically foolproof. I didn't even use a thermometer and it's only my second time experimenting with cheese!
1. Start with fresh milk. I am going to do a little thinking about where to source my milk for the EPIC brunch. I might see if the farmer's market has anything to tempt me or I might just go organic. The point is to buy milk that will make a beautiful cheese so buying the best quality milk you can afford is a good route to go.
2. Heat 2 litres of milk up until it starts to boil and as it's heating, add a heaping tablespoon of salt. I didn't let my milk get to a roiling boil and the cheese turned out fine but you might want to let it get quite bubbly. I noticed that my leftover whey was quite cloudy in comparison to other pictures I saw online. Just sayin'.
3. Once the milk starts to boil, add three tablespoons of white vinegar or another acid and turn the heat down to low. I'm going to use lemon juice for my brunch, but I didn't have any on hand for today's experiment.
4. Some recipes mention stirring and some mention sitting so do what you feel like. I stirred my vinegar-milk concoction for about ten minutes and then let it sit a bit. That worked well for me.
5. Once the whey (the leftover liquid) looks fairly clear, either scoop the curds out or dump the whole mess into a colander/strainer lined with cheesecloth. If you want to keep the whey then make sure the colander is in a bowl. There aren't a whole lot of uses for the acidulated whey but you can use it for baking, making oatmeal, creating sports drinks, and watering acid loving plants such as roses and rhododendrons. Waste not, want not!
6. I let my curds sit in the cheesecloth for about ten minutes before scooping out some fresh cheese. You can put a weight on the cheesecloth to compress the cheese further but fresh off the stove is quite delicious.
I sprinkled mine with salt, which made it absolutely perfect!
What can I say? I bought a croissant to enjoy with my fresh cheese and honestly they were the perfect combination. A crusty baguette would be wonderful or a rustic loaf. The recipe is so simple and so delicious that anyone who has ever even wondered about making cheese should try making this one.
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