April Skill of the Month: Make Your Own Cheese
OK, my Skill of the Month is coming a bit late to you, but I wanted to get a few recipes in your hands and challenge you to learn how to make your own cheese!
A couple of years ago I was teaching a food storage class to a group of women. I emphasized storage-friendly foods and mentioned a few that weren’t exactly shelf stable, such as most cheeses. One woman asked, “Does this mean I have to say good-bye to cheese enchiladas?” I thought she was going to cry!
Cheese can be stored in various forms, such as freeze-dried cheese (very good!) and cheese powder (okay for certain recipes), but learning how to make fresh, homemade cheese is entirely possible.
I wrote about Teddi Johnson in my book. She’s a mom from West Virginia who has taught herself how to make all sorts of cheeses. According to her, cream cheese is the easiest cheese to make. So, here is the recipe she uses, and I challenge you to make a batch this week! I’ll post additional tips and recipes in the coming days.
To make homemade cream cheese, let the milk mixture stand at 85 degrees until it’s the consistency of soft yogurt.
3 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup whipping cream
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine half-and-half and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture is 90 degrees. Stir in buttermilk. Pour mixture into a large glass or ceramic bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Wrap a large towel around entire bowl, and place bowl in an oven with light on or in a warm place, about 85 degrees, for 28 hours or until mixture is consistency of soft yogurt.
Cut several thicknesses of cheesecloth large enough to line a large colander and extend 4 inches over edges. Rinse cheesecloth, and squeeze out excess moisture; line colander with cheesecloth. Place colander in sink. Pour cream mixture into colander, and let drain 20 minutes. Place colander in a container to drain completely. Cover colander and container tightly with enough plastic wrap to make an airtight seal. Refrigerate 12 hours or until well drained. Spoon cheese mixture into a bowl, and stir in salt. If the cheese is to be flavored and molded according to the following recipes, then do so at this point.
If cheese is to be molded unflavored, cut 4 (8-inch-square) pieces of cheesecloth; rinse cheesecloth, and squeeze out excess moisture. Smooth out wrinkles of cheesecloth, and stack layers on top of each other. Spoon cheese mixture in center of cheesecloth. Wrap cheesecloth around cheese mixture, and tie ends securely. Pat cheesecloth wrapped cheese into an oval or round shape. (Cheese can also be shaped in desired mold. Line mold with cheesecloth, and spoon in cheese mixture, pressing with the back of a spoon to smoothly and firmly pack mixture.) Place
cheesecloth wrapped cheese (or invert mold) over a wire rack in a shallow pan. Cover pan with enough plastic wrap to make an airtight seal.
Refrigerate 1 to 2 days or until firm and well drained. Unmold cheese, and remove cheesecloth just before serving. Cheese will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Yield: about 2 cups.
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