Well, we are still loving the milk cow. Probably more than ever. This week I’ll have two dairy-based recipes for you. The first is still a work in progress; queso blanco with herbs. I love cheese. I blame my grandpa, who was a big cheese lover. Papa always had some kind of different cheese around, and was always willing to share… at least a little bit.
Making your own cheese is actually pretty easy… especially if you have a lot of high fat milk to use. Jersey milk is just about 5% fat content. The higher the fat content the better the cheese.
There are basically two ways to make cheese; acid set and rennet set. Acid set uses temperature and and acid–vinegar, lemon juice, etc–to separate the curd from the whey. Rennet set cheeses use rennet; an enzyme taken from either the stomach of a calf, or from vegetable based processing.
So far, I have been experimenting more with the acid set cheeses. They are simple, soft cheeses, and they can be delicious.
To make the queso blanco, warm the milk on the stove to 75 degrees Celsius. I usually use about 1 gallon of milk, one day’s reward for having our own cow.
Once the milk is at 75, remove it from heat and add about a quarter cup of lemon juice, or roughly the same amount of vinegar (white or apple cider) or a blend. I have read to put it in a table spoon at a time until the whey and curd seperate, but I just usually dump mine in a give it a stir and then let it sit for 15 minutes or so.
At this point, your pot should contain a lot of clear/yellow whey, and some white curd floating on top. I fish my curd out with a 4 inch stainless steel fine-meshed strainer. I spread it out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle the herb mixture on it. The herb mix is: 1/2 a tsp each of dried basil, oregano, and thyme, 2 tsp dried dill, 2.5 tsp garlic powder, 2.5 tsp cheese salt.
I only use about half of this mixture on the cheese, and then save the other half for next time.
Then I mix the curds together with my hands until it’s well mixed. Then comes the part that I still haven’t mastered, pressing the cheese. The longer you press it, the firmer the cheese. Queso blanco can be made firm enough to grate, or loose enough to spread. I am currently using a system of stackable Tupperware and elastic bands to press mine, but am waiting to buy a cheese mold.
The heavier the weight, the more whey comes out, and the tighter the curds bind. It is great on crackers, on bread, by itself… It can be fried in pastas or other such dishes as it won’t really melt. It will get soft, but not melt like a cheddar.
I have also smoked a brick of plain queso blanco on the Traeger, and need to experiment with types smoke…
If you try it, let me know how it goes. If you have a cheese recipe or a different herb mix that I should try, send it my way.