Our Daring Cooks challenge this month introduced us to the world of cheese making. We have dabbled in this art once or twice before – most recently making Indian paneer cheese according to a recipe from Hari Nayak (whose cookbook we reviewed here). Encouraged by the success of that venture, our first cheesemaking attempt this month was with paneer’s close cousin from Italy: ricotta.
We based our ricotta on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, although it is very similar to the challenge recipe posted by Sawsan from chefindisguise – we figured that using lemon juice instead of vinegar to separate the milk would give more of the flavor profile we wanted. Of course, it’s all about the milk – we sought out some good quality local milk and cream to use, and were happy with the end result. Here’s what we ended up doing:
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup cream
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1. Combine the milk, cream and salt in a saucepan and heat to
190°F, stirring occasionally
2. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice. Leave undisturbed for 5 minutes
3. Drain through a colander (using several layers of cheesecloth – we always wondered why they called it cheesecloth!) After 1-2 hours it had firmed up nicely. (By the way, we kept the whey and I had it on my breakfast cereal during the week. Waste not want not!)
So what to do with about 2 cups of fresh homemade ricotta? Make spinach and ricotta gnocchi, of course – which we served with veal meatballs for a suitably spherical accompaniment!
Our next adventure was to make feta cheese, and this definitely felt like a step up in complexity. Not only would this be a firmer cheese (made with rennet, which causes the milk to gel) but we used raw goat’s milk. The end product turned out to be wonderfully ‘goaty’ tasting (this is a good thing!)
Recipe from the Bartolini kitchens
2 pints raw goat’s milk
1/2 tbsp live yogurt
1/8 rennet tablet dissolved in a little
water at room temperature
Briefly, after warming the milk, adding yogurt, adding rennet and leaving overnight, we had a nice soft gel with a ‘clean break’. We cut the cheese into curd lumps, left them to set and then strained them into a colander lined with cheesecloth:
After straining, we tied the cloth up and left it to drain for a few hours:
…then pressed it overnight so that it formed a nice little ‘cake’ of cheese.
As well as savoring it by itself, we made this into a pie filling with chicken, spinach, onion and dill:
And we even had enough to make one of our favorite salads, with wild rice, quinoa, sweet potato and dried Persian lime (from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty):
The One That Got Away… Burrathaloumi!
Our cheesemaking exploits would not be complete without one recipe that did not quite go as intended. We were intrigued by the possibility of making mozzarella cheese, and – undaunted by our complete lack of experience in this endeavor – decided to go one step further and make burrata. Burrata is a delicious fresh cheese which is essentially extra-creamy mozzarella stuffed inside mozzarella. Ours was not creamy at all. Squeaky might be a better description. We recognized it as being akin to halloumi, that Greek cheese you can grill. A quick internet search confirmed that we were not too far off on that hunch..
Perhaps another day we’ll try mozzarella. it definitely seems to be something that requires practice.
Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!