Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fresh Cheese and Tartines


homemade FRESH CHEESE // fresh cheese TARTINES

Since the last post, I've been eating soft farmer's cheese every morning with a toasted English muffin and apricot jam.  It has been a real treat to wake up with, and now one of my favorite ingredients, in general.

I didn't realize when I attempted to make cheese for the first time - this firmer, pressed cheese photographed - I'd also be learning how to make spreadable farmer's cheese along the way.  My intent was to learn how to make Indian paneer, the firm cubed cheese you'd find in dishes like saag paneer, but along the way I realized how simple basic cheese-making can be.  If you love cheese, and you have the time to experiment, this basic recipe can really take you in many cheesy directions.  You can follow all the steps below to get a fresh, but firm, pressed cheese that is like an Indian paneer or Mexican queso fresco, or you can stop after step four for a spreadable version (and reduce the salt a bit if you want it to pair well with fruit, honey, or jam).  It's also pretty clear that you could add herbs, black pepper, or a number of other flavors to the curds to spice up the end result.

While fresh cheese-making is simple - just a matter of adding an acid to milk and bringing it to a temperature where the curds and whey separate - there are some rules I learned after my first failed attempt.  Most importantly, don't let your milk heat too fast.  Stir it constantly over medium-high heat until it comes to temperature, otherwise the bottom will scald and the curds and whey won't separate.  While some recipes you might find will tell you to add your acidic element to the milk after it bubbling, for me this didn't work, and bringing all the ingredients to temperature at the same time was both easier and a success.  Finally, if it is anything else than blatantly obvious that the curds and whey have separated in the pot, don't strain it yet.  Only when you clearly see your pot is full of just curds and translucent whey, then you can strain.

The cheese you get with this recipe is super versatile, just very mild, a little tangy, and a little salty.  In this case, it worked for both sweet and savory tartines, and was particularly good, texture-wise, with grilled French bread.




Ingredients:
  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp. salt

Featured Tartines:
  • Cherry tomato & salt
  • Pomegranate & honey
  • Apricot jam & walnut

Process:
  1. Mix all the ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Over medium-high heat, slowly stir the pot for about 10 minutes, or until the curds and whey separate.  Stir slowly and constantly throughout to avoid scalding the milk.  It should bubble, but not boil, reaching a temperature of about 180 degrees. 
  3. Strain through a colander lined with a triple layer of cheesecloth.  Let sit for five minutes while it drains and cools.
  4. Collect the ends of the cheese cloth and twist, draining as much whey from the cheese as possible.  (You now have spreadable cheese that can be served).
  5. For firmer cheese, place the bundle between two plates, with a weight on top to continue to press and drain the cheese. Allow to sit for 30-40 minutes, and then transfer to the refrigerator to cool.  
  6. Remove from cheese cloth and store in the refrigerator in plastic wrap. 

Step-by-Step Images:

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