Think it’s challenging to make homemade cheese? Not at all. For the holidays this year, instead of buying a ready made cheese ball, buy a cheesecloth, whole, organic milk, distilled vinegar and voila! You’ve churned out fresh, homemade cheese!
This recipe is easy since it only requires a one-hour wait time with hardly any labor. The cheese contains fresh oregano leaves and a chili pepper. This exquisite cheese has a consistency that is between burrata and ricotta. Impress them all – Happy Holidays!
Note: Red dots in the photographed cheese are chili peppers.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Wait time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (for cheese curds to set)
1 gallon whole, organic milk
1/2 cup distilled, white vinegar
1 cheesecloth, set in a medium-mesh, metal strainer over a medium glass or porcelain bowl or saucepot
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano or dried red chili pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or fresh chives
1 cup walnut meats
Assorted crackers or mini-toasts and raw vegetables
Boil Milk & Let Curds Set:
1. Pour 1 gallon milk into an 6 to 8-quart sauce pot.
2. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, warm the milk until it almost comes to a boil. The milk should not boil.
3. When the milk is hot and has almost come to a boil, set the sauce pot with the milk aside on a cold burner or a trivet set on a countertop.
4. Pour the vinegar into the milk – DO NOT STIR. Set the milk/vinegar mixture in sauce pot aside to sit for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, making sure to trim the cheesecloth so that you can push it down into a strainer set over a bowl or sauce pot; allow an overhang of about 8 inches.
6. After 10 minutes, you will see curds setting in the milk/vinegar mixture.
7. At this time, gently pour the milk-vinegar mixture into the strainer set with a cheesecloth over bowl or sauce pot.
8. If the sauce pot underneath the strainer is not large enough to take all the liquid, pour only half of the milk-vinegar mixture over cheesecloth.
9. It will take a few minutes for half of the liquid to go through completely.
10. When half of the liquid has gone through the cheesecloth and if bowl underneath does not look large enough to take all the liquid, set the strainer over another bowl or sauce pot.
11. Pour the remaining liquid over the curds in strainer set over bowl or sauce pot.
12. This procedure may take a few minutes.
13. When all the liquid (this is the whey) has been drained and collected in the 2 bowl(s) or sauce pot(s), transfer all the whey to a large sauce pot.
14. Add the salt, black pepper and chopped chili pepper to the whey.
15. Immediately pour they whey with the salt, pepper and chili pepper over the curds in strainer.
16. You may have to wait a few minutes for part of the whey to go through the curds in strainer.
17. As the whey goes through, keep adding the remaining whey mixture until you have poured all of it over the curds.
18. Set the curds/strainer aside to drain for 1 hour.
Form the Cheese & Refrigerate:
1. After 1 hour, scatter the chopped oregano leaves over cheese curds.
2. Lift the sides of the cheesecloth, bringing it up and around the cheese curds and slightly tighten it. If the cheese curds still appear wet, let them finish draining for an additional 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, tighten the cheesecloth around the cheese, gathering it at the center top.
4. Carefully peel off the cheesecloth from the cheese and place the cheese in a 5 to 6-inch round bowl lined with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap has a 6-inch overhang.
5. Tighten the plastic wrap up and around the cheese and secure it with twine or an elastic band.
6. Cover the cheese in bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.
Unmold the Cheese & Serve:
1. TO UNMOLD THE CHEESE: Carefully peel off and unwrap the top part of the plastic wrap.
2. Open up the plastic wrap around the cheese, creating an overhang outside the bowl.
3. Place serving plate over cheese and quickly invert it.
4. Remove the bowl and peel off the plastic wrap.
5. Decorate the cheese with walnuts and serve with crackers, mini-toasts or celery and carrots.
Note: Homemade cheese will keep, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 5 days.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real