I have much to learn myself about cheese making, but my friend Chef Nancy has some great advice on the subject, so I asked:
I know that you teach classes on cheese-making! I only make a stovetop acidic version. I have a goal to learn true cheesemaking but feel intimidated. Could you help me overcome that? What do I need to know, what resources should I read?
I love making Queso Blanco. It is a great first cheese. Have you added herbs and extra salt to it? Also, it will really grill, did you know that? I have actually coated thick slices with a high quality olive oil and put them on the grill…for the ULTIMATE “Grilled Cheese” sandwich- no bread!
In getting started some of the basics are:
1) The best milk is raw but you can use pasteurized- just not UHT or ultra-pasteurized milk to make your cheeses.
2) Make sure all equipment is cleaner than clean- I am not a real stickler for this and have paid the price more than once!
3) Have time to finish your recipe (I messed up a lot of cheese by not planning the timing correctly).
4) Learn the look, textures, smells of the different stages of your process.
The Intimidation Factor
We all start somewhere and just like teaching kids to sit on the potty or tie shoes (do kids tie shoes today?), you start with an easy recipe. Get some friends together and “go for it”! And then do it over and over again. Our modern culture has robbed many by making these dishes seem “out of reach‟ and having chefs “perform” while making them instead of telling folks that in the old days almost everyone in a rural setting made some kind of cheese or bought it from a neighbor who made it at home. So you can do it, too.
Like most things in life, practice is what makes a good cheese maker. We have our own cows so when they are in milk, that’s when I make cheese and even if I make a complete mess out of a recipe (it has happened) I’ve got chickens and pigs who LOVE my mess-ups! Nothing is wasted. You just have to decide to NOT be intimidated.
Two of the best books I have found (I know there are many, many great ones) are Cheese Making At Home from the Center for Essential Education (Ploughshare Institute).
They are located in Elm Texas, right outside of Waco. The other one is Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. They are both easy and give simple directions.
Another easy way to get started is with soft cheeses, both of the books above offer soft cheese recipes. One of my favorites that also gets my whey supply is Labaneh which is a traditional Middle Eastern Cheese (the recipe is in “Cheese Making at Home”.
Chaya’s note: The same institute that created the “Cheese Making at Home” gem has also created two amazing cheese-making kits! If you’re still not sure about your ability to jump in, go for the kits!
A Basic Recipe to Get Started
I am sure that if you are making lactic acid food stuffs you are using whey from yogurt, so you are half-way there. If you have not started using whey yet, here is the first step:
Buy (or make) high fat plain yogurt (1 qt size) and get a bowl that you’ve fitted a strainer over. Take a cotton cloth (I use plain 100% cotton hankies) and drape over the strainer, gently dump the chilled yogurt into the cloth. Let the yogurt drain for 6 hours or overnight. Collect the whey and put into a glass bottle for other uses (like liquid gold). The longer the yogurt drains, the drier your cheese. Take it out of your draining cloth and roll up spoonful sizes, drop them into a small jar in which you have placed your favorite herbs, add a layer of cheese balls, layer of herbs, seasonings and I add a little salt. Cover with olive oil. It will keep longer if you refrigerate it. After a few days (for flavors to mingle) take out and place on plate with toast, crackers, celery, etc. Hallelujah , you’ve added another cheese to your listJ
Thank you, Chef Nancy. We are motivated, and ready to try something new!
Enjoyed this blog? Here are others from Chef Nancy:
If you live in East Texas-- and want to get farm fresh products, buy a mini Hereford of your own, hire a personal chef, or take some real foods cooking classes from Chef Nancy, check out these sites:
Chef Nancy's Cooking Services Site (classes and personal chef)
If you've made all the way through to the photo credits, you deserve a coupon code!
Buy Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carrol for 25% off, now through June 30, 2012. Use the coupon code: QUESO