a home cook with notions & an appetite
Back to homemade cheese. This time, it’s queso blanco from Artisan Cheese Making at Home‘s chapter on fresh direct-acidification cheeses. Doesn’t that sound all science-y? It simply means that you add an acid directly to your dairy (acid meaning things like vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk and the like) in order to cause coagulation. Coagulation is the binding of milk solids that will become cheese. Simple, no?
Queso blanco is simply white cheese and husband was calling this ricotta the entire time. This isn’t ricotta, as it’s not made with whey – or even cheater ricotta that’s made with cream and milk to get it creamier. But it isn’t that far off. It’s queso blanco. White cheese. And, as you may have noticed, excellent on baguette with a bit of cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Ah, but where to start? The ingredients are simple:
That’s it. Honestly. Now, for the process. In case you missed my adventures in making yogurt, there’s the pre-prep of boiling my Dutch oven full of water for 20 minutes, along with ensuring the whisk, spatula, thermometer, colander and floursack towel I’ll be using are all extremely clean. You know, the kind of stuff that won’t lead to me passing pathogens from dirty utensils into my cheese.
Once I’ve got my clean area, patience is key. I heat my gallon of milk to 195° over medium heat. This takes over half an hour and I need to stir on a really regular basis to make sure that I’m not scorching milk on the bottom of the pan. The second that it hit my target temperature, I turned the heat off and whisked in the vinegar. Then, it’s time for magic. Okay, not magic. I cover the pan and walk away for 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, the purpose behind direct-acidification takes place. I open my pot and find a greenish whey floating along the top of my pot and coagulating milk proteins all along the bottom. I am very close to actual cheese. I just need to thoroughly drain the whey. And season a bit.
The first drain is an easy one into the colander lined with my floursack towel. Basically, this gets rid of a lot of the liquid. If I had been very industrious, this would have involved another container where I would have kept the whey for other uses, but this is beginner cheese and I’m just ready to concentrate on one thing right now. Once these were drained after 5 minutes, I got out surgical gloves (what, don’t you keep a box under the sink?) to keep the sanitary goodness going while I gently mixed in a generous teaspoon of kosher salt into my curds. Very gently – I didn’t want to break the curds. Once the salt was mixed in, I tied the opposite ends of my towel over the kitchen faucet to make a draining sack for my curds. Very McGuyver, no? At the end of an hour, I had queso blanco. Woo!
Queso blanco is a nice mild snacking cheese. Baguette, cracked pepper and sea salt – you can’t go wrong. Did I mention the best part? You’ll have a pound of cheese for the cost of a mere gallon of milk. A pound of cheese you made yourself.