Category Archives: Cheese

Adventures in Cheese Making

The other day I posted some pictures of my gigantic handmade lasagna, and mentioned that the cheese encased within its bubbly layers was totally handmade.  I promised to drop the skinny on you, so here it is, the story of my big cheesy adventure.

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Would you believe everything you need to make cheese is pictured above? For serious. That's all there is to it! Of course, if you get into some more serious kinds of cheese, you'll probably need more ingredients. But for Ricotta and a simple Paneer, these staples will do you. According to some rumors I've heard you may even be able to make Queso Fresco from these simple ingredients. (Be still my heart!) 

Ricotta Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon Whole Milk
  • 2 Cups Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 teaspoons Lemon Juice

I got my Ricotta recipe and instructions from this very thorough article posted on the foodie blog, Eggs On Sunday.  Though the recipe originated on Epicurious, Eggs on Sunday provides some valuable insight and tips to make your Ricotta come out perfectly on the very first shot.  Eggs on Sunday opted to half the original recipe, but because I am totally nuts, I decided to double it.  The process is very simple: Gently heat the milk, salt, and cream to a simmer, carefully stirring the entire time to keep the milk from scalding. At simmer, add the lemon juice (all at once), give it one quick stir, then let it sit for one minute. Stir again, sit another minute, then stir and simmer for two more minutes.  Immediately drain the pot into a cheesecloth and colander and allow it to drain for an hour.  Once the curds have cooled you can squeeze some of the excess water out of the cheese cloth.  Boom! You have a batch of frash, handmade Ricotta, the creamiest, richest Ricotta you probably have ever tasted. This stuff would make INCREDIBLE canolis.

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Here is a shot of my Ricotta. This is roughly half of the cheese I made. The other half I reserved for making Paneer.

Paneer begins where the Ricotta enters the colander to drain.  After the cheese entered the colander, I carefully spooned out the portion I was using for my Ricotta and drained it seperately.  I allowed my Paneer curds to cool slightly, then began squeezing out the moisture through the cheescloth. Squeeze, squeeze squeeze.  This was sort of messy, so I suggest doing this over the sink.   After I was done squeezing, I wrapped my cheese intoa bundle, and squicshed it onto a dish, making it about 1 inch thick.  I topped the bundle with another dish, and weighed it down with a giant can of tomatos.  This helps to squeeze out the last of the water.  I let the cheese drain for about an hour, then removed the cheese cloth.  Neato completo, my cheese was finished.

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While my Paneer came out pretty well, there are a couple of things I will do differently next time.  Firstly,
I plan to have two colanders and two cheesecloths on hand to drain the
pot of cheese.  This will make separating the two portions of cheese
easier.  Instead of spooning away, I'll simply pour half into each
colander.  Second, I plan on salting the curds after they enter the
colander. The cheese was rich and creamy, but a little bland for
Paneer. I am also playing with the idea of spicing the curds.  You can
check out the original recipe for Paneer posted by Emma on The Kitchn.  Check out the comments, as there are some great tips avaialble.

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Estoy en amor con un queso

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<——- Queso Fresco, my new favorite cheese.  One of the great things about living in Danbury, CT is that there is a huge variety of hispanic, south american, and latin foods on hand.  Since these tend to be my very favorite foods, you could say that a trip to my local C-Town is for me, what outlet shopping is to fashionistas. I love me some mystery ingredients, and C-Town is swimming in them.

I’ve only just recently begun to really dive into my newfound passion for cooking. I have always loved the idea of cooking, but in the past couple of years I have really come to love and appreciate every little bit of it.  Perhaps this appreciation is due to my experience formulating bath and body products. Dealing with scents from the construction perspective forces you to pay attention to different layers of scents and aroma, pulling apart a single fragrance into a variety of notes.  I suppose it is only natural that the same concept would begin to apply to the food I was cooking at home.  Only with food, there is a whole other level to excite me, FLAVOR.  Aroma, flavor, texture, the whole package just gets me all riled up.

Anyway, my point was that since I am a relative beginner to the kitchen arts, there are many many ingredients that are completely foreign to me.  Visiting a grocery store like C-Town is really thrilling, because it reminds me just how far I have to go when it comes to learning to cook. Queso Fresco is just the first of many ingredients that will thrill me, but it really is something special.  Looking for a taste sensation? Make yourself some enchiladas and fill those bad boys with a mixture of Queso Fresco and shredded chicken.  Pair it with some Jasmine Rice boiled in chicken broth, turmeric, paprika, and sofrito. So so so good.  The Queso won’t really melt inside the enchilada. Instead, it holds a
soft, spongy kind of texture similar to Indian Paneer, but with a much
stronger flavor.  Speaking of Paneer, my next intense cooking mission is to make a batch of it at home, then attempt to create a simple Indian dish for it to swim in. Maybe Palak Paneer? Maybe? We’ll see.

Want to learn more about Mexican Cheeses? Check out this page, it covers all the basics!

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