When milk is sweet, rich and fresh this simple cheese is a real everyday treat. Requiring no special equipment, exotic cultures & rennet or complicated procedures, it's a great entry to cheese making. While it takes a couple of hours to make, it requires little active attention - this is an easy pantry basic to fit into your weekly schedule.
Ever so useful, enjoy it plain, drizzle it with olive oil or honey, mix in some herbs or use it as a base for cheesecakes, dips & spreads - I use it any way you would use fresh mozzarella or ricotta. The buttermilk adds a little tang that I really like.
Large heavy bottomed pot - I use a stainless stock pot
inexpensive food thermometer with a range of 0 - 220F
butter muslin, old pillowcase or thin cotton dishtowel
Half Gallon (two quarts) whole milk, room temperature*
8 Tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice**
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Before you begin, make sure your pot, colander, stirring spoon (avoid wood - I use slotted stainless) muslin or cloth are very clean. Wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse thoroughly in hot water, and then let air-dry. Bring a pot of water to a boil and submerge your muslin. Boil for ten minutes before starting. I then just move the pot from the heat, cover and leave the muslin in the hot water until it's time to use it. Remove with tongs & squeeze out excess water, then line your colander with the clean cloth.
Start with room temperature milk. Pour all the milk into your pot, add the vinegar, cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, until the milk begins to curdle. Stir thoroughly, but gently.
Heat your curdled milk slowly, uncovered to 200F. Watch carefully and do not let the milk boil. Scalded milk will change the flavor of the cheese. While still edible, it will not have the fresh milky flavor that makes this cheese such a joy.
Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or until curd has separated from the whey.
Your whey should be a clear, yellowish liquid.
Place the colander inside a larger pot or bowl, line with the muslin or cloth, and pour in the cooled buttermilk. Make sure the
colander is well above the liquid in the bowl and let drain until no more whey drips from the bottom, about 1 hour. The longer you drain, the dryer the curd - I like to let mine drain overnight. Note: I save this whey and use it in stock, meatloaf, and baking. Fresh whey is nutrition dense and very useful.
Remove curds from the muslin and transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in the salt if using - I greatly prefer this cheese with the salt.
Press firmly into the container pressing out any air pockets to be sure the cheese will slice nicely.
Makes about 14 ounces to one pound of cheese. Keep covered in refrigerator up to 1 week depending on the freshness of the milk.
* Gently pasteurized cream top milk is ideal. Avoid using ultra-pasteurized milk.
** I prefer vinegar because the acid content is more reliable. Your choice won't affect the flavor of the finished cheese.