OK, so this is a bit “off piste” being neither to do with the allotment, nor wheat free cooking. However, we bought our daughter a digital thermometer and various other tools for making cheese as a Christmas present and I thought to myself “I could do that!”. It turns out that I can.
I always assumed that making your own cheese would be complex, need difficult things and result in something that was essentially inedible. However, it turns out to be the exact opposite. To make a a perfectly acceptable cottage cheese, the only tools you need are:
- A Large Pan (one big enough to take the milk about 4 litres);
- A Thermometer (probably not needed once you get to understand it better);
- Some Muslin to drain the cheese in;
- A Colander to collect the curds in;
- A Long Knife to cut up the curds;
- Somewhere to hang the curds whilst they drain;
- Something to catch the drips of whey whilst the cheese is drying.
The ingredients are equally simple:
- Whole Milk (we like to use 4 pints of Tesco’s whole milk and 1 litre of Jersey milk but plain whole milk works fine);
- Full Fat Creme Fraiche (100g per litre of milk);
- Rennet (1-2 drops per litre of milk);
- Salt (to taste).
Rennet is probably the most awkward bit to get but its “widely available”from household shops such as Lakeland.
And the instructions are straight forward:
- 4 pints of whole milk, 1 litre of Jersey and 300g creme fraiche makes about 750g Cottage Cheese and 100g of Ricotta.
- Pour the milk into the pan and warm it gently up to 28 – 30C then take it off the heat and stir in the Creme Fraiche. Let it cool down to about 20C and then add the Rennet. The best way to do this is to mix the drops of rennet into a tablespoon of cooled boiled water (make sure its cooled otherwise the rennet will be killed off by the heat).
- Leave it to stand covered for about 12 hours keeping it at room temperature.
- What you will have now is something that looks a bit like blancmange, it will wobble but should be set.
- Cut the curds into 1cm(ish) blocks and put the pan back on the heat. Heat it up (again gently) to about 43C and then hold it around that temperature for about 15 minutes by when the curds will have become more “crumbly”. The way we do this is to heat the curds and whey up to 43C and then move the pan off the heat. The heat in the base of our thick based pan then takes the mixture up to about 45C and then down again after 15 minutes.
- At this point, the mixture have liquid (whey) with lots of lumps in it (curds). Line the colander with a double layer of muslin and pour the curds and whey through the muslin keep the whey to make Ricotta.
- Bring the corners of the muslin together and hang it somewhere out of the way to drain. We leave it about 24 hours but essentially you want to leave it until its stopped dripping.
- Make the Ricotta: In the same pan as you have just used for the cottage cheese, gently heat the whey (and any residual bits of curds that you couldn’t get out of the pan for the cottage cheese) up to at least 83C. The exact temperature isn’t important so long as its over 83C but take care that it doesn’t boil over as, like milk, it can boil very quickly and get out of control. Keep it above 83C for about 15 minutes and then take off the heat.
- The whey will have gone a bit yellower and there will be a fine suspension of curds. Leave it to cool down a bit so you can handle it easily.
- Quadruple (or more) some more muslin and line the colander. Pour the contents of the pan through the colander. It may take several attempts because the ricotta curds are very fine and you don’t want them washing straight through the muslin. We have done this using a cheese mould but it makes it a much slower process.
- Hang the cheese up to drain. Unfortunately at this point you have taken all the goodness out of the whey so unless you’ve got some animals you can feed it to it has to go down the drain.
- When the cheeses have drained, put them in bowls and add salt to taste. (We don’t like a lot of salt so it really is up to you how much to add).
- Put them into appropriate sized pots and keep in the fridge.
There you are. 750g of cottage cheese and 100g of Ricotta, for the grand sum of about £2.90 and a little time. Pot them up and keep them in the fridge. I don’t know how long they will keep because we’ve always eaten them within two weeks.