Yup, I was surprised at the simplicity too.
I bought a cheese making kit last year and have spectacularly failed to use it so far. My bad. Kept telling myself it was hard to get fresh, straight-from-the-dairy milk. So when we saw Over The Moon selling their lovely milk (and cream, and ricotta and many good things) at The Entrance Market recently, there really was no excuse. We bought 2 litres of whole, unhomogenised milk.
Back home, I got out the Home Cheese Making book, and started to read. I soon realised that I didn’t have the starter stuff they were talking about. In the dim distant bits of my brain that hold onto this sort of thing, I recalled the chaps at the Home Cheese Making Co telling me something about making a starter, with lots of talk of insulated tubs and keeping things at 72 degrees for 24 hours. Or some such. As my course with them isn’t until April, I couldn’t cross examine them for a few weeks so I plumped for the easiest recipe in the book instead – queso blanco.
This is a soft white cheese, often used for frying – like a haloumi I suppose. Ingredients:
- whole milk
- cider vinegar
Sounded up my street. I took the milk, brought it to 185°F and added 2 tablespoons of vinegar.The recipe wasn’t clear on whether to take the milk off the heat so I left it on, seeing as it said “you can increase the temperature to 200°F in order to use less vinegar”. The milk started to split and curdle, and a few curds floated to the top. Not a huge amount really, so I let it go for 5 minutes or so, and then drained it through muslin folded 4 times.
Something made me save the whey – I’d heard you can make ricotta from whey – so once I’d knotted the muslin & hung up the queso blanco to drip on my jelly bag stand, I brought the whey up to 200°F again, and added another tablespoon of vinegar. This time, it instantly spilt into large lumps of curd and the whey changed colour to a faintly greenish thin liquid. Bingo!this time the curds split out of the whey instantly
I drained the whey down the sink, and the resulting curd lump (aka ricotta) was actually bigger than the lump of queso blanco. Weird! Science in action! I feel like an alchemist.
We let both bags of curd drain for about 5 or 6 hours, until they stopped dripping. The curds were slightly rubbery, and very bland, with the queso blanco being the firmer of the two.
both cheeses draining with the aid of a jelly strainer stand
Adding salt and a little cream to the ricotta untterly transformed it though – it became a delicious, if slightly rubberier than normal ricotta.
It was, as promised by the book, delicious fried with salt & pepper!
I can’t believe how simple it is! The ricotta was my favourite of the two, and was also delicious with a drizzle of honey.