We’re getting cheesy this month for First on the First! With homemade cheese, that is. Taking something into our own kitchens that we’ve only trusted professionals with before.
After reading The Whole Fromage for my virtual book club, From Left to Write, I became quite enamored with the idea of cheesemaking. France has this wonderful history of regional cheeses–hundreds, in fact–varying from village to village. I wish I could say I have intimate knowledge of a rich tradition like this, but alas, I do not. The oldest recipe in my arsenal comes from my mom–a method for making mac and cheese that we both learned from the high school Foods department. We just don’t have recipes passed down from generation to generation like that, and certainly nothing having to do with manipulating milk.
There was a short period in my life when I entertained the thought of raising goats. (And llamas. And chickens. For some reason, I seem to think I’m a farmer.) I went on a bender viewing The Fabulous Beekman Boys last year, fueling the fire. Reading The Lost Husband contributed further to my fantasy life. Romanticized ideas about goat farming danced in my head, squashed immediately by a husband dead set against any agricultural lifestyle I could imagine. It’s not meant to be.
What I didn’t realize is that I didn’t need the farm to make the cheese. Or massive caves in special terroir, either. Simple tastes could be satisfied with simple cheeses, right from my own kitchen.
Cheese is much more of a scientific journey than an interpretive dance. Exactness is key, often right down to the temperature reached and for how long sustained. This can pose some bigger challenges for neophytes. Kate‘s cheese, sadly, did not survive the process. She’ll share her experience with us in her Weekend Whisk wrap-up on Saturday. Anna expressed some concerns about hers, as well. More forays into the First on the First-ers’ cheesemaking can be found here:
- First on the first: Cheese! by Jenny of Sweet Jenny’s of CT
- Homemade Ricotta (Cookies) by Suitcases & Sweets
- Creamy Mozzarella Cheese by Hidden Ponies
Next month we’ll be twisting and turning away… making candy canes! Just in time for the holiday season! If you’d like to join us, click on the #FirstOnTheFirst tab above for more information. The more, the merrier!
And now, my homemade cheese. I discovered the method on The Italian Dish. While this isn’t a “true” ricotta in that it wasn’t started with whey from already-made cheese (ricotta meaning, literally, recooked), the end result is a close-enough substitute for the real deal, and certainly superior to supermarket alternatives. The procedure is quite easy and other than some babysitting of the pot to ensure you don’t scorch the milk, there isn’t a whole lot to it–including no need for thermometers and precise timing of a multitude of steps. This is the perfect cheese for the first-timer. Bolstered by this success, I’m looking forward to delving deeper in the future.
Homemade Ricotta(esque) Cheese
- 2 quarts 1/2 gallon organic whole milk
- 1 cup organic heavy cream
- 3/4 teaspoon Maldon salt
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 lemon should be sufficient
- Place a wire mesh strainer over a 2-quart bowl and line with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Set aside.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan (I used my 6-quart enameled cast iron pot), whisk together the milk, cream, and salt.
- Cook over medium to medium high heat, stirring often, until it comes to a rolling boil. This will take a while. Be patient and don't rush it, or you will ruin the milk.
- Once the milk has achieved a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the lemon juice.
- Stir constantly, continuing to cook for 2 more minutes.
- Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer, allowing the whey to drain through into the bowl.
- Let sit for about 20 minutes before transferring to a covered container and refrigerating. (You can let it drain longer, but it will be dryer; conversely, less time draining will make a moister cheese.)
- Use within 48 hours.
*The whey that remains can be used in breadmaking as a liquid replacement. Since there is no rennent in this cheese, however, it cannot be used to make other cheese.
Do you dream of cheese? Which would you like to try making?