Monday, June 27, 2011

Wisconsin Girl Makes Cheese at Home-- Queso Blanco

We've made paneer before, which is a cheese used in Indian cooking.  With my garden plans for this year of basil and tomatoes, I really want to learn to make fresh mozzarella before these veggies start coming in. Dave surprised me with a cheese making book and while I'm deciding what ingredients to order for the more complex cheeses, I thought I'd dry an easy recipe for Queso Blanco.  My immediate reaction to this process is that it was 90 degrees, we don't have air conditioning, I probably shouldn't have spent an hour over a hot stove making cheese.  Maybe it's more of a winter process?  I won't give up on my mozzarella dreams!

Before I show you the fun, why make your own cheese?  Frankly, because it's pretty darn cool.  The more hobbies I have, the better.  I don't need my mind rotting while I'm on "summer break."  Learning is fun.  Trying new things and succeeding makes a person feel good.  The flavors of cheeses made at home are going to be on par with the cheeses you might pay big bucks for at the grocery store, but will be infinitely better than the cheap cheeses you buy there.  I'm all for yummy cheese.  The ingredients for this cheese cost me about $12, mostly because the heavy whipping cream was so expensive (and Soopers didn't have regular old heavy cream, time to shop elsewhere for milk).  Keep in mind that I live in Colorado, where milk is not cheap.

Almost 2 gallons of milk, 3 cups of heavy cream, bring to 180 degrees F while stirring (BORING!)

Remove from heat and add a little over 1 cup of vinegar, stir for 10 minutes as curds form.  So cool!

Strain the whey from the curds using cheesecloth.  As you can see, I kept the whey because I attempted to make Ricotta with it afterwards with no luck.  This leads me to believe that the "whey" is not technically "whey" when you use vinegar.  Thoughts?  It's possible I didn't wait long enough for curd. 

Throw the curds back into the pot and stir in 0.9 oz. salt

Press.  Here's my ghetto cheese press.  Turns out, it didn't work very well and after letting it sit over night, I made another press in a cake pan and put 35lbs of weights ontop of it to try to get more whey to drain.  
Queso Blanco in a cake pan.  Apparently it's supposed to be hard, but it's not.  I will have to work on the pressing for my next batch, which will probably be more authentic and more complex.  You're supposed to serve it sauteed in butter.  It tastes really good, but I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to make it firm. 

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