Tag Archive: cheese

or, Two Good Reasons for Owning Your Own Dairy Cow

My mommy is visiting today, so part of today’s adventure included making things that Mommy knows how to make, and I only knew in a vague sort of ‘yeah, yeah’ fashion: yogurt, and paneer. I should have taken pictures of the process, but I was more interested in not screwing up, so I didn’t.

Start with milk. It doesn’t really matter how much, or what kind of milk, really, but ultra-high temperature pasteurized milk will require more effort. Fat content matters not a whit, unless you have a preference to avoid something that resembles blue sidewalk chalk more than real food. Remember, though, that I subscribe to the Paula Deen School of Cooking (“Everything’s bettah with buttah!”), and thus I used six quarts of whole milk.

In the beginning, there was milk, and a surface, and heat, and God said: This better not stick! Gimme a spoon. -The Gospel of Cheese, according to Mrs. Tony’s Mommy

We’ll start with the cheese. You’ll need milk, a heavy-bottomed pot, a cheesecloth, a colander, some lemon juice, a couple of dinner plates, and a heavy bag of beans.

Pour a gallon of milk into your heavy-bottomed pot. Don’t use a flimsy pot, unless you like your cheese to be close, personal friends with atomic element number six. Bring the milk to something close to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring at least periodically. I’m pretty anal retentive when I’m learning how to make something for the first time, so I stood over it and stirred pretty constantly. Make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom for very long; if you do, don’t scrape it up, ’cause it’s nasty and crunchy and black. The objective is to get the milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, to kill off the nasties that conspire to make you sick, but it’s easier to bring the milk to a boil. Once the milk has foamed, and is beginning to be active in the middle, you’re at the right place.

Line your colander with your cheesecloth, and rest it in your sink; you’ll be happier for this than to try and strain into a bowl, which only creates more mess. Mix about half a cup of lemon juice with a bit more than a cup of hot water, and gradually pour it into your now-close-to-boiling milk. Stir constantly, and watch the magic as the milk curdles. Once you’ve given it two or three minutes to itself, it’ll be pretty well separated, so empty it into your lined colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water, both to remove the lemon juice, and because it’s convenient to retain the skin on your hands.

Bundle up the cheesecloth and twist it up in a ball around the cheese, and squeeze out the remainder of the water and whey. Once it’s as wrung out as you can manage with you hands, plop it on a plate and open the cloth up. Then, fold the cloth loosely around the ball, and plop the other plate on top, followed by the beans. I’ve currently got about ten pounds of daal and chana sitting on top of my improvised cheese press. I tried using one of my cast iron pans, but it didn’t really want to stay put, hence the beans.

Once the cheese is imitating Queen feat. David Bowie, it’s time to get started on the yogurt. For the yogurt, you’ll need milk, a smaller heavy-bottomed pot, some containers and a culture. In this case, the culture is probably going to be a few tablespoons from your previous batch of yogurt. Dannon ‘All Natural’ or something of similar ilk will be perfectly fine as a culture as well, but anything pasteurized is going to make you wait around for a Zap Gun for Hire.

Pour two quarts of whole milk into a smaller, but no less heavy-bottomed than the one you used for cheese. You’ll need enough headroom left for your spoon, and a healthy dollop of the culture. Heat this milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, stirring frequently to as to prevent sticking and burning (see the same bit about cheese), and then turn the heat off and let it cool down to between 90° and 110°. This will take a while, so go do your laundry. Then walk your dog. Then wash your cat. Then read War & Peace. Come back to it, and it might be ready to work with. I started writing this post after I had set a timer to let the milk cool, and it only just cooled off enough to contemplate adding the culture to it about the time I finished the first draft.

You’ll need a convenient place that’s warm enough to allow your culture to propagate, so if you don’t have a place in your house that consistently above 75 degrees, you can probably use your oven. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that’s just fine as-is; otherwise, preheat it to the lowest setting it has, and then turn it off. Mix the culture into your pot full of warm milk, and then distribute into whatever containers you have to contain your yogurt; I used five regular-mouth 1-cup mason jars and 1 wide-mouth 1-quart mason jar, which didn’t get quite filled. Put a lid on your containers (the plastic screwtops for mason jars are wonderful things), and then stash them in your oven which should be hanging out around 110 once you open it to put your yogurt in. Leave the yogurt to incubate until it is sufficiently set, and as strongly flavored as you like, then tuck it in your refrigerator. Remember as you’re eating your delicious new yogurt to keep some aside as a culture for your next batch; you can use as little as a teaspoon for a gallon of milk, but it will take a long time to set, so about a tablespoon of yogurt per quart is about right.

Once upon a time, KN bought me some dill Havarti cheese, and upon taking my first bite, I thought two things.

One, “…where have you been all my life? This is even more delicious than the dill Havarti Grandpa buys, which is sliced so thinly one can’t taste anything. Must not melt on chair…”

Two, “…this needs to be put in mashed potatoes. Like, now.”

Some weeks, a new bag of potatoes, and a fresh block of cheese later, this is what happened:

Mashing potatoes is a great stress reliever. Beware the woman with the masher.

While I worked on the cheesy goodness, KN made us some roasted red pepper sauce:

The florescent light in our smallish kitchen does the sauce no justice — it looks washed-out, but it’s really a pale orange. And très yum.

Now we just have to decide what kind of pasta we’re having for dinner.