Post # 305 Makin’ Cheese (really!)

November 5, 2014 at 3:51 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 305 Makin’ Cheese (really!)

I’m going to tell you two ways to make some incredibly tasty and incredibly easy cheese to use in nearly any cheese recipe that calls for “generic” type cheese.  I love cheese.  I’ve often been told that my sandwiches are just vehicles for getting cheese into my mouth.  Might be true.  Nonetheless, I eat cheese a lot, and I eat all kinds of cheese.  I’ve been wanting to turn my hand to cheese making as they do “old style”, but haven’t found the time, space, or resources.  These two recipes are so easy, and require so little in the way of “tools” that it’s hard not to try them.  And they make enough for one or two meals so there’s none to throw away before it spoils.

The first is a soft and spreadable cheese, similar to cream cheese.  Cream cheese is a fresh, soft cheese that has not been aged.  It has a tangy and nutty flavor that lends itself well to adding other ingredients for new flavor combinations.  You can go through a long cooking process to make cream cheese, or you can follow this very simple process using yogurt.  Greek style yogurt is best, but you can using any yogurt you have available.

Start with one quart of plain yogurt and stir into it any herbs or spices you may want.  The choice is really up to you and what you want the spread to be for.  For instance, if you’re going to spread on crackers for an appetizer and want to have a savory taste, use fresh dill, or cilantro, or peppers.  If you want to use for fruit or cakes, use cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or some other sweet based spice.  Don’t use honey until after the spread is made.  Honey attracts moisture from the air, and this process is meant to eliminate the moisture from the yogurt.  Once you’ve added any extra flavors (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not adding any until just before serving), layer a fine mesh strainer with four layers of cheese cloth and balance it over a bowl.  Pour the yogurt into the strainer.

yogurt cheese 4

Cover the yogurt, and place the bowl and filled strainer into the fridge.  Allow the yogurt to drain for 24 hours.  You can hurry this process along by putting a saucer on the cheese cloth and a medium sized can of anything on the saucer.  The consistency is really a matter of taste and utility.  If you’re making a simple spread, less time is needed.  If you’re going to use the cheese for something else, like a frosting or a cheesecake, it needs to be firmer with less moisture.   The thing that is critical at this stage is to leave it in the fridge while it’s “weeping.”  Once the cheese is done, remove the cheese cloth.  If you added anything at the start, those flavors will be infused throughout the cheese.  If you add at the end, the plain tanginess of the cheese shines through, with added flavors giving it an added measure.  This can be used for all kinds of things, but I usually spread it on crackers or bread bites.

Herbed-Yogurt-Cheese

Good stuff!

Have you ever tried to make your own ricotta cheese?  It’s so easy it will surprise you.  You can make as much or as little as you like, but it is a process to pay attention to.  Ricotta literally means “recooked.”  Typically, when cheese is made, the whey, or liquid that the cheese curds are strained out of still have a lot of milk proteins.  These can be “harvested” by making the whey more acidic and heating it which creates a smaller, finer curd, the ricotta cheese.  Traditionally, ricotta was made with sheep’s milk, but now it’s made primarily with cow, but can be made from any milk.

This recipe will make 2 cups of ricotta cheese.  If you need more, double it.  I don’t recommend reducing the recipe because the amounts get a little tricky, but it’s up to you.

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar (white wine vinegar will work tremendously well, too)
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 whole tsp kosher salt (to your taste)

Combine milk and cream in a large heavy pot and heat slowly till steaming BUT NOT BOILING.  Remove from heat and add vinegar and salt.  Stir with a wooden spoon until you see the curds begin to form, then leave it to work at room temperature for 90 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the curds from the pot into a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth sitting over a bowl (exactly the same set up as the yogurt cheese.)  Allow to drain for another 30-45 minutes.  DONE!

You can use ricotta cheese for all kinds of things.  You can sweeten it and make desserts such as filled crepes or blintzes.  You can make cheesecakes, or ricotta pancakes.  Unsweetened, you can use it in lasagna, or in sauces, or on sandwiches or pizza.  There’s a whole world of ricotta cheese recipes at your fingertips if you have a computer.

One of my favorite recipes (apart from lasagna!) is Spinach and Ricotta over Pasta.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, as dry as possible
  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (depending on taste, I typically use more)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (nothing beats freshly grated, use whenever possible)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in medium to large pan and cook onion until soft but not brown.  Add spinach and allow to wilt, stirring to keep from burning.  Add the ricotta and stir until melted and a smooth sauce forms.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir well.  Serve over favorite cooked pasta.  Garnish with walnuts over the top.

Spinach and Ricotta Cheese

Enjoy!

 

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