Just in time for Shavuos – you can make your own cheese. It is surprisingly easy to do, it’s healthy and tasty. Cheese has been around for millenia. Prior to the onset of refrigerators the only (?) way of preserving dairy for an extended period of time was to make it into cheese. Milk would last hours, yogurt could last days -but cheese could last years! Gorgonzola was first made in 879, Roquefort in 1070, cheddar in 1500, and parmesian in 1579. As a relative newcomver – Wisconsin started it’s cheese making business in 1841 (Anne Pickert is cited as the founder of factory cheese production there). Today Wisconsin makes over 2.6 billion pounds of cheese (with over 6,000 varieties).
The following recipe makes a soft cheese. Apparently, hard cheese is trickier to make (then you have to worry about rennet). And here’s a question one of my students asked me – could a person who keeps kosher use a cow’s stomach to transport milk? (Apparently, back in the day -say 4,000 years ago, transporting milk in a cow’s stomach was how it was transported, like a canteen. The cow’s stomach has rennit in it naturally, and turned the milk into cheese after some amount of time (in the heat and being sloshed around). So, I don’t know that answer yet, I’m looking into it -if you know, tell me…
Here’s the recipe:
- 1/2 gallon of milk
- 2 cups of plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of dill (though you can use any fresh herb)
- On high heat, simmer the milk in at least a 4 quart pot (so you have room to stir).
- When the milk just starts to bubble, add the yogurt, lemon juice, salt and herbs (the herbs are optional, but I find them tasty).
- Let simmer for 1 to 2 more minutes.
- Turn off the stove.
- Wait for the milk to curdle. This means the milk will separate into curds and whey (the whey is a light, almost clear liquid).
- Prepare a 9×13 pan with a cheese cloth that extends over the sides. Or, if you have a large coffee filter-you could use that instead of the cheesecloth.
- Skim off as many of the curds as you can and put into the cheese cloth.
- Pull the edges of the cheese cloth together and start to twist until the cheese is tight against the cheese cloth and liquid has stopped coming out.
- In a second cheese cloth (or coffee filter) and a second 9×13 pan pour the rest of the whey and see if there are curds you missed. Strain this, as well.
- Put both strained cheeses between 2 flat plates and place a pot filled with water on top. The goal is to press the cheese -and push even more liquid out.
- After about 20 minutes you can eat your cheese. If you prefer your cheese chilled- put yours in the fridge before you eat it. You can serve it on crackers, or eat it plain or use it as cheese in a recipe (you could use this cheese for your blintz cheese, if you would like).