I’ve been researching cheese making thinking it would be great to learn to make something I love so much. I thought this would be great for some of our demos if I could find a recipe that is simple enough and quick enough that it could be used as both a class and a demonstration. I also needed a recipe that was true to Medieval life even if it was a modern recipe. I found this article with a really basic cheese recipe that matches medieval recipes I have found but giving instructions for a modern cook.
For my first try I decided to make it on the stove so I could control every aspect (we all know fires do not have the most stable cooking temperatures). I started with 4 litres (yes I know that’s a bit more than a gallon, but it was the closest amount I could purchase at the store in one go) of homogenized milk in a stainless steel pot. I decided to use homogenized with it’s 3.25% fat content to hopefully create a creamier cheese. It seems to me that I could have used 2% or 1% and gotten the same result, but that will be an experiment for another time (the recipe also says it works with cow or sheep milk).
Waiting for the milk to get to the right temperature seemed to take a really long time. I wanted to follow the recipe as close as I could before making any adjustments.
It started to Froth about 20 minutes into heating it on medium. I stirred fairly regularly but not constantly. Frothing was not a sign of the temperature getting close according to my thermometer.
As you can see by the above picture I had lots of bubbles on the surface, but my temperature still had a long way to go. I was about an hour in at this point.
Finally I hit the right temperature according to the recipe I was following. There was definitely more froth and a lot more steam. This was at almost the 2 hour mark though. I may try turning up my burner a bit next time and stirring more frequently to see if I can speed up the process any (and as we all know, cooking on a fire will make it hard to regulate the temperature evenly).
This is right after adding the 1/2 cup (125 mL) of vinegar. I decided even though I had used slightly more milk that I would start with the lower amount of vinegar and see if I needed to add more. You can see that it started separating right away.
This is how the curds looked about 10 minutes after adding the acid. It seems like everything was working out just how it’s supposed to. So far the only ingredients I used were milk and vinegar (the recipe I followed says any type of milk and suggests vinegar or lemon juice for the acid).
About an hour after adding the acid, it appears everything has separated and I have well formed curds. I’m also impatient and can’t wait to try my results.
Here are the draining curds. I lined a sieve with cheesecloth to drain. I was not looking to create a hard formed cheese, but something I could easily spread onto bread or crackers at a demo. I did squeeze the cheese to remove more liquid, but i did not worry about pressing it.
After draining this is what my cheese looked like. So I am considering this the finished product.
When I tasted it, I did find the flavour rather bland. As is – it would be great in a lasagna or a Sicilian cannoli. Personally I think for eating like this I would prefer to add a bit of salt. I did try mixing in some garlic and herbs in a small batch and I think the salt would have enhanced that flavour as well. It is not as creamy as I thought it would be when I tried to blend it with the herbs. It definitely stayed crumbly (although fine crumbles) which makes it not the most spreadable of cheeses. I could see it being marinated and used for a salad as well. For a first try I think it came out well and it was not difficult to make. This is a recipe that could easily be made with kids who are old enough to be by the stove.
What are your favourite cheeses? What do you think would enhance the quiet flavour of this cheese?