You know what I realized this weekend? I. Love. Making. Cheese. I think that cheese-making is one of those things that seems intimidating and difficult, something best left to master cheesemakers with fancy hats.
And I’m sure some cheese recipes are tricky. However. Making this farmer’s cheese (queso fresco) was the easiest thing I did all weekend. It calls for exactly 3 ingredients: milk, vinegar and salt.
See? Easy peasy.
You can find a thousand farmer’s cheese recipes out there, some using lemon, rennet and herbs, but I like to keep things simple. This is your traditional queso fresco recipe, and I like it because it consistently wields tasty cheese with a good consistency.
A caveat: It will take all day. But before leaving it to the fancy cheesemakers, you should know that you will spend a total of, oh, 5 minutes at the kitchen counter. I made this cheese with a toddler pulling at my shoelaces.
It’s soooo delicious on top of a slice of homemade bread. In this household black beans are a staple, and the combination of homemade bread, black beans and fresh cheese is just about the best way to start the day.
When I first moved to Guatemala, we lived in a town where a guy on a bike would ride around before anyone was really awake, yelling “La leche! La leche!” The goat guy would also make regular appearances, trudging down the road with his four goats in tow, ready to squat down and milk at a moment’s notice.
I made this batch of cheese with regular milk from the store, and it worked just fine.
Here’s how you do it:
- Pour 2 litres of milk in heavy-bottomed pot.
- Bring to boil over medium heat. Stir frequently until it reaches 188 degrees Fahrenheit. I use a regular old stainless steel thermometer – I like watching the little red arrow make its way around.
- You want to make sure to set up your colander right about now. Just place it over a large bowl, and cover it with a thin dish towel.
- As soon as the milk starts to boil, take it off the heat.
- Stir in the vinegar. You should notice the curds start to form immediately.
- Cover & let sit 10 minutes.
- Using a skimming spoon, scoop the curds out and place them on the dish towel. After each scoop, add some salt.
- Lift the edges of the dish towel and cover the curds.
- Let your cheese sit there 8 hours. The whey will be collected in the dish below.
There are many, many things you can do with whey. Jill from the Prairie Homestead wrote a lovely article about exactly that – you can read it here.
P.S. I keep hearing about a book called Nourishing Tradition. Does anyone have it, and would you recommend it?