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Let's Get Cheesy!

Daring Cooks
March 2013

Hello everyone! My name is Sawsan from the chef in disguise. I have been a member of the daring kitchen since March 2011 and it has been a wonderful pleasure to belong to this group of amazingly talented, supportive and creative people. I am thrilled to be your host this month. I chose to challenge you guys to make cheese. A process, I know, many of you daring cooks have at least been curious about. So how about taking on this challenge and taking cheese making off your (things I want to try list)?
If you have never made cheese before I advise starting out with simple easy cheeses, like ricotta or labneh that will give you an idea about basic concepts in cheese making like curds, whey, straining. It will also give you more confidence in your cheese making skills and enable you to tackle more complicated cheeses like goat cheese, feta cheese and mozzarella.

Download printable file HERE

In this challenge I will give you four cheese recipes, Labneh, paneer/easy ricotta, soft cheese and feta cheese to cover the range of cheese making from simple to more advanced. You have to make at least one cheese, you can choose one of the recipes I provided or you can refer to the resources for links to other cheese recipes you may be tempted to try and for a list of links to vegan cheese recipes. Again I recommend starting with simple cheeses before proceeding to more complicated ones.


Recipe source:

The labneh and the soft cheese recipes are my family’s recipes. The feta cheese recipe and the ricotta cheese were adapted from the Bartolini Kitchens and the paneer recipe was adapted from the kitchn


Blog-checking lines:

Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!

Posting Date: March 14, 2013

Notes:

Before we can get to the cheese recipe there are a couple of terms that we need to clear out

Rennet

An enzyme “rennin” converts milk protein (casein) from a soluble to an insoluble material, causing the milk to gel. It is used in cheese making to separate curds from whey. You can purchase it in liquid or tablet form. You may find liquid rennet easier to measure accurately. 1 teaspoon liquid rennet (20 drops) equals 1 rennet tablet. 1 rennet tablet is used for 20 liters of milk. There are none- animal based rennet that is suitable for vegetarians. You can find rennet in some grocery stores in the aisle with puddings and jello, you may also be able to find it in pharmacies or health food stores . If you can’t find it in any of these places, you can order it online. (Check the additional information for links to websites that sell it)

Cheese cloth

The purpose of "cheese cloth" is to separate the curd from the whey by allowing the whey to drain while holding the curds and preventing them from passing through. What most people think of as "cheese cloth" :the very wide weave material is often useless for this purpose. If your curd is fine, it passes through. Even if it is large curd, the curd can become enmeshed in the coarse weave. I recommend using either a large plain white cotton handkerchiefs, or white non-terry cotton dish towels. Just ignore what is sold as "cheese cloth..."

Whey or Milk Serum

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses. Sweet whey is manufactured during the making of rennet types of hard cheese like cheddar or Swiss cheese. Acid whey (also known as "sour whey") is obtained during the making of acid types of cheese such as cottage cheese.

Curds

Curds are a dairy product obtained by curdling (coagulating) milk with rennet or an edible acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining off the liquid portion. The increased acidity causes the milk proteins (casein) to tangle into solid masses, or curds. The remaining liquid, which contains only whey proteins, is the whey.

It is all about the milk

The most important factor in the success of cheese making is the type of milk you use. Fresh raw milk is the best possible choice for making cheese but you need to be 200% sure that the milk comes from a reliable clean source and that is not easy to come by. If you have access to raw milk and you are not sure about its reliability your next best choice is to pasteurize it at home.(please refer to the additional information on how to pasteurize raw milk and on a list of sources that sell raw and pasteurized milk).
If you can't get raw milk then you have to understand the different treatments the milk that is available at the store goes through and which types work for cheese making and which don't.

Thermization or heat treatment

: Is heating the milk to a low temperature (145F) and short time (15 seconds), that has the lowest impact on natural bacteria and enzymes in milk and is commonly practiced in Europe

Pasteurization

is the process where milk is heated, under pressure, to 167* for 15 seconds and, in so doing, kills off any harmful bacteria that may have been present in the milk. (this is different from the pasteurization you will do at home)

Ultra-pasteurization

: is a process in which milk is heated to temperatures from 191-212 F for varying times

Ultra High Temperature Sterilization (UHT)

means heating milk up to (280F) for a short time (2 seconds) .This extends the shelf-life to 60 days
Ultra Pasteurization and UHT radically alters the protein structure of the milk, and the calcium is chelated so that it is unavailable for coagulation. That results in curds which fall apart when you stir them. This means that ultra pasteurized milk and UHT cannot be used to make most types of cheese (except for labneh and paneer)

So what do I get from all this?

DO NOT USE ULTRA-PASTURIZED MILK OR UHT MILK. Use pasteurized milk or even better, use fresh raw milk if you have access to it.

Calcium chloride

CaCl2 is a salt commonly used in brewing and brining. It is used to mask the effects of the ultra-pasteurization process ( ¼ tsp of calcium chloride (CaCl2) added to 64 oz (2 litres) of milk. Dilute it in 1/4 cup of cool, non-chlorinated water and add it when you start heating your milk)
Calcium chloride has a wide range of uses, from medical applications to keeping our paths clear of snow and ice. If you buy some, be sure it’s of a grade fit for human consumption. Buying it from a cheese making site or home brewery supply house should eliminate any concerns you might have.
As calcium chloride is dissolved in water, a small amount of heat is released. This is of little concern, especially given the small amounts we’ll be using. Burns can result, however, if the dry crystals are ingested. Please, KEEP CALCIUM CHLORIDE CRYSTALS OUT OF CHILDREN’S REACH AND AWAY FROM PETS.

The salt

Salt enhances flavor, draws out excess moisture and acts as a preservative. Avoid iodized salt, because it can put the brakes on active starter bacteria. Specialty cheese salt is coarser than regular table salt, and is non-iodized.

Mandatory Items: You must make at least one type of cheese. You can choose one of the recipes provided in the challenge or any other cheese recipe you like or are tempted to try

Variations allowed: Feel free to make any cheese recipe you like, regular cheese or vegan cheese.

Preparation time:
To make soft labneh (yogurt cheese) you need 3-4 hours to strain the Yoghurt
To make labneh balls you will need 5-6 hours of straining and 15 minutes to roll the labneh
To make the paneer and the ricotta: 30 minutes to prepare and at least 2 hours to strain
To make the feta cheese You need 6-8 hours to allow the milk to curdle, 2-3 hours for straining and 5 days for brining

Equipment required:
An accurate thermometer which reads in the range of 32-225 F (0-100 C)
Measuring cups
A non-reactive pot
knife
Spoon
Small dish
Whisk
Cheese cloth
Strainer or colander

Yogurt cheese (labneh):

This type of cheese is called yogurt cheese or Lebanese cream cheese but it is most commonly known as labneh. It is a staple on the middle eastern breakfast menu. It can also be used as a dip. It makes a wonderful spread for sandwiches with a few mint leaves or some pitted olives or better yet with a sprinkle of zaatar.
To put it simply labneh is strained yogurt, it is super easy to make and very tasty and the best part is, you can flavor it any way you like. Mint, oregano, sumac, olives, chili flakes..

Recipe source: Family recipe
Yield:350-400 grams labneh
Time required 3-4 hours up to overnight depending on the consistency you like your labneh to be

Ingredients

1 kg (2¼ lbs) Yogurt (Greek, regular or fat free)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

Directions:

1.Place a piece of doubled cheesecloth or soft cotton fabric (preferably un-dyed and clean) in the colander and place the colander over a deep bowl
2.Stir the salt into the yoghurt then spoon the yoghurt in the center of a piece of the cheesecloth

3.Leave to drain for 3-4 hours. (If the weather is hot allow it to drain in the fridge).

4.Check on the labneh's consistency and if you like it to be thicker cover it with the cheese cloth and place a weight on top of it then allow it to drain for more time.
If you are tight on time you can pull the corners of the cheese cloth up and tie them tightly and then suspend from a stationary object over a bowl (to collect the whey).
Let this hang overnight, when well drained it will be the consistency of cottage cheese.
Remove from the cloth and store covered in the refrigerator until needed

To make Yoghurt Cheese Balls (Labneh korat)

Labneh balls also make for a wonderful appetizer if you make them small enough. You can serve them plain or rolled in zaatar, sesame seeds, parsley, sumac, or pepper.You can even serve a platter of labneh balls rolled in different toppings, they make for a very pretty and tasty appetizer. You can also add them to salads if you feel like adding a refreshing new twist to your regular salad.
To make Yoghurt Cheese Balls (Labneh korat). Drain the labneh for 5-6 hours up to overnight
Take about one tablespoon at a time and roll it into smooth, round balls and place in a sterile, air tight jar, cover with olive oil.

Seal the jar and store at room temperature (if you live in an area that has hot weather it would be better to store it in the fridge)

Paneer and Ricotta:

Paneer is an Indian cheese made by using an acidic agent (lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar) to curdle the milk. You may actually find many sites that refer to this type of cheese as easy homemade ricotta and use the resulting cheese in recipes that call for ricotta like lasagna (I have personally done that and it beats store bought ricotta). Traditionally ricotta is made by re-boiling the whey that results from making of mozzarella (ri-cotta means cooked again in Italian)
If you try to google paneer / ricotta you will find recipes that are almost identical. The difference I found is that the recipes that make this cheese, without pressing it (leave it with a somewhat crumbly texture) use as ricotta and refer to it as ricotta too. The recipes that call for pressing this cheese and forming it into cubes then aging it for 3 days in the fridge refer to it as paneer.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Source:From the bartolini kithcens
Total time: 30 minutes to prepare, at least 2 hours to drain.
Makes about one pound (about ½ kg) of cheese

Ingredients:

8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (homogenized)
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon (7 ½ ml) (9 gm) table salt
5 tablespoons (75 ml) white distilled vinegar

Directions:

1.Combine milk, cream, and salt in a large non-reactive pot and stir over medium heat as you bring the temperature up to 85°C (185°F) (about 15-20 minutes).

2. Add the vinegar all at once and stir for 15 seconds; heat for two more minutes before removing from heat.

3.Allow to rest undisturbed for 15 – 20 minutes

4. Using a small sieve or slotted spoon, remove the floating curds and place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain

5.Place colander over a bowl in refrigerator and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight (I found 2 hours was enough). The longer you allow it to drain, the more firm the results.

6.Remove the ricotta from the colander, place in airtight containers, and refrigerate.

Homemade Paneer

Recipe source: The kitchn
yields about 1 1/2 cup

Ingredients:
8 cups (2 litres) milk (whole or 2%)
2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) lemon juice

Directions:
1.Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.
If you'd like to keep the whey for another purpose, set the colander over a bowl to catch the whey. Otherwise, you can just set it in your sink.
2.In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Keep an eye on it because it can boil over very quickly.
3.When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
4.Stir until the milk separates into curds and whey. If it doesn't seem to be separating completely, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.
5.Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
6.When it's cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can.
7.To press it into a solid cheese, set the bundle in the middle of a plate with a good lip to catch the liquid that will be squeezed out. Put another plate on top and press until the bundle has flattened into a 1-inch (2½ cm) disk. Leave the plate on and weight it down with something heavy (like a few cans of tomatoes).
Press the cheese for at least 20 minutes, though an hour is ideal.
8.Drain off the liquid that has collected and unwrap the paneer.
9.Use or store immediately. The cheese will firm up even more in the fridge.

Soft cheese

This cheese is actually the first step in making Nabulsi cheese (a traditional Palestinian cheese made from sheep or goat milk). This cheese was usually served to kids as a special treat with a sprinkling of sugar. It is somewhat similar to cottage cheese or farmer cheese but without the use of the starter (there is no buttermilk or yogurt or any form of starter here) it is a cheese that allows you to enjoy the pure flavor of fresh cheese, that hint of sweetness, creamy texture that almost melts in your mouth.
I make this cheese for the kids, it is the perfect breakfast with some granola, fruit or honey. You can also strain it and it becomes the perfect sandwich spread topped with some sliced cucumbers or a dash of basil, dried mint or Italian seasoning

Recipe source: family recipe
Yield: if you strain the cheese you will get 300 grams of cheese

Ingredients:
4 cups (1 litre) pasteurized milk (Sheep or goat milk )
1/8 tablet of rennet or 3 drops of liquid rennet (rennet tablets are sold as jucket tablets in some countries)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) water

Directions
1.Place the milk in a none reactive pot
2.Heat it up to 40°C/104°F over medium low heat stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning
3.Take the pot off the heat and place it in a place where it can remain undisturbed for 3-4 hours (or pour the milk into a non-reactive container)
4.Crush the rennet in a small dish using the back of a spoon (if using tablet rennet) and dissolve it in 1/4 cup of water (if using liquid rennet, just add it to the water and mix well)
Add the rennet water mix to the milk, whisk gently to make sure that the rennet is evenly distributed throughout the milk.

5.Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed
6.Check on it after 1 hour, the milk should have transformed into a jiggly mass surrounded by whey.
Check for a good break by inserting your clean finger at an angle into the cheese then slowly pulling it out. A good break is when your finger comes out relatively clean.

7.If the cheese is still somewhat in a liquid state and has not fully curdled yet then your finger will come out covered in partially set milk(kind of like when you stick your finger in buttermilk). This is called a bad break. If you get that cover the container again and leave it for 2 more hours.
Check again, if it still has not curdled, cover it and leave it for 2 more hours.
If it has not curdled by then you have to discard the milk.
8.If the milk has indeed curdled and you got a good break with whey separated on the sides, you have two options:
a.Place the pot with the cheese into the fridge and serve the cheese with granola, fruits or a simple sprinkling of sugar.
b. If you like the cheese to be of firmer consistency your other option is to strain the cheese for an hour or two depending on how firm you would like it to be, salt it and it becomes something very similar to cream cheese that you can use as a spread or to dip crackers into

Homemade Feta Cheese

Recipe Source: From the Bartolini kitchens

Ingredients
yield: approx ½ pound (1/4 kg)
Ingredients
8 cups (2 litres) goat’s milk (cow or sheep’s milk may be used) – ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk cannot be used.
1 tablespoon (15 ml) live culture, plain yogurt mixed in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk from above
¼ rennet (“junket”) tablet dissolved in 6 tablespoons (90 ml) distilled water at room temp
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt

To make the brining solution
5½ tablespoons (82.5 ml) (95 gm) (3-1/3 oz) of salt for every 20 fl oz (590 ml) fluid whey

Directions
1.Place the milk in a pot with a lid, warm it up to 30°C or 86°F . Remember to stir the milk occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning
2.Take the milk off the heat, add yogurt-milk mixture, stir well, cover with the lid.
3.Allow it to sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
4.Move your pot to an area where it will remain undisturbed.
5.Add dissolved rennet, stir quickly to ensure even distribution of the rennet then cover the pot, and leave overnight.
6.The next morning, check the cheese. It should be set into one large block of curd with a little whey separated on the side

7.Now you have to check for a clean break.

8.To check for a clean break Stick your finger, on an angle, into the curd and slowly bring the finger to the surface to test for a “clean break,” meaning the curd is firmly set from top to bottom. Your finger should come up relatively clean which means that the cheese has set into one block of curd.

A bad break is when your finger comes out covered in a thickened dairy product(kind of like when you stick your finger
into yogurt), that means that your cheese has not set completely, if that happens you need to leave it for 2 hours and check again. If you still get a bad break give it 2 more hours and check again. If you still get a bad break you have to throw it out and start over
9.Now that you have achieved a clean break you have to cut the cheese and this step is done to allow as much whey to separate from the cheese as possible
Using a long knife cut parallel lines through the entire thickness of the curd dividing it into vertical slices

10.Then turn the pot and cut horizontal parallel lines through the entire thickness of the curd

11. Now you need to take your knife at an angle and repeat cutting horizontal and vertical lines to cut the curds that are beneath the surface, stir the curds gently and cut any cubes that are too big

12.Allow the curd cubes to set for 15 minutes stirring it occasionally to allow more whey to come out. You will notice that the curds will shrink slightly in size.
13. Next you need to strain the cheese, to do that line a colander with a cheesecloth or a clean fabric with fine weave.
Gently pour the curds and whey in and allow it to strain. Do not discard the whey.
14. Once most of the whey has been strained collect the 4 corners of your cheesecloth and tie them to form a knot that allows you to suspend the cheesecloth then allow it to strain for 2-4 hours.
If you live in a very warm place you may want to allow it to strain in the fridge.
15.The next day remove the cheese from the cloth, break up the curds add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
16.Line a mould with holes in the bottom with cheese cloth, place the cheese in, fold over the cheesecloth place a heavy weight on top of the mold and leave overnight, again if you live in a really warm place do this in the fridge
17.Make the brine solution by adding 5½ tablespoons (82.5 ml) (95 gm) (3-1/3 oz.) of salt for every 20 fl oz. (590 ml) fluid whey and mix it, dissolving as much of the salt as you can.

As you can see my cheese was still pretty soft after moulding but it firmed up nicely in the brine
18.The next day take the cheese out of the mould and cut into cubes, place in the brine solution and allow to brine in the fridge for 5 days

Store in the refrigerator. Rinse before use to remove excess salt.

Notes about feta cheese

The milk:

you can not use ultra-pasteurized milk, alone, to make feta. Your best choice is raw, unpasteurized milk, sheep would be the tastiest. The second best choice is regular pasteurized cow or goat milk. If the only choice you have is ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk, you must add CaCl2 to mask the effects of the ultra-pasteurization process (¼ tsp of calcium chloride (CaCl2) added to 64 fl oz (8 cups) (2 litres) of milk. Dilute it in 1/4 cup of cool, non-chlorinated water). CaCl2, however will not work with ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk.
To sum it up the milk you can use to make feta cheese is:
Pasteurized goat milk with or without CaCl
Pasteurized cow's milk
Ultra pasteurized cow's milk with CaCl

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips:

Soft labneh will keep for a week in the fridge. Labneh balls can stay up to 6 months if submerged in oil and stored in the fridge.
Ricotta will last up to two weeks in the fridge.
Soft cheese will last 4-6 days in the fridge
Brined feta cheese will last up to 3 months if kept in the fridge submerged in the brine solution

Additional Information:

Cheese making for beginners
http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/Cheese_course/Cheese_course....
Cheesy stuff (general rules and guidelines to making cheese): http://fromthebartolinikitchens.com/cheesy-stuff/
Cheese making and milk:http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/pg/239-FAQ-Cheesemaking-and-Milk.html
Everything you need to know about cheese making:Fankhauser’s Cheese Page
List of places where you can get raw milk and milk that has been successfully used in cheese making:
http://www.cheesemaking.com/goodmilklist.html
http://www.realmilk.com/where03.html
Places to buy cheese making supplies:
http://www.cheesemaking.com/
http://www.leeners.com/cheese/store/
You can buy rennet online at:
http://www.cheesemaking.com/cheeserennets.html
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keyw...
http://www.leeners.com/cheese/store/rennet-tablets-microbial.shtml
how to pasteurize raw milk at home: http://www.motherearthnews.com/ask-our-experts/pasteurize-raw-milk-at-ho...
Mascarpone cheese: http://fromthebartolinikitchens.com/2012/03/28/no-baloney-its-mascarpone...
Vegan cheese :
Cashew cheese http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/recipes/raw_vegan_cashew_cheese/
pepper jack cheese http://goodcleanfood.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/vegan-pepper-jack-cashew-c...
Macadamia nut brie http://vedgedout.com/2012/10/31/virtual-vegan-potluck-spooky-vegan-macad...

Disclaimer:

The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with. Thank you! Smile

The-food-doctor
No Cookbook
Labneh & Soft Cheese - Sawsan's family recipes; Feta & Ricotta - Bartolini Kitchens; Paneer - The Kitchn