I've been reading about cheesemaking for a long time and putting off trying it because I was afraid it would be too complicated or volatile.
But this was the perfect introduction to cheesemaking. It is simple, relatively quick, an only needs a few simple ingredients.
The recipe is adapted from Serious Eats. I reduced the amounts on this first attempt. It made a small round of cheese, probably around 200 grams, which was just enough for tostada night.
Queso fresco is a very mild, crumbly Mexican cheese. It's not always available in my local stores and it's pretty expensive. Making it at home is definitely worth it!
Here's what you need:
5 1/2 cups whole milk (in Canada, that's one bag from a 3-bag package, if you're outside Canada, this is what our milk looks like!)
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
You can make cheese without cheesecloth, but it's very cheap and pretty easy to find in grocery stores, big box stores and online, so I wouldn't fool around with paper towels, etc.
Prepare fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth.
Place the milk in a heavy pot over medium heat and warm, stirring constantly, until it reaches 165-180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice and continue stirring until the milk separates. It only takes a minute or two.
You will see these white curds distinctly separated from the liquid whey. Remove from the heat and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until completely separated.
Use a slotted spoon or strainer to strain the curds into the cheesecloth.
Once all the curds are separated from all the whey, let them drain for 20 minutes until dry. Then sprinkle with salt and stir to combine.
Squeeze the cheesecloth into a ball to drain any excess liquid and twist the top of the cheesecloth to seal.
Place the cheese in the strainer and weigh it down with a heavy can or pot. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour and a half until firm.
Unwrap the cheese from the cheesecloth and use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.
This cheese is perfect crumbled over tacos, tostadas or salad, but it is also the same as Indian paneer, so it can be sliced and fried or grilled without melting.
It is pretty neat to turn a few simple ingredients into something completely different in just 2 hours. I'm interested in trying to make some different types of cheese now that I've seen how easy it can be! And I'll never have to go searching for queso or paneer again.