Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Make Farmers Cheese

Farmers cheese final product, a soft crumbly cheese.
Cheese making is both an art and science, around which all sorts of cultural significances have developed.  Historically, cheese has been a highly localized food item where a specific type of cheese could only be found in one specific region of the world.  The reason for this is because these regions would have certain types of foods for cows, goats, or sheep to eat, resulting in a milk with a unique taste and ability to make cheese.  Local climates and the microorganisms present also played a major role in regional cheeses.  And of course, each region or family would have their own secret cheese recipe.  Unfortunately today, much of this localized specialty cheese has vanished with modern milk pasteurization laws and large cheese factories.  The laws make it difficult for cheese makers to sell their products in many cases and the factories are difficult to compete with.  Fortunately, some of these localized cheeses still exist today and if you have access to milk you can make your own cheese.  Grocery store milk is almost excursively pasteurized and homogenized, which is unfortunate for cheese makers but necessary to increase its self-life.  Unprocessed milk makes the best cheese, but for the rest of us who don’t have a cow in the backyard, store bought milk will still produce great tasting cheese.  There are many very complex cheeses, some of which take many months to make.  This particular cheese, known as farmers cheese, is probably the easiest of all.  

What you will need:
Pot you can heat milk on the stove with
Spoon for stirring
Cheese cloth, strainer or pantie-hose

1 gallon milk
¼ cup white or cider vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice (each will produce a different flavored cheese)
Salt to taste

Heat milk slowly on the stove top, stirring gently making sure not to burn milk to bottom.  Heat milk only to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit, any hotter will curdle or burn milk.  Once milk reaches 180 degrees, add the vinegar or juice by gently stirring in and take of the heat.  The milk should almost immediately separate into curds and whey.  Once the two are mixed let it cool for a while, then strain the mixture to separate the curds from the whey.  Allow to strain for about an hour or more in the refrigerator.  After straining mix salt with the curds to taste, it doesn’t take much.  After this the cheese is ready to eat.  It can be eaten plain or have fruits, vegetables, or herbs mixed in with it.  Onions, garlic, strawberries, apricots, rosemary, chives, or a variety of other things can be mixed in to make your own unique cheese.  

Curds and whey after adding an acid such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice.  The curds are the white part while the whey is the whitish yellow liquid part.
In this recipe an acid (vinegar, lime or lemon juice) causes the milk protein casein to precipitate out of the whey.  Casein is the white chunky curds that make up cheese while whey is the whitish liquid the casein separates from.  Using an acid to make cheese produces a soft crumbly cheese being the casein proteins weakly stick together.  Other cheeses use an enzyme called renet to precipitate casein out of milk whey.  Renet produces much stronger bonds between casein proteins and therefore stronger curds or hard cheeses such as cheddar.  In the near future I plan on having a post covering the use of renet in making hard cheeses.

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