I have been promising this post for a few weeks now - so as a Valentine's Day special, here is my cheesey post. I have been thinking about cheese making for a long time, but always thought it was a future project - something to take up when our own cows are in milk, and I have gallons of the raw stuff to deal with. I also thought it was very technical and difficult, and I would need to go on a cheese making course to learn. Silly me. Of course, I can start experimenting right now - right here in my very own kitchen - using shop bought milk!!! And so can you..... let's give it a go.
We are making a neufchatel - a soft creamy cheese - not unlike philadelphia, but a bit tangier like a crowdie. The recipe comes from this book, and I did follow if fairly closely the first time, so that's what we'll do here.
1 gallon (3.78 litres) whole milk (unhomogenised if possible)
1 pint (500ml) double (heavy) cream
1 packet mesophillic starter*
3 drops liquid rennet diluted in 1/3 cup cool water (about 5 tablespoons)+
Salt (says optional but I do think a little brings out the taste)
*I ordered mine along with the rennet from here - it is enough to do 50 litres of milk, so you just shake a little out - not very precise, but that's what they say) and seal up the sachet with tape and keep it in your freezer. There are lots of places that sell this - search for mesophillic starter and hundreds of sites will pop up.
+ I am being quite specific here, as the recipe says the exact amount is important.
Combine milk and cream and heat very gently
until liquid reaches temp of 80F. Then shake out some of your starter and mix thoroughly. Add 1 teaspoon of the diluted rennet and stir gently in a back and forwards motion. Cover and let mixture set in a warm room (70f) for 12-18 hours.
It will look like thick lumpy yoghurt when set.
Pour into a sieve lined with muslin and set over a bowl to drain. You can tie the corners and hang it up over a bowl to drip, but the first time I made this I wasn't careful enough - being drenched with a gallon of sour milk is not nice. Anyway - let it drip until it drips no more (between 6-12 hours)
Line a colander with a clean piece of cloth and put into another container. Place the (still wrapped) cheese into this and cover with the new cloth. Put a plate on the cheese and then a weight on the plate. The book says the weight of 2 bricks is sufficient, but I used a large stone from the beach, which I use for all these kinds of weighty tasks. Put the pot into the 'fridge and press for 13 hours. (I think mine might have been more like 16 hours, but it was fine).
Turn out into a bowl, add a good pinch of salt (you can add herbs here too if you like) and then knead thoroughly with your hands until it holds together.
Divide and shape into 4 rounds (or hearts), wrap in waxed paper and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Or eat straight away, piled onto oatcakes or - toast - straight from the bowl, even - or how about making the ultimate cheescake! Mmmm - yes.
It is a good recipe to experiment with. If I have some spare milk, I will just use that, with a dollop of cream, shake of starter culture and a more diluted rennet solution. It is great fun, and the cheese is always delicious and so fresh tasting. Try it - I am sure you will love it ♥