Homemade Cheese – The Daring Cook’s March 2013 Challenge


There’s an old saying that Cheese is milk’s leap toward Immortality.

Making cheese at home is a very satisfying craft with a delicious and healthy end result. To make cheese, well most cheeses, one doesn’t need a commercial kitchen. The equipment required is more often than not already there in your cupboards. It is also far cheaper to make cheese at home that tastes as good or perhaps better than the store bought options.

                                                               All the three cheese – Ricotta inside the dome, moulded cream cheese, mascarpone





A Cheese post has been on my mind for a very long time. I often make Cream Cheese and have also made Mascarpone a couple of times. So this time Sawsan from Chef in Disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own home made cheeses. She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!



While making cheese like Ricotta, Cream Cheese or Mascarpone is fairly simple, making cheese like Feta or Goat’s Cheese is a little more advanced and requires an enzyme called Rennet, which causes milk coagulation. Rennet is either animal or vegetable based and is available either in liquid, powder or tablet form. 

These days Feta Cheese is my new favourite. I love it in my salads. My earlier top of the list cheese was Brie. (I could polish off the whole block !!) So when I saw this challenge I was elated to find a good recipe for Feta and wanted to try my hands on it. However Rennet is not readily available in the retail market in India and after trying everywhere I settled against my option.

For this challenge I prepared RicottaCream Cheese, Labneh – a variant of cream cheese and Mascarpone Cheese. Both Labneh and Ricotta were my first tries and I must say I think homemade Ricotta is far better than the store bought.



I love the way Labneh looks. It looks, refreshingly exotic, it’s simple and healthy. I can’t wait to taste it !! ( I still haven’t …letting the flavours mature)


Recipe #1 –  Ricotta

Ricotta is traditionally made from the whey left over from making buffalo mozzarella, sheep’s milk pecorino, and so forth. Actually it is not a cheese but creamy curds. The curds are literally cooked twice, hence the name ‘ricotta’ which means ‘recooked’ in Italian.The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. 
When the whey is reheated (recooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain and 
this is called Ricotta Cheese.


However in modern times Fresh Ricotta is made and it is no longer just a by product of another cheese. It enjoys a ‘Cheese’ Status’ itself
The consistency of the cheese can be controlled by the length of time you drain it for.
The cheese is delicious and eaten as it is, used in both savoury dishes and desserts. 

Ricotta Cheese – moulded as well as crumbled.

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 – (I used Amul 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.


Recipe # 2 – Cream Cheese
Ingredients:
1 kg (2¼ lbs) Yogurt (Greek, regular or fat free)

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt – (I do not add salt to this as, I use this mostly for  cheesecakes as well)
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.Leave to drain for 3-4 hours. (If the weather is hot allow it to drain in the fridge).

 Check on the 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)


Recipe source: Sawsan’s 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


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)



Notes:

Since I was going to use this batch of cream cheese for my cheesecakes, I did not add salt ot the whole batch. 

I made a very small quantity of Labneh so I added salt to only that much. 

If Stored in Olive Oil, Labneh can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator. 


Recipe # 3 – Mascarpone 

Recipe Source: Vera’s recipe from Baking Obsession

This recipe makes 340gm of mascarpone cheese



Ingredients

474ml (approx. 500ml)  2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do) – I used Amul Cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. 

2. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. 

3. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. 
Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. 
All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. 
It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. 
You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. 

4. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. 
Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). 

5. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Craft some cheese. It’s Therapeutic !!

24 thoughts on “Homemade Cheese – The Daring Cook’s March 2013 Challenge

  1. Your cheeses look fabulous. Too bad blogs don't come with infused flavours (yet), because your ricotta looks really appetizing. 🙂 I couldn't find rennet in the store neither and had to buy it online. I can tell you however that like other cheeses, homemade feta doesn't pale in comparison to storebought one (on the contrary).

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  2. Gorgeous photos, and a beautiful result. I use kefir grains instead of rennet for my cream cheese and feta, etc. It has a similar effect, but for the pressed cheeses you need a heavier weight.

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  3. Hey Ingrid.Thank you dear for your lovely words :-)I feel a little more comfortable reading a lot of people find it difficult to procure rennet. I'm ordering it tongiht . Can't wait to make Feta. 🙂

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  4. Wow, you made so many different types of cheese, all of them look amazing! I have to agree with you that cheese making is a delicious craft and I sure want to try other recipes. Congrats on your great job and your gorgeous photos!

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  5. Gauri, your cheeses all look absolutely beautiful! Especially that crumbly ricotta! I'm looking forward to seeing what else you come up with in the future 🙂

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  7. Very inspirational post. I often make ricotta cheese as I learned to make it from my mom and have loved the home made paneer since childhood. It makes the most delicious paneer tikka. Can the cream cheese be used for baked recipes?

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