This is a cross-post from my blog, Together In Food; to read a slightly different version of this post, please go to my blog here.
I love cheese, and I have this (perhaps slightly crazy) dream of producing 80% of the food we eat at home myself, from scratch (growing, raising and processing it). So, I wanted to be able to make cheese myself. I'd read multiple recipes and articles about home cheese-making, but I learn best by seeing and doing. So, I signed up for a cheese-making class led by Sheana Davis, a chef, cheese maker, caterer and culinary educator based in Sonoma. To learn more about Sheana's catering, cheese making and culinary classes, click here.
My friends, Katie and Meredith, were just as enthused about the cheese-making class as I was, so the three of us did it together. In fact, one of Meredith's dreams is to run her own cheese shop, so this was a perfect group adventure.
Sheana was a great teacher, demonstrating each step in making paneer, an easy cheese that is a great introduction to home cheese-making...
...creamy, slightly tangy goat's milk chevre, lovely spread on baguette toasts with a bit of Meyer lemon jam...
...creme fraiche, wonderful eaten out of a little bowl with a spoon or used in a variety of recipes...
...and patiently answering numerous questions from the participants in the sold-out class.
Because I made taco night from scratch for 12 of my husband's work colleagues (five pounds of carne asada, four pounds of shredded chicken and a homemade tres leches cake) and we're leaving for Australia and New Zealand in two days, I haven't made my own cheese yet. But I can't wait to do it when we return.
And in the meantime, I have Meredith as inspiration. When we left the class, she said, "I thought this would be entertaining but that I'd never actually make my own cheese. But I'm so doing it!" She went home from the class armed with her own cheesecloth, and on Saturday, I saw this e-mail in my inbox*:
*See more of Meredith's cheese in the recipe below
For those of you who share my home cheese-making dream, here's a super simple recipe to get you started.
PANEER (also spelled panir)
From Sheana Davis. To learn more about Sheana's catering, cheese making and culinary classes, click here
Total Time: 30 minutes active plus up to 12 hours to let the cheese drain
Planning Notes: As Sheana shared, home cheese-making is 90% sanitation. You want to sanitize all of your utensils thoroughly so you're not introducing unwanted bacteria into your cheese. See instruction #1 below.
14 cups whole milk (or, 1 gallon minus 2 cups); you can also use goat's milk, but don't use less than whole milk or it won't work
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons white vinegar (you can try lemon juice, but since the acidity of lemons varies, curds may or may not set properly; I'd try bottled lemon juice, which has more consistent acidity over freshly-squeezed)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 -- Thoroughly clean all of your utensils (pot, whisk, spoon, cheesecloth, colander). Wash in warm, soapy water. Then wash with a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water). Dry with clean towels.
2 -- Heat milk and cream over medium heat in a large pot to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (use a candy or oil thermometer to monitor temperature). Whisk often to prevent scorching.
3 -- Turn heat to low. Add vinegar and salt. Give the mix one gentle, clockwise turn, just to combine the ingredients. If you stir too vigorously, curds may not set.
4 -- Cover the pot. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Curds will begin to form.
5 -- Line a colander with cheesecloth. Pour contents of the pot into your contraption to drain the curd.
6 -- You can eat it at this point; it'll be the consistency of slightly firm ricotta. It's divine warm (having sampled it during the class). Or, you can tie cheesecloth around the cheese in a bundle and let it drain until it's the consistency you desire. This is the same cheese used in Indian cooking, so if you want it that firm, let it drain a while. You can leave it on your counter or kitchen table or stick it in your pantry -- wherever you can leave it undisturbed and at about room temp.