Sunday, January 16, 2011

So You Want to be a Cheese Maker: Part Two, Soft Cheeses

Welcome back Cheese Maker

I hope you enjoyed making the Queso Blanco last week. Have you gotten the bug to continue? I hope you read the article on milkGood. Let’s begin with soft cheeses.

12oz of Ricotta
Soft cheese includes cream cheese, mascarpone, Neufchatel (New-sha-TEL), ricotta, mozzarella and yogurt cheese. These don’t require any specialized equipment to make and most kitchens have what is needed to make these cheeses. You may need to purchase some butter muslin to drain the cheese. You can make do with fabric from a cheap sheet (100-130 thread count) but usually takes longer to drain. A thermometer that reads from at least 40F to 200 is necessary to monitor the correct temperatures needed to make cheese properly.

 Most soft cheese recipes call for between one quart and one gallon of milk per batch so a double boiler with a 5-quart capacity is very helpful. (No Aluminum pots, Please. The acid in the milk reacts with the aluminum in a not so positive way.) For larger recipes, I’ve used my 8 quart stock pot inside the 12.5 quart stock pot to serve as a double boiler. Stainless steel is best. A large colander is also needed. I have a plastic one that works fine and it didn’t have the high price tag of stainless steel.

A long-handled slotted spoon to stir the milk/curds, measuring spoons, a knife long enough to reach the bottom of the pot and a stainless steel flat ladle complete the list of equipment you need for making soft cheese.

Depending on the type of soft cheese you make you may need some plain yogurt, cultured buttermilk (unsalted), lemon juice, and/or vinegar. You can purchase cultures for yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream etc from a cheese making supply company if you wish (I use New England Cheesemaking Supply Company at .) Only a few recipes for soft cheeses call for rennet. Rennet comes in liquid and tablet form and may also be purchased from the cheese making supply companies. The tablets will last two years in the freezer and are, therefore, a good choice for the casual cheese maker.

Soft cheeses have a short shelf life. Containing over 45% water, they are subject to drying out if not kept in a sealed, full container. Kept in the refrigerator they will typically last 5-10 days. One important thing to remember about storing soft cheeses is they get stronger tasting the longer they sit, even in the refrigerator. Cultures in the cheese slow down but do not stop working at refrigerator temperatures. Mild cream cheese becomes sharp and tangy after 4 or 5 days. Of course, we know that you are making this cheese to eat and it won’t last long enough to go bad anyways.
Soft cheese may be stored in the freezer for four to six months, however the quality will degrade and the consistency of the cheese will change often causing it to be more crumbly. Your results may vary. (-:
My makeshift double boiler

My first attempts at making cheese came from the 30 minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit See “The beginning of my journey” post from 4/30/10 for my write up of my experiences with making mozzarella the first few times. As I look back at my blogs most of the cheeses I have made are of the soft types; mascarpone, yogurt cheese, ricotta etc. They are easy (mostly) and are ready to eat in less than 24 hours.

Ok, now let’s make some ricotta.

Curds forming in pot at 175F
Get a ½ gallon of milk and two cups of cultured buttermilk (unsalted) and about 1 ½ hours and you are set to make some ricotta.
Put the milk and butter milk in a pot and heat to 100 F stirring to prevent burning. (a double boiler is perfect for this.) continue heating stirring occasionally until the milk reaches 175 F. You should notice the milk “thickening” as the curds are forming.
When the temperature reaches 175F  turn off the heat and let the milk sit for 5 minutes without stirring.
Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, take the curds out of the pot and put into a colander lined with butter muslin.
Let the curds drain for 10 minutes or so.
Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang it over a pot or the sink for another 45 minutes.
Remove from the cloth and put into a bowl and break apart.
Removing curds from pot
Lightly salt if desired.

You’re done. Keep it in an air tight container and it will keep up to 10 days.

I found this recipe to not need salting and has flavor from the buttermilk which is different from other recipes I've made.

Please feel free to check out my blog archives for additional information about my adventures making Mascarpone and other soft cheeses over the last year.

Draining the Curds


See you next week for Hard Cheese,

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