Valley Bounty: DIY Cheese
In all likelihood, my home cheesemaking experiments are never going to offer me the quality or variety of curdled concoctions that our local dairies and cheesemakers provide us with all year, but since they are indeed experiments, I’m just fine with that. In fact, dabbling a bit in the world of curds may demonstrate that cheese in its most basic form is a fairly straightforward product, but it also shows the considerable skill and creativity amongst cheesemakers on display at farmers’ markets and on restaurant menus.
Ricotta, one of the most basic cheeses, only has three ingredients: milk (many cheesemakers prefer fresh raw milk, but pasteurized milk should work fine as well), a coagulant (bacterial cultures and enzymes like rennet are common in more advanced cheesemaking, but we’ll stick with something acidic like distilled white vinegar), and salt. Heat the milk over low heat to around 180°F, and then stir in the vinegar (about 1/3 cup for a half gallon of milk) and a pinch of salt. In about 10 minutes the milk should have curdled; pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let the liquid (whey) drain out. You can eat the ricotta as is, or stir in herbs, salt and pepper, lemon juice, fruit, or any other added flavor your heart desires.
Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)