Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Green Cheese

No, not Green Eggs and Ham, although I think I should make that for St. Patrick's Day some time.  This is a typical "farmer's cheese" made without rennet.  It is called "green" because it is unripened.  It is a lot like cottage cheese or ricotta.

It is as easy as can be to make and fun, too.  The ingredients are few:

1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup white vinegar
salt is optional

First heat the milk in a pan over a low fire.

And I mean very low!

You want the milk to heat slowly so it doesn't skin over, or at least not too much.  Let it warm until small bubbles start forming at the edges and maybe a few in the middle.

Take it off the fire and gently stir in the vinegar.

The acid in the vinegar makes the milk solids separate from the liquids.  This is Little Miss Muffet's Curds and Whey!

Some curds already separating out.
I first put in 1/4 cup of vinegar.  After it had set for about 5 minutes, there were curds but the liquid was still very white.  That means you can get more curds out of it, so I added another 1/4 cup of vinegar.

Now it looks just like it should:  white curds and golden whey.

The curds are fully separated from the whey.
Let it sit for about 10 minutes or so to finish curding and to cool.

Next you line a strainer with cheese cloth or unbleached muslin.  Pour the mixture into it, so you keep the curds and discard the whey.

You can keep the whey if you'd like.  I'm sure there are some recipes out there for it, and I've heard you can use it as the primary liquid for bread, too, although I've never tried it.  There have been days where I was demonstrating cooking techniques while cooking over charcoal and sitting in the sun, and I found that the whey tastes very, very good then.   Try it; you may like it.  I've enjoyed it both warm and cold.

The recipe I first learned from suggests you squeeze the curds to press out the whey but I found this tends to push the curds through the cheesecloth.  So I just let it drain for about an hour.  That seems to work well.

Once it is done you have moist but not soggy curds that smell like fresh milk.

You can mix in a little salt to flavor it and to help preserve it.  You can also mix in a variety of things:  herbs, chopped fruit, spices, or even a little cream to smooth out the texture.  Before you put in the cream, though, work the curds thoroughly with a fork to break them up into smaller pieces.  You may like that texture better and don't need the cream.

Keep in mind that you only get about 1 - 2 cups of curds from 1/2 gallon of milk.  That tells me why cheese is so expensive!

The Verdict:  Success, as always!  This recipe has never failed me.  It is fun, easy, and makes a tasty result.

This is an old, old recipe.  People have made cheese like this for centuries.  You are limited only by your imagination in what you can do with it.  Make lasagna or a sweet spread for bread or something to put between cake layers or...

I'll leave it to you!

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