Thursday, October 28, 2010

Soft Cheese (like Chevre/Goat Cheese)

I've been dabbling in the world of cheese making for the last month or so now. I have tried a couple different cheeses, first of which was soft cheese. I followed Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS' instructions in her guest post on Edible Aria, as well as some guidance received via email and facebook. Wardeh has been a tremendous resource to me - in more areas than cheese-making, but I especially appreciate her guidance with cheese. I'm not sure I'd have tackled the cheeses I have so far, nor plan to do the cheeses that I want to try very soon, if it was not for her. So, thank you, Wardeh!

Soft cheese would be called chevre or goat cheese if I used goat's milk, but since I use raw cow's milk, its just soft cheese. It is one of the easiest cheeses to make... hence why I chose to start with it. :) You don't need any fancy molds or presses. Just your ingredients, a jar, some cheesecloth, a large bowl, and a way to hang the cheese. I've now made soft cheese three times and will be making it again this weekend. Its great to use plain (spread on toast, sourdough english muffins, sweet muffins, as fruit dip, etc.), mixed with herbs for a delicious spread on crackers or veggies, as sour cream, salad dressing, or in dishes. We've really enjoyed the results when using it in cooked dishes. Its such a nice, mild, creamy cheese.

The recipe I follow makes about 3 cups of soft cheese. It will keep for about a week in the fridge and it freezes well. Depending on my meal plan for the week, I will keep 1-2 cups of it fresh in the fridge and freeze the remainder for use the following week or whenever. Here is what I do... it may sound like a long process, but the active time is very minimal and does not take much skill at all.

Soft Cheese

1/2 gallon of raw goat or raw cow milk
1/8 teaspoon all-purpose mesophilic culture (MA or MM)
1/4 cup clean, filtered water
double strength organic liquid vegetable rennet
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

You will also need:
cloth napkin and rubber band
stainless steel or other non-reactive colander
stainless steel pot or other non-reactive large bowl into which the colander fits
2 pieces of 90-count cheesecloth or butter muslin


On day one, pour the milk into a half-gallon mason jar. Then, sprinkle the mesophilic culture on top of the milk and stir with a wooden spoon (do not use metal).

In a separate jar or cup, put the 1/4 cup of water. Add one drop of the double-strength liquid rennet and stir well. Take one tablespoon of this solution and add it to the jar of milk. Stir the milk well with your wooden spoon. (If you are using regular strength liquid rennet, mix one drop with the water, but add 2 tablespoons of the solution to the milk and stir well... I just use the double strength since that's what I bought after seeing what Wardeh uses... maybe someday I'll try the regular strength.) If you think you will be making more soft cheese within a week or two, keep the rennet solution in the refrigerator. Otherwise just throw it away.

Cover the jar of milk with a cloth napkin and secure with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature to culture for 24 hours.


Once the milk has cultured for 24 hours, it should resemble the consistency of a thick yogurt. Put your colander inside your pot or bowl. Layer the two pieces of cheesecloth or butter muslin in the colander. Gently pour the cultured milk into the cheesecloth. Tie up the cheesecloth, making a sort of bag to enclose the curds. You can just leave this in the colander as is, or hang it above the colander/bowl setup. I hang mine after I've let it drip in the colander for about an hour. Leave this at room temperature for 24 hours, during which time the whey will drip out and the curds will thicken.

Untie the cheesecloth and check the consistency of the cheese. It should be thick, but spreadable and not dry. You may let it hang longer if you wish the cheese to thicken more.

Once your cheese has reached your desired thickness, transfer to a clean bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir. Adjust amount of salt to taste. Pop the cheese into the refrigerator to chill. You may freeze some if you don't think you'll use it within a week or two.
Make sure you save the whey that has collected in the pot/bowl. Keep this in the refrigerator for up to 6 months to use in lacto-fermentation or add to soups. 

I end up with a quart of whey, plus three cups of cheese from this recipe.

This post is shared as part of the GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister.

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