Cheese

I had a nasty shock the last time I was grocery shopping. The price of cheese has practically skyrocketed. The chunk of cheese which just months ago cost me five dollars is now almost nine. I can't blame the usual suspects VAT or Customs or the supermarkets this time, world milk price have risen and is affecting all dairy costs. The problem now is how can I enjoy my cheese treats and dishes without breaking the bank.

The answer was simple—make my own. After all, cheese is made all over the world from the basic ingredient, milk. So, this is my experiment in cheese making.

My online research turned up countless methods for many different types of cheese. Cheese is made in one of two ways: rennet-curdling or acid-set. Rennet is an enzyme that will cause the milk to split into curds and whey; acid-set cheese use citric acid like lime or lemon juice or acetic acid (white vinegar). I opted for acid-set because, alas, I couldn't find rennet on the island. The rest was easy, sort of. I substituted cotton voile for cheese cloth (advantage I don't have to fold it into four layers).

This cheese is a very basic cheese that is made all over the world. It is called Farmer's cheese, curd cheese, paneer (India) and Queso Blanco (Mexico). It is a soft cheese that does not involve the long aging process of our more familiar cheddar. It is done in about 24 hours and can last two weeks in the refrigerator.

The Farmer's cheese is crumbly in texture and tasteless so it can be flavoured as you wish. It can be used in recipes as a substitute for ricotta or cottage cheese. It is used in blintzes, enchiladas, and even on pizzas.

I tried using half the amount of milk and salt, but left the full amount of vinegar to make sure I got as many curds as I could get.

Homemade Cheese
1 gallon (4 litres) fresh cow's milk
¼ cup white vinegar
½ tsp of salt
Pour the milk into a large saucepan. Do not use aluminium or copper as they will react to the acids in the milk.

Bring to a boil, stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching the bottom of the pan. When the milk starts to boil, at around 190°F, turn off the flame.
Boil the milk
Stir in the white vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. The curds, which are the white lumpy bits, will start to separate from the whey, the liquid. Curdle the milk
Take a quarter yard of well-washed cotton voile (or cheese cloth folded into four layers) and secure it over a large bowl. Pour the milk over the cloth to strain the whey from the curds. Strain the whey
If the whey is white, not yellow, there is still milk solids (cheese) in the liquid, so reheat the milk and repeat the process. The whey
Hang up the voile and let the milk drain for an hour or two. Hang to drip
Take up the cloth and turn it tightly to squeeze the remaining whey. You can use it at the point or press it to remove any remaining liquids. Squeezed out the whey
Put the cheese on a plate, cover with another plate and place a weight on top. Leave in the fridge for a couple hours. Press the cheese

Once pressed, the cheese can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge. Makes about 1 pound of cheese.
Homemade cheese