The other day my husband was watching Rick Bayless on his cooking show and suddenly announced that he wanted to make his own cheese. So, we went to the store to buy a few simple ingredients, and while I made fresh tortillas he got to work making Queso Fresco Mexicano. This is sooo simple to make and our kids were fascinated by the process. Oh, and the cheese tastes really good too! You should try it.
Start by heating up a gallon of 2% milk and 2 cups of buttermilk over medium heat until it reaches 75 degrees. Then, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 3-4 hours.
Next you are going to separate the curds from the whey by adding 1 tsp of citric acid dissolved in 1/4 C cold water, OR 1 cup of fresh lime juice. Heat the milk again over medium heat until it reaches 195 degrees, stirring occasionally The whole process takes about 20 minutes. We could not find citric acid at any of our local grocery stores so we went with the lime juice. I was a little bit worried about having lime flavored cheese, but the lime flavor was pretty subtle and I think it made the cheese even better. And really, this is Mexican cheese, so any dish you add this too is going to go great with a little lime.
Once all the curds have separated, turn off the heat and let the pot sit for about five minutes before scooping the curds out onto cheese cloth.
...eating her curds and whey...seems kind of weird now huh?
OK, so there will be a little bit of moisture still in the cheese. Instead of just squeezing the cheese cloth, you need to gently push on it with the back of a spoon.
I don't have any pictures of the next few steps, but basically you sprinkle the cheese with salt (in my opinion Rick's recipe called for a little too much and the cheese was just a little too salty) Form the cheese into a disk (or just push it down into the bottom of a bowl like my husband did), cover and chill in the refrigerator.
Once it's chilled you can eat it any way you darn well please. We ate ours with warm fresh tortillas, and then ate then rest straight out of the bowl.
Overall the process is kind of long, because it has to sit for several hours, but it's not hard, it tastes really good, and it's just kind of fun to say that you made your own cheese!
Queso Fresco Mexicano
Slightly adapted from Rick Bayless, and by slightly adapted I mean I used table salt instead of sea salt so I used less. Otherwise, I wouldn't have a clue how to change a cheese recipe.
1 Gallon whole or 2% milk
2 C buttermilk
1 tsp citric acid OR 1 C fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
Thermometer that goes as low as 75 degrees
Combine milk and buttermilk in a large pot and heat over medium heat until the mixture reaches 75 degrees. Tun off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 3-4 hours.
If you find citric acid, start by dissolving 1 tsp in cool water, otherwise squeeze enough limes to get 1 cup juice. Add the citric acid mixture OR the lime juice to the milk and turn the heat back on to medium, stirring occasionally until it reaches 195 degrees. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon scoop out the curds onto cheese cloth that has been placed over a colander.
Gather up the cheese cloth and gently press the curds with the back of a spoon to expel the remaining whey.
Open up the cloth, sprinkle with salt and work it in with your hands,
Press the curds into a 1-inch disk. Cover and chill.
Then wow everyone by telling them that you made your own cheese!