Monday, October 6, 2014

DIY: Homemade Cheese with Pickle Juice and 2% Milk

Now that I work from home, I have more time for trying all of those things I never had time for before.  And so I watched some YouTube videos on making your own cheese and of course--over-thinker that I am--I had to put my own twist on it!  The videos all said that you merely needed some form of acid (edible, of course) to make the milk curdle.  I thought, pickle juice is acidic.  I wonder if that would work.

So, you need a BIG stock pot (that will fit a gallon of milk comfortably).  I started with 1 cup of pickle juice (actually, the liquid from pickled banana peppers).  I made cheese out of 2% milk (pasteurized, regular ol' grocery store brand milk), but I've read that you get a much better product with milk of a higher content or you can add cream.  Don't use ultra-pasteurized products.  I heated up the milk and pickle juice on medium heat, stirring very often (you don't want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the pan).  As the milk heats, the curds (curdled milk) should start forming.  My milk wasn't curdling very much, so I added more pickle juice (another 1/2 cup or so).  Still didn't curdle enough.  There is a lot of water in pickle juice, so you actually need more liquid to get enough acid.  I didn't want to get too much pickle flavor, so I decided to add a couple of tablespoons of lime juice (lemon juice would work fine too).  That got the curdling going.  I pulled the pot off the heat just at the moment that it started to boil.  Then I let everything sit for 10 minutes.  The curds will float to the top and sink and they will be white.  The whey will be liquid and somewhat milky yellow.  I put a clean flour sack towel into a colander, and strained the curds from the whey.  You can squeeze the flour sack towel to remove as much whey as you want, but the curds get pretty dry and waxy if you take out too much whey. At this stage, you salt the curds and mix in herbs/spices or sun-dried tomatoes if you want, and press them into a mold or just put them into a container.  Refrigerate.

The cheese doesn't last long, so be sure to eat it up within a week or so.  I crumbled it into a salad of tomatoes, olive oil, chopped basil, and cucumber, with salt & pepper.  We also ate it on fish tacos like queso fresco.

I'm going to make a batch today with balsamic vinegar.  I think it will pair well with fruit.

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