Thursday, September 15, 2011

Queso Blanco....

We recently had a large number of Young Single Adults at our home.  Why?......because we have a new chapter of our lives that has just begun.  Rooster Senior has been called into the Bishopric of a Young Single Adult Ward.....and our Sunday's and some weekday evenings sure look a lot different than they used to.

What does this have to do with Queso Blanco?  Well, read on.  I recently attended a Cheese making class taught by Raylene from Mama Rae's Cheesemaking Supply.  As I sat in this class, I could see the possibilities of this unique cheese and decided to try this application that I will show you below.  First, let's see what you need to have.

I decided to make Cheese logs for this gathering of Young Single Adults.  In the class, Raylene had many different types of flavored vinegars and Spices she purchased from a Latino Food Store. She said the spices that you purchase in these establishments are a lot fresher and less expensive.  I'm all for that.  So, I purchased a couple from her list, along with Malt Vinegar.  I already had Balsamic and White Vinegar.  You will also need Kosher Salt flakes.  (These are so much less expensive than the Cheese Salts that you see advertised.  It is not iodized, which is needed for cheese making according to Raylene).

Simple things are needed for this.  Following Raylene's lead, I used my Hot Water Bath Canner (with the rack at the bottom) and my largest Stock pot.  This makes a large double boiler.  One thing I would do differently, I would heat the water a lot initially, then put in the stock pot in preparation for the milk. This would significantly cut down on the time needed to make heat up the milk.

Pour your milk into your double boiler.  I used 2 gallons of Whole milk.  You cannot use UltraPasturized Milk...FYI.  Read your labels.  (For those of you thinking about your powdered milk, wait until the end of the post).

You will need an actual Dairy Thermometer as the increments are smaller.  A traditional candy thermometer is not as accurate.  Mama Rae's sells this for $7.00.  Heat the milk to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once you reach 190 degrees, reduce your heat to keep the milk at that temperature.  Now, this next part is not an exact science......which I really appreciate!  Scoop out several cups of hot milk into a bowl.  I started with 5 cups, but quickly increased it to much more on the second and third tries....and you will see why in a minute.

I decided to use a Malt Vinegar....which is readily found at grocery stores.  Now, remember the "not an exact science" part? this slowly.  Pour in a little bit of vinegar and stir.  Do this in small increments until you see curds form and separate from the whey.

This is what it looks like when they separate.

According to Raylene, you need a sturdy cloth for hard cheeses, and she used one for this cheese.  Notice that I only put a corner of the cloth in my colander.  Pour the contents of the bowl into your cheesecloth-lined strainer. You can capture the whey and use it for other purposes by placing a bowl underneath your colander.

Remember the "use a corner of the cloth" comment?  Well, here is why.  Use another corner of the cloth to help you twist the cheese in the cloth to drain the whey.  It is a bit warm, and the corner makes the heat manageable to touch as you twist the ball.

On this step, it slowly and use a little bit of salt at a time.  Sprinkle some on your cheese, then knead it. Taste it to see if it has the amount of salt you prefer.  If not, sprinkle in some more.  You can always add salt, but you cannot take it away in this process.

Here is the cheese made from 5 cups of milk.....not a grand enough amount for a cheese log. So, feeling a bit more confident, I used more milk on the subsequent attempts at this same process.  If you choose to use herbs to flavor your cheese, put them in as your milk warms up.  If you choose to use spices, put them in a little at a time before you add white vinegar to curdle the milk. 

When I formed the first cheese log and tried some, it had more texture to it than I was used to.  So, I added a half package of cream cheese to each log.  Two gallons of milk made 4 logs.  Each was a different flavor.  Here there is Malt flavored cheese (my personal favorite), Balsamic flavored cheese (darker color), Italian spice flavored cheese, and finally Italian spice and Red wine vinegar flavor (I got creative).  I found that I had to put these in the refrigerator to set for at least 30 minutes.

Next, I took a plate and covered it with plastic wrap.  I then sprinkled some sliced Almonds on the plastic wrap.

I then rolled the cheese log into the almonds and pressed the nuts into the cheese.  I wrapped the log tightly.

Here are the final products.  I left them in the refrigerator over night.

I placed them on trays with a variety of crackers. 

What was the result?

  • The Malt and Italian with red wine vinegar went first.
  • The Balsamic was not preferred initially, however the guys took all the leftovers home with them....including crackers!
Now for the powdered milk comment.  Raylene stated that you could use Powdered milk....but it cannot be Ultra-Pasteurized or Aspic.  If you used Non-fat milk, you would need to add cream to increase the fat content.  I have shelf stable Cream that I may try if and when I do this again.

So, try it!  It is really quite easy.  You may find yourself saying the same thing I did...."Is that all there is to it?"

Addendum (9/17/11): I had a cheese log left in the refrigerator....that I neglected to put out.  It stayed in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  My husband said that it really tasted great!  I tried it as well......and the flavors were really good.  They were fine the night of our event.....but having them sit a couple of days really enhanced the taste.  FYI.

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