Thursday, November 18, 2010

Queijo Fresco

I am lucky enough to be friends with a lovely family from Brasil. Through them I have learned about Brasilian cuisine, including jaboticaba, and all manner of yummy sweets. Brasilian sweets are awesome! But I digress....

Today, one of my dear friends taught me how to make cheese. We've been planning this for months. For my birthday she had one of her aunts bring cheese molds and enzymes back from Brasil and we've been waiting for my finger to heal so I could make the cheese. It's a hands-on project, to say the least! We are starting with queijo fresco (fresh cheese) but, from what I understand, from this we could make all manner of hard or cured cheeses. My friend's grandmother puts things in the queijo fresco, such as chopped up olives or herbs or peppers or whatever else strikes her fancy. The possibilities are endless, I'm told.

In order to make the cheese we needed 5 liters of raw milk. The closest place to purchase raw milk is a 40 minute drive away and I had to sign a waiver before I could buy it. It's the cutest little dairy, and I also got some local honey and a scoop of ice cream while I was at it. (Peppermint, my favorite!) Plus I was greeted by a friendly bulldog and learned a thing or two about raw milk from another customer. I spent a while there, eating my ice cream and chatting with the staff person and customer. Nice place. I'll be going back there, I'm sure.

The first step is heating the milk to "the temperature when it came out of the cow," as my friend put it. So we heated 5 liters of milk in 2 pots and it very quickly got to 97 degrees. We then combined it into 1 pot and added kosher salt. Then we stirred in 1 capful of the enzyme. I think it's a form of chymosin, but I can't read Portuguese to save my life. I'm grateful my friend translated for me. We then let the pot sit while the milk coagulated.

After about 45-50 minutes, it was ready! We cut up the curd with a knife and then let it sit for a few more minutes to let the whey separate a little. Then we strained out the whey using a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Then it was time to put the cheese in the mold.

We both expected that we would fill both the molds and were really surprised when it all fit into one. It is a process that involves a lot of kneading and squeezing the whey out of the cheese. We stuck my cutting board over the sink so the whey could just run off; the mold has holes on the side to let out the whey. They're a little small; either the mold needs more holes or just larger ones. You squeeze and press the cheese into the mold, then pinch the top to break it up and then add more in. Repeat until the cheese feels pretty firm, and then when you think it's ready, flip it. Flipping is probably the hardest part of the process. Pinch up the surface again and add more cheese to the top, and keep pressing...

and pressing...and pressing until it's all in there, smooth and firm, and less of the whey is coming out. Then put it on a plate and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a night. Voila!

2 comments:

  1. Nice post! Always wanted to know about cheese.

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  2. Well, we do have a lot in common, Donna! I too made cheese a couple of years ago, before I ever thought about blogging. I ordered the kit from the internet and did Mozzarella Cheese. It was a lot of fun and really want to do it again, you have inspired me. I wish we didn't live across the country from each other, I would love to have get togethers in trying new things! Good to visit.

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