Food Sovereignty 101: Having Fun with Easy Cheeses


Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese
~ Luis Buñuel

Curds

Curds

Have a last minute potluck and no idea of what to bring?

Friends coming over unexpected and you haven’t done your groceries?

Want to make a midnight homemade pizza and suddenly realize the cheese is gone?

What about eating healthy and knowing what’s in your cheese?

Well…now you can make a variety of cheeses, at home, with just milk, vinegar or lemon!

There are many ways to make cheese…when I started years ago, my concern was time and the need for all those strange names: rennet, citric acid, cultures…not only they were nowhere to find (now you can buy them from Homesteaders’ Junction if you live around Vancouver, or from Cultures for Health if you are in the US, but a few years ago these were rare things to be looking for), they were also expensive and difficult to ship: cultures usually require some refrigeration…

I have been making my own feta cheese (with culture) for a while now (I make it every other week as that’s the favourite at home), and cultures are great to create that specific taste you are looking for (the taste that differentiates a Parmesan from Feta, Mozzarella or Asiago, for example), but those delicious cheeses require time and specific cultures (as mentioned before) and you may end up investing much more money than what you would if you just buy them from the store.

My other concern was sustainability and resilience: if I want to make cheese and can’t buy cultures, rennet and so on, how do I do it? In ancient times, people didn’t have Amazon, or a home delivery mail system. But they did have cows and goats around…

Thankfully, getting the milk is not that difficult (any milk would do, except the ultra-pasteurized as everything living has been killed there)…so I started to ask around, experiment and…remembering!

My mom and grandma used to make ricotta and “queso fresco” (fresh cheese) at home without any of those strange things: they used milk that was going to go bad and lemon. Some of my Indian friends would also make paneer (an Indian cheese) the same way!

With time and playing with all types of milks, acidic stuff (from lemons to all types of vinegars), salt, herbs plus different amounts of time and heat and different proportions of one or other of those same things, I created a few different cheeses.

And then one day, my partner came with a book I could have written myself! “One Hour Cheese” by Claudia Lucero, founder of “Urban Cheese Craft”: a compendium of many of the cheeses I was already making (and mom and grandma and the Indians), plus some other great ideas!

This coming Saturday, I’ll be facilitating a workshop to learn how to make your own “easy cheese” at home (and it’s already sold out!) but don’t worry: I’ll be facilitating another one in South Surrey Food Bank on July 9 (2016) at 10 AM…(see details at the bottom of this post)

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Cutting the cheese

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Salting the cheese

Here a small treat for you to try:

Queso de Cabra” (Goat Cheese, or Fresh Cheese)

What you need:

Equipment:

  • A non-reactive pot with capacity for a gallon
  • A big spoon
  • A strainer (such as pasta strainer)
  • A butter muslin
  • A cheese thermometer (but don’t fret if you don’t have one)
  • A glass container to put your cheese once is done

Supplies:

  • 1 quart of goat milk (if you don’t have goat milk, just use regular milk, but the taste will be slightly different, you can also make this with the 2 quarts of goal milk, just experiment!)
  • 1 quart of regular milk (not ultra pasteurized!)
  • ¼ to 1/5 cup of vinegar (I like the flavour of apple cider vinegar, but you can try any and see how it goes, each vinegar will provide a different flavour, the apple cedar is the one that leaves the least flavour)
  • salt to taste
  • herbs (dried or fresh)

How to proceed:

  • Open the butter muslin on the top of the strainer and put all this over a big bowl to catch the whey
  • Heat the milk in the pot until it reaches around 200F or when you see it is about to boil (but don’t allow it to boil or it will taste a bit “cooked”
  • While the milk heats up, stir a bit to avoid it to stick to the bottom or form a layer of fat on the surface
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, just check until it is foamy and about to boil and turn it off
  • Add the ¼ cup to max 1/5 cup of vinegar and stir gently with a long spoon
  • You’ll see the separation of the curds happening right now and the whey (that yellowish liquid) differentiating from them
  • Take the pot from the stove and stir slowly for about 1 minute
  • Ladle the curds over the butter muslin, slowly
  • Take the butter muslin by its borders and make a ball, like a package (see picture below), you can press this bowl a bit or hang it for a few minutes so it dries a bit more. (do not leave for hours or you’ll end up with another type of cheese…unless you are looking for a hard cheese instead!)
  • Take the cheese from the butter muslin and mix it in a bowl with salt and herbs of your taste.
  • Once is good, put it into a glass container and press it down: it will take the shape of the container…
  • Tada! you have cheese! You can eat this cheese with crackers, jam, fermented apple butter, small berries, or allow it to dry and age a bit and cut it for a pizza…it should keep OK up to 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator (it doesn’t keep more than a few hours at home!)
Ball of cheese...

Ball of cheese…

What to do with the whey:

  • Freeze it to use later
  • Save it in the fridge for is using within a couple of days
  • Use as base for broths, soups, casseroles, sauces, etc
  • Use it instead of water when making bread
  • Use it instead of water or milk when making smoothies and shakes
  • Add a few table spoons to any fermentation project such as fermented apple butter, sauerkrauts, etc
  • Use it to water your plants (make sure is well drained so no curds stay afloat or you may be attracting pests)

Bonus: Fermented Apple Butter (delicious with this cheese and crackers!):

Fermented Apple Butter

Fermented Apple Butter

Equipment:

  • Oven tray
  • Knife
  • Non reactive bowl and spoon
  • Glass jar with lid

Supplies:

  • Apples, cored and peeled (about 4 if you want two 500ml jars). They can be a bit “old” (actually this is an excellent way to use those old apples that nobody wants anymore)
  • Honey (I use raw honey, organic), about a cup
  • Apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (from a lemon!)
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon ground
  • Whey (from the cheese above, about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Some thyme (optional)

Steps:

  • Cut the apples into chunks and put them in the tray, cover them with half of the honey
  • Bake the apples for a few minutes (until they are tender, don’t overcook, about 30-40 minutes at 350F)
  • Take them from the over and puree them with a fork or masher, let them cool down
  • Add the rest of the honey, the lemon and cinnamon, the vinegar and the whey and mix until it becomes a paste
  • Leave this to rest for about an hour, covered with a cheese cloth
  • Pour the puree into the glass jars, bury some thyme into each and put the lid on
  • Allow if to ferment overnight at room temperature
  • Put inside the fridge the next morning and allow it to “age” for a few days…if you can resist the temptation!
  • Enjoy! (It should last about a month if refrigerated, same as the cheese, it doesn’t last more than a week in my house!)

For more awesome DIY workshops, check Homesteaders’ Junction workshops and teachers: http://www.homesteadjunction.ca/pages/meet-our-teachers

Or stay tuned for the workshops I’ll be presenting at UBC Farm: http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/community/workshops-short-courses/

Or at Sources (South Surrey) Food Bank and/or Women’s Place: http://www.surreywhiterockfoodactioncoalition.ca/

For Workshops in South Surrey/White Rock, check the Facebook events (tickets will be available for registration soon!):

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About Silvia TIC

Welcome to these exercises inside the dimensions of what we are: we are what we dream and think and feel, but we are also the different characters we perform, not just the roles (mother, wife, friend), but those things we call “occupations” or “earning a life”. More than anything, we are part of a giant ecosystem and all what we do connects and impacts others (people, animals, plants, air, water...)

Posted on February 11, 2016, in Cheese Making, Community Building, Community Engagement, Community Resilience, Community Resources, Fermenting, Food, Food Handling, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Food Security, Food Skills Workshops, Food Sovereignty, Food Waste, Gift Economy, Growing Food, Homemade cheeses, Permaculture, Resilience, Right Livelihood, Sharing Economy, Simply Living, Sustainable Living. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for taking me back to my youth and the wonder of curds and whey. Curd was included in most recipes from savory to sweet. Delightful.

    Liked by 1 person

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