Life at home: Making Cheese!

Rural living has given me things that I only dreamed of before.

Fresh and organic food from our own earth being of the ones that we use daily. From manfriend’s crop (which is his favorite hobby) we get beans, peas, bananas, tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, long coriander (recao), regular coriander (cilantro)… and that’s just from regular harvest. Depending on the season we get other things.

His family also shares their harvests and we get star fruits, beets, mangos, lemon, fresh eggs and milk.

His father has a milk cow and gives us a couple of gallons every few days. I don’t drink whole milk, so it was obviously becoming too much milk for us and then manfriend’s step-mother gave us the answer; cheese!

Since we couldn’t use other by-products as efficiently (e.i. cream) cheese became the best alternative to use every bit of milk we get. As if I’m going to let nature’s gift (and my father-in-law’s work) go to waste!

Armed with lemon we ventured into cheese making. As the milk went into the pot I remembered when I was a kid and my mother and my grandmother made cheese. My uncle would bring us five gallon pots and pastilles to curd it and we would spend the entire day pressing the cheese and drying it. It was so tedious and arduous and in the end you got this tiny cheeses that, yes, tasted like heaven but my goodness SO MUCH WORK.

Miraculously, it turned out that making natural cottage cheese is SO MUCH EASIER. It basically makes itself! Which is my favorite kind of food!

If you want to try it you need four basic ingredients: bravery, whole cow milk (you can’t do this with anything you buy in the store) lemon and salt. Some people over here use oranges and other citrus fruits for curdling, I haven’t tried that yet.

 For a gallon of milk, a full plastic cup of lemon juice. Try not to get the segments in there if you want to make really clean and fancy cheese, I make rough, eat-with-your-hands cheese, with segments. You warm the milk at medium heat (it should not boil), add the lemon, stir occasionally and suddenly you will have cheese. You’ll see complete separation of serum and milk curds and squee with excitement.

Then you strain the cheese into a strainer small enough that the cheese won’t go through (like the one in the picture) and let it sit. When it’s closer to room temperature, strain out the rest of the excess liquid (you might want to push it a bit with a spoon or your hand; the drier you want it, the more you strain it). Add salt to taste and mix it well. Make any shape you want with it (I make ready-to-serve balls) or put it in a mold and refrigerated it.

It should be consumed within two days for maximum freshness, but my grandmother freezed some I made and swears it was perfectly good after thawing. You could experiment with that if you need to.

Eat it with hot, caramelized apples and pears (don’t forget the cinnamon!). Feel happy.

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