Cheesemaking has fascinated me for years. It is much like soapmaking in that you take simple, basic ingredients and with a bit of chemistry transform them into something exponentially more wonderful than what you began with. My soapmaking fascination has led to my soap business, leaving my cheesemaking interests unfulfilled. And yet I check books out from the library and dream of the day I'll commit some time to learning about cheese.
And then there are the happy accidents. Like when you set out to make something else and find you've made cheese. Yup. I made cheese. Completely by accident.
(Worth noting: as a child I was fascinated by the serendipitous kitchen discoveries that our ancestors made. I heard a story of how bread dough, accidentally dropped into boiling water was the first noodle and I seriously thought of that with awe every time I ate pasta for years. Total bliss to have my own kitchen accident and "discover" something myself, new or otherwise.)
It started like this: Each week the children and I make a pound or two of butter from local grass-fed cream. (It is one of my favorite parts of our putting-food-by rhythm.) The nutrition this butter provides is far superior to that of non-pastured or winter butter and because of our family's history of tooth decay I view summer butter as something as important as others might view fluoride or medicine.
A gallon of raw cream will yield about 1 1/2 pounds of fresh butter to freeze and leave me 2 1/2 quarts or so of sweet or tart buttermilk – depending on if I cultured the cream or not – to determine a use for. Because we don't eat grains, baking with it was out. And really, how much salad dressing can one family eat? So I resorted to giving it to a friend to feed to her pigs rather than dump it down the drain. I wasn't very inspired by buttermilk. And because I sometimes don't culture my cream before making butter (my kids prefer it that way) the buttermilk – rather than being thick and tart – it more like skim milk. Not inspiring for culinary creativity.
Last week I decided to culture the buttermilk post butter-making. (What can I say. It was an afterthought.) I began to gently warm the buttermilk on the stove with the intention of heating, cooling, and inoculating with yogurt culture to see what happened. But as the buttermilk heated, suddenly curds and whey separated and I was left with cheese. Whoa. Now what? Faced with the choice of dumping it or eating it, I was hoping it was palatable.
I hustled to the computer and googled "heat buttermilk make cheese" and sure enough, I had just stumbled upon one of the simplest incarnations of home cheesemaking. After straining out the whey through a cloth (the whey I then fed to my garden plants) I refrigerated the cheese and discovered to my joy that the kids could not get enough of it. It is creamy and crumbly, mild, and delicious. And ridiculously easy to make.
To enjoy your cheese, lightly salt and serve as you would any soft young cheese, or drizzle with a bit of honey and server with fruit.
Today we'll be making another pound or two of butter. And yes. More cheese!
Note: For GAPS friends, you would need to do a 24 hour culture of your cream to make this cheese GAPS legal. Just an FYI. We have decided to allow raw dairy or home-cooked raw dairy again because of our tooth decay history.
24 thoughts on “The Simplest Cheesmaking.”
What a fortunate accident! I so incredibly wish we had a source for raw milk here! I think I would ‘cheat’ on our paleo diet for raw milk and homemade cheese…
I was laughing to myself because I too was fascinated by the “accidental” kitchen discoveries as a small child. Still am really! Every time I bake and I am adding baking powder or soda I think “who the heck thought to invent this…much less add this in cake”? These are great mysteries…so much fun. Love your cheese, looks yummy!
Cool! What a great discovery.
My mom, at http://whiteleycreek.com loves making cheese with milk she picks up from a farm. I’m sharing this super easy way to make cheese with her. Thanks!
This is really the way to make cheese. Simple and without fuss.
Oh my gosh, that looks amazing. I checked Ashley English’s dairy book (name is escaping me right now) out of the library before our vacation and read just enough to convince myself that I could make butter and yogurt – and then promptly forgot all about it 🙂 Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration!
Sounds a lot like the paneer I made last week–delish!
I love doing this! I make paneer palak with it and some spinach and tomatoes. I also did this with almond milk and used it to make cheese for a fake-ricotta dish for my vegan friends. It didn’t make much that wy but I mixed it with a cashew style cheese too. You can do it with plain whole milk, just heat almost to boiling and add ACV or lemon juice until it forms your curds 🙂
Sweet! Thanks, Kari.
It is. Identical I suspect.
I still am too, Cassandra!
I just love your blog, and am also fascinated with the idea of cheesemaking. Making anything is like magic, is it not? I’ve recently been making my own bread and feel like making my own cheese (one day) will be just as fun!
I was blessed with two grandmas who did it all and a mom who canned, sewed, and gardened (all while raising kids and going to college). Cheesemaking is a new frontier for me (thought Id be my dads mom dabbled in it.) Id love to try more complex cheeses as well!
Did you culture this milk before making butter?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The first (and best time) for the cheese I did not. Ill experiment again next week after I pick up my cream and try it again with sweet cream. The last batch wasnt nearly as slick and I had cultured.
Ok I have to ask, and chance seeming terrible dumb, but what does the raw milk have to do with tooth decay?! I would love to know as my family is prone to it also!! Please do tell!! I am fascinated by the wonders that modern society has left behind as too much work…
If you search real milk online you can find many of the reported health benefits. It is more digestable and therefore we prefer it. Grassfed dairy in general, however, is the most important piece of this puzzle. Search Weston Price x-factor and youll find an abundance of info. A vitamin only in grass fed dairy effects our ability to absorb minerals is the short story.
I saw this kind of home-made cheese in South East Asia. They taste so good in bread and even on rice. And of course, they can do wonders for your body because of all their nutrients. They can even prevent tooth decay.
I was digging back through your recipes and found this one tonight and as I was making butter already I thought that I would try it. I heated my buttermilk and heated and heated and nothing. It finally got to the point where it wanted to boil so I hopped online to see what I could find. Long story short, I ended up adding ACV to make the curds form. It worked, but at this point the curds are a little chewy. I’m thinking they should be soft as I’ve had some homemade cheeses before. From the post it seems you only heated your buttermilk. Any ideas on what went wrong? You’re so awesome for sharing all of your ideas.
Was your buttermilk cultured? Mine was from raw cream that was allowed to thicken on the counter for 24 hours I believe. I should try to recreate this with cream cultured with yogurt and see what happens…
Sorry it didnt work for you. Yes, when Ive made cheese by heating and adding vinegar it tends to be rubbery. This was soft and a tiny bit tart.
No, it was raw cream. I just used the buttermilk straightaway from making the butter. It is still edible, just not what I was hoping for. Oh well. Now I’m on a mission. 🙂
I think that’s why. I think it needs to be “thickened” or cultured to work.