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.