See also Raw Milk and How to Make Cottage Cheese from Sour Milk.
Yesterday I went to visit my local raw milk farmers and came home with 3 gallons of fresh milk and a quart of cream. We usually use 2 gallons a week for fresh use and yogurt. The extra cream was for making butter and the extra milk was for trying my hand at cheese making.
I wanted to start with the easiest recipe I could find…queso fresco, Spanish for ‘fresh cheese.’ I’ve had it from the local Hispanic grocer, and it is excellent. The recipe looked super easy and I wanted to try something that would be really hard to mess up.
Here is the recipe I found online:
1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
Pour the milk into a stainless steel, 1 gallon pan. Bring to 180 F and remove from heat. Stir in vinegar until curds form. Line a colander with cheesecloth and set in a large bowl. Pour the curdled milk into the colander and drain in the fridge overnight. Add salt and stir into curds. Gather cheesecloth and tie. Hang over a bowl until it stops dripping. You can also put your cheese curds into a form and add weight to it for a firm round of cheese.
Here’s What I Did
I made some changes and it still turned out great. I used just a sprinkle of salt and was happy with the flavor. You might want to use more. The other change I made was to only drain the cheese for about an hour in the colander. I didn’t leave it overnight (too impatient) and I didn’t put a weight on it to make a firm cheese.
If you decide to make this cheese and you want to keep it for a while in the refrigerator, I would suggest using the 1/4 tsp of salt and draining it longer. If you press the moisture out of the cheese, you will have queso seco (Spanish for dry cheese). Which, I am sure, will also taste wonderful, but much saltier. It doesn’t take much salt for me to be satisfied, and I can make this recipe so quickly that I will probably stick with the queso fresco the way I made it today.
There were a couple things I thought worth mentioning. I started with a half gallon of milk and ended up with about 2.5 cups of cheese and almost a half gallon of whey. The whey tasted almost like skim milk, with just a hint of the vinegar detectable to me. I am planning to use some for making baked goods, like muffins. I’ve also read that you can use the whey for smoothies. So there won’t be any waste from the original gallon of milk. I like that…a lot!