That One Time I Made Cheese.
Bonjour Mes Amis!
Have you missed me? M’avez-vous manquer? Fear not – for I have returned, for (sadly) the last installment of the Lexie/Rachel Project. If you are joining us for the first time, you may not know that I have been on a culinary journey of sorts with The Little Paris Kitchen as my guide. Think Julie/Julia but in a California set, awkward 20-something kinda way, ya dig? You can catch up by checking out my first and second adventures if you like.
Today will be about that one time I made Cheese.
No really, I did, for reals, make cheese. Why this seems magical to me, I’m not sure, but it is. Cheese is probably one of my favorite things ever. I have overpaid for cheese like I have for shoes, plane tickets, and anything else that is truly worth it in the end. I have always pictured the people who made cheese in cute little wooden cottages tucked away in the rolling hills of France, Italy, or Sonoma County (I mean, all San Franciscans have to buy local, right?!) speaking in hushed voices and passing down voodoo secrets which make the cheese taste so delicious. But it turns out, even I (and you! And you!) can be one of those gifted, charmed, cheese-making- people! Enter: Rachel Khoo.
And so it happened like this: as I was flipping through the pages of this lovely book trying to figure out what I wanted to write about next, I landed on the page of Fromage Frais and thought – “like that’s possible” only to read through the incredibly simple instructions below and then, MADE CHEESE. ME. I MADE CHEESE.
Makes about 14 oz
Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste.
• 2 qt 2 percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized
• 1/2 cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic
• juice of 1 lemon (6 tbsp)
• a pinch of salt or sugar
• 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil. Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.
Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.
To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.
Spread the cheese over a slice of toasted brioche or bread, then just let your imagination and taste buds get creative to sweeten or spice it up. These are some of my favorite flavorings.
Sweet: a drizzle of honey or maple syrup or a sprinkling of sugar can be quite sufficient. Or serve with fresh or stewed fruit (berries are especially good). For a crunch factor, try nuts or granola.
Savory: cracked black pepper, a pinch of chile, or freshly chopped herbs (chives, parsley, etc.)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes–overnight
How it went: I actually ended up making this at about 10pm on a school(work!) night. One of my roommates had a spontaneous dinner party earlier, and everyone was still gathered in the kitchen sipping on wine and nibbling at a cake when I realized that I needed to start the cheese so it could sit overnight.
So I followed the recipe to a T, not wanting to mess with science/voodoo cheese magical procedures, and in less than an hour I was draining the curds and whey (love that I just said that without first saying “little Miss Muffit, sat on a tuffet, eating her…”). Everyone knew I was making something for the Lexie/Rachel Project, but had no idea it was cheese until they saw me draining/tying the cheese cloth knot! Needless to say they were very impressed – I upped my DIY/organic San Francisco street cred by a few points and, as I put the hanging ball-o-cheese in the fridge, I felt incredibly accomplished!
Also, IT TASTED AMAZING. See below for a collection of pictures of the making process and my brave roommate Ellie building her English muffin breakfast this morning c/o the fresh cheese! Feel free to also indulge as we did with just the plain cheese and a bit of honey.
And so this lovely little adventure comes to an end in print, but not in life. I have cooked and will continue to cook many recipes from this little book and I encourage you whole-heartedly to as well. It’s a beautiful text that keeps it simple, so that anyone (no matter their culinary level) can enjoy the pleasures of delicious, fresh, French cuisine.
Jusqu’à ce que nous nous revoyions,
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