Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenged us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
Yes! you read that correctly! I was the hostess of this month’s daring cooks’ challenge! I was thrilled yet somewhat intimidated but I really enjoyed the experience!
I challenged my fellow daring cooks to make cheese. In the challenge I suggested 4 types of cheese (Labneh, ricotta, soft cheese and feta) to cover the range from beginner to more advanced cheese making. If you are new to all this cheesy stuff and would like to take on the challenge and make cheese at home first check out my cheese making 101 page.There you will find answers to questions like what is rennet? what type of milk should I use to make cheese? what is calcium chloride? You will also find links to websites where you can buy cheese making supplies, where to find raw milk and links to vegan cheese recipes .
Now that you have all the basic information, you are ready to start your cheese making adventure. I would also suggest starting out with simple easy cheeses, like ricotta or labneh that will give you an idea about basic concepts in cheese making like curds, whey, straining. It will also give you more confidence in your cheese making skills and enable you to tackle more complicated cheeses like goat cheese, feta cheese and mozzarella.
To make it easier to find the recipes I decided to give each type of cheese its own post. You will find the links to all the other types of cheese in the end of the post.
If you would like to download the challenge pdf you can do so HERE
One last note before getting to the recipes. I would like to thank John from The Bartonili kitchens for being the inspiration behind this whole cheese adventure. If it wasn’t for his ricotta recipe I would have never tried making cheese in the first place. It has been a fun adventure that I can’t wait to continue by trying more and more types of cheese
Paneer and Ricotta:
Paneer is an Indian cheese made by using an acidic agent (lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar) to curdle the milk.Traditionally ricotta is made by re-boiling the whey that results from making of mozzarella (ri-cotta means cooked again in Italian) but that can be time consuming and the resulting amount of cheese is very small. You can use the following recipe to make ricotta that is wonderfully creamy and can be used in recipes that call for ricotta like lasagna or pancakes (I have personally done that and it beats store bought ricotta). If you try to google paneer / ricotta you will find recipes that are almost identical. The difference I found is that the recipes that make this cheese, without pressing it (leave it with a somewhat crumbly texture) use as ricotta and refer to it as ricotta too. The recipes that call for pressing this cheese and forming it into cubes then aging it for 3 days in the fridge refer to it as paneer.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (homogenized)
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon (7 ½ ml) (9 gm) table salt
5 tablespoons (75 ml) white distilled vinegar
1.Combine milk, cream, and salt in a large non-reactive pot and stir over medium heat as you bring the temperature up to 85°C (185°F) (about 15-20 minutes).
2. Add the vinegar all at once and stir for 15 seconds; heat for two more minutes before removing from heat.
3.Allow to rest undisturbed for 15 – 20 minutes
4. Using a small sieve or slotted spoon, remove the floating curds and place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain
5.Place colander over a bowl in refrigerator and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight (I found 2 hours was enough). The longer you allow it to drain, the more firm the results.
6.Remove the ricotta from the colander, place in airtight containers, and refrigerate.
Ricotta will last up to two weeks in the fridge.
Recipe source: The kitchn yields about 1 1/2 cup
Ingredients: 8 cups (2 litres) milk (whole or 2%) 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) lemon juice
Directions: 1.Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. If you’d like to keep the whey for another purpose, set the colander over a bowl to catch the whey. Otherwise, you can just set it in your sink.
2.In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Keep an eye on it because it can boil over very quickly.
3.When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
4.Stir until the milk separates into curds and whey. If it doesn’t seem to be separating completely, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.
5.Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
6.When it’s cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can.
7.To press it into a solid cheese, set the bundle in the middle of a plate with a good lip to catch the liquid that will be squeezed out. Put another plate on top and press until the bundle has flattened into a 1-inch (2½ cm) disk. Leave the plate on and weight it down with something heavy (like a few cans of tomatoes). Press the cheese for at least 20 minutes, though an hour is ideal.
8.Drain off the liquid that has collected and unwrap the paneer.
9.Use or store immediately. The cheese will firm up even more in the fridge.
This type of cheese is called yogurt cheese or Lebanese cream cheese but it is most commonly known as labneh. It is a staple on the middle eastern breakfast menu. It can also be used as a dip. It makes a wonderful spread for sandwiches with a few mint leaves or some pitted olives or better yet with a sprinkle of zaatar. To put it simply labneh is strained yogurt, it is super easy to make and very tasty and the best part is, you can flavor it any way you like. Mint, oregano, sumac, olives, chili flakes..
You can find the recipe for making soft labneh and labneh korat here.
Feta cheese is a type of Greek cheese that is pickled or brined. The brining process gives feta cheese its characteristic salty, tangy flavor and a crumbly consistency.
Feta cheese can be served as a table cheese, used in baking savory dishes usually paired with spinach as a filling for pastry or as a stuffing for chicken, or served as an appetizer or in salads
You can find the recipe and step by step instructions to making feta cheese here
Nabulsi (or naboulsi) cheese is one of the most popular white brined cheeses made in the Middle East. Its name denotes its place of origin, Nablus, Palestine and it is well-known throughout Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.Nabulsi cheese is produced primarily from goat milk but sheep’s milk can also be used. Nabulsi cheese is white and rectangular in shape. It is semi-hard with no gas holes. It becomes soft and elastic when heated making it idea for frying or grilling
You can find the recipe and step by step instructions to making nabulsi cheese here
You can find the recipe for easy soft cheese here