Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The whey of the world, part 1

The on-going saga of my quest to make cheese

For years now I have thought about making cheese.

Every once in a while on my travels through the Internet looking for a recipe I would stumble across a recipe for one kind of cheese or another and I would save it and then forget about it. It seemed like an impossible dream. I had visions of the need for big, stainless steel vats and kitchens as sterile as an operating room - equipment beyond the average home cook.

Then, William bought me Lynne Rosetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table" and there I found a cheese I thought I could handle, Fresh Squaquerone.
Described as "A fresh cow cheese originating in Romagna, squaquerone is tangy and creamy at the same time, a cross between yogurt and cream cheese."

It's quick, simple and, speaking for myself, idiot-proof.

Fresh Squaquerone
6 oz cream cheese made without guar gum (read the label)
1/4 cup chilled sour cream
1/2 cup of chilled buttermilk
3/4 cup chilled plain yogurt made with live cultures and without pectin
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

The instructions (paraphrased)

In a medium size bowl, blend the cream cheese and sour cream together then stir in the buttermilk, leaving pea-sized lumps of the cream cheese mixture. Gently fold in the yogurt and lemon juice, taking care not to stir so hard that the yogurt liquefies. Add salt to taste. Mellow in the refrigerator in a covered bowl for 24 to 36 hours before using.

Kasper suggests adding 2 cups of chopped herbs (basil, parsley, etc) for a savory dip or spread.
Other uses for the finished product include replacing squaqureone for mayonnaise in potato salad; as a sauce for pasta with garlic and olive oil or with sauteed onion, minced garlic and basil, as a topping for baked potatoes; a dressing for fruit salad or spread on fresh baked bread.

I was baking bread every day back then and that's how Emily and I liked it.

Ryan wouldn't touch it and William was highly suspicious so I think I only made this a couple of times. I may just give this one another shot now as William has expanded his culinary horizons.

I've realized now how this cheese must have come about - farm wives with all of those cultures hanging around their kitchens looking for ways to use up odds and ends.

Cheese is all about culture and it's simple and complicated all at the same time.
It's simple because, with access to the right milk to start with, many soft and semi-soft cheeses and cheese products can be made practically out of thin air, - literally. Or rather the bacteria which can be found floating around in it.

I myself, can't imagine a world without cheese.

Back when it wasn't as easy as driving to the grocery store and pulling it off the shelf, if you wanted it, you had to do it yourself or know someone who did.

Blessed are the cheese makers.

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