Have you wanted to try cheesemaking but been too intimidated? Do you enjoy spreadable cheese but don’t like the long list of questionable ingredients on most commercial cheese spreads? I’ve got a wonderful cheese just for you!
Fromage blanc (literally, “white cheese”) is the easiest cheese I’ve tried to date, even a bit simpler than kefir or yogurt cheese. (Kefir or yogurt soft cheese can be made by draining the milk kefir or yogurt until thick, but of course I have to make the kefir or yogurt first, which adds more steps.) It has a consistency somewhat like cream cheese or fresh chevre. I use it in recipes or add herbs or other flavorings to use it as a dip.
I like to start this cheese just before bedtime, let it culture overnight, and drain it in the morning.
Fromage Blanc Recipe – Homemade Soft Cheese
1 gallon milk – raw or pasteurized, whole or skim (skim will yield a drier cheese)
1 packet direct set formage blanc starter ( or one of the rennet/starter combinations listed at Cultures for Health – see their directions)
Adapted from the book Home Cheesemaking
In a large pot, heat milk to 86 degrees. Add the starter and mix well.
Cover and let set at 72 degrees F for 12 hours. Since it gets cool in my kitchen overnight in the winter, I’ve been placing mine in a cooler with a warm hot pack. I tuck a big towel around it to keep it cozy and absorb any moisture (there is generally a bit of condensation).
After 12 hours, the curd will be firm and the whey will be separated and slightly milky.
I place my big over the sink colander in a large bowl and line it with a large flour sack towel. You can also use butter muslin or a double layer of cheesecloth.
The cheese will just about fill the colander at this point. It shrinks up as it drains. Right now it looks more like thick yogurt.
Tie the ends of the cloth and hang to drain at room temp for 6-12 hours. Shorter drain time = softer cheese, longer drain time = firmer cheese. I generally hang for 6-8 hours.
As you can see, it produces quite a bit of whey. You can use the whey for drinking (freeze it in cubes to use in smoothies for extra protein), use it to make live culture foods, feed it to critters, or water outside plants (I think it might get too smelly inside).
When the cheese is done, it’ll be dry and fairly firm.
At this point you an use it “as is”, or add flavorings. It’ll keep for up to two weeks refrigerated in a covered container. One gallon of milk yields about 2 pounds of cheese (which is about twice as much as a batch of mozzarella).
Flavoring Soft Cheese
Cultures for Health has a whole list of flavor ideas for soft cheeses, such as drizzling it with honey and serving it with berries, or using herbs or chopped veggies. A couple of favorite options in our house are to mix it up like French onion dip with Simply Organic dip mix. I use 2 tablespoons of mix per one cup of cheese. This is what’s on the cracker at the top of the post. The boys inhale it. Tipnut has a Spice and Herb blend recipe cheat sheet that I think would be a great source for flavor ideas to experiment with for new combinations.
To make a seafood flavored spread, I took 2 cups of cheese, a 4 ounce can of baby shrimp, 2 tablespoons ketchup (homemade is great if you have it) and 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce. It makes a pretty light pink spread.
For a meat free main dish, I mix this cheese (flavored or unflavored) with some eggs, bread crumbs or flour, salt, pepper and seasonings to taste, then form into patties and fry in butter. (I promise I’ll try and measure the next time I make these. I usually just eyeball it.) I love dishes like this because they go together so fast, and it feels a little fancier than just plain eggs or cheese.
I hope you’ll try this quick and easy cheese, and that your family will enjoy it as much as mine does.
Don’t forget to check out the recipes for 30 minute mozzarella and ricotta from heaven.