I have been asked how we do it - it is simplicity itself:
- In a pan which is large enough, put 1/2 gallon of whole milk and 1 pint of buttermilk. Mix well.
- As slowly as possible, heat the mixture to 175°-185°. DO NOT BOIL!
- By the time you get to 160°, curds will probably be starting to form. This will impede the heat flow by thickening the mixture. Occasional gentle stirring is in order. But I repeat, GENTLE. You don't want to break up the forming curds. When curd formation begins in earnest at say 170°, cease stirring.
- Once the mixture reaches 175° to 185° and the curds are beginning to separate from the whey, turn off the heat. Be careful not to overheat. Measure the temperature of the mixture in multiple locations - the thickening mixture will trap heat near the source.
- Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
- Drape a double layer of cheese cloth over a colander or strainer. In a pinch you can use another pot, but you'll have to lift out the cheese cloth and dump off the whey as it drains.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully and gently scoop out the curds from the whey and place them into the waiting cheese cloth. Every inch or so of depth, sprinkle on a little salt.
- The more you drain the cheese, the firmer it will be. For a nice spreadable cheese, do not over drain
|160° - curds starting to form|
|180° - curds separating from whey|
|Into the cheese cloth with you!|
|Drip, drip, drip|
- Don't bother doing this if you feel you must use anything less than whole milk. Abominations: 2%, 1%, skim milk.
- If you don't have buttermilk, any source of (edible) acid will do - vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice. But the character of the resulting cheese will be subtly different. Try starting with a tablespoon or perhaps two of vinegar or citrus juice.
- Real cheese cloth works best - not that filmy stuff that you could push your finger thru. Use a double layer.
- An oriental noodle spoon - the round flat one with all the tiny holes - works really well for scooping up the curds
- Don't just discard the whey - it is a wonderful cooking resource. For example, if you are making pasta, boil it in the (already hot) whey instead of plain water for a wonderfully creamy taste. You were making pasta, weren't you?