Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eating her curds and whey...

Back in Miss Muffet's day there were many family owned and operated dairies in the U.S. My grandfather was one of those dairy farmer's so I feel a personal connection to the dairy farmer. There has been a rapid decline in the past 20 years in family owned and operated dairies. In Alabama, my home state, 10 years ago there were approximately 200 small family run dairies. Today there are only about 60 and they are struggling hold on to their farms. There are numerous reason for the decline, but one of the major reasons for the decline is the takeover by corporate farming. These farms are strictly for money making. There is little regard for the animals or the quality of the product. The cows are fed high corn diets, attached to mechanical milkers, and pumped full of hormones, all in an effort to get the most milk for the least expense. The small farmer can't simply compete on volume and are not paid enough for their milk to keep their farms running. It's a sad situation that only we as consumers can change by supporting our local farmers. Not only will you be helping keep them in business but you will be getting a much higher quality (and healthier!) milk.
Brand new baby calf!
Sorry for getting out my soapbox, but the plight of the small farmer, is an issue near and dear to me!
I'm lucky enough to live very near Working Cow Dairy,  a certified organic milk dairy. Hubs and I visited their farm this past weekend. If I were a cow, this is where I'd want to live! The day we visited, they were offering milk buy one get one gallon free! I came home with 2 gallons of organic milk and a half gallon of organic chocolate milk.

I needed to use up some of my milk so I decided to try give cheese making a try. This was a first for me so I decided to make a simple farmer's cheese. Farmer's cheese is a simple unripened cheese, similar to cottage cheese, but drier and firmer in texture. It has a mild, slightly tangy flavor and is firm enough to slice or crumble. It's an all-purpose cheese that can be eaten as is or used in cooking. I think it's great spread on fresh bread. I added flat leaf parsley and chives to mine, but it's very good just plain.

Farmer's Cheese

1/2 gallon whole milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of any fresh herb, chopped (optional)

**Note: You do not want to use ultra-pasteurized milk for cheese making because a curd will not set. Ultra-pasteurized milk is not always labeled as such, but you can tell because the expiration date is extremely long, usually 30-90 days from the day you buy it. Regular pasteurized milk, however, will work fine for cheese making. Milk from a dairy in your area will give you the best results.

Bring milk to a slow boil. Keep the heat at medium or medium low, otherwise you risk burning the milk to the bottom of the pot.
When small, foamy bubbles begin to form on the surface of the milk, but it is not yet at a rolling boil, turn off the heat. If you have a thermometer, which is helpful, the temperature will read about 190 degrees.

Add the vinegar and stir the milk. You will notice curds immediately beginning to form.

Let the milk sit for 15 minutes. After this time, add any additional flavors (like fresh herbs).
Place a colander over a large bowl or pot. Drape either cheesecloth or a thin dish towel over the colander. Pour the curds into the cheese cloth. The whey (liquid) will drain and be collected in the bowl below and the solids curds will be caught in the cheese cloth.

Parsley and chives for my cheese.

Look at those lovely curds!


Lift the cheese cloth up and wrap it around the curds, twisting and squeezing to expel moisture. After squeezing out the moisture, the curds for farmer's cheese will be dry and crumbly. If you want a creamier texture, mix a little of the reserved whey back in with the curds. To shape the cheese, keep it wrapped in cheese cloth and form it into a mound on a plate. Set another plate on top and press the curds into a flat disc that is 1-2 inches tall. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so before removing cheese cloth.

I love the pattern from the cheese cloth!

Buy local, support your local farmers!!


Today's Gift said...

This looks so good! I lived in Montana for a while near a dairy farm and I would get fresh milk at least once a week. It was so tasty.

When I've made yogurt before I put a little bit of water on the bottom of the pan and then added the milk. That seemed to help prevent scorching too.

Chris said...

How fun! I have never made cheese before, although I keep saying I will. Thanks for the step by steps!


grace said...

moo! my uncle owns and runs a small dairy, so i'm intimately familiar with all things involved with milk production. cheese production? that's a different story. excellent post. :)