Sunday, May 20, 2007

Easy Cheesy

There really are other things to talk about but I seem to have become a sorta, kinda strange alien form of the Cheesehead variety -- and I'm not even a Green Bay Packer fan! Scary, huh?

It's this homemade cottage cheese quest, you see. I browsed through countless recipes, none of which sounded any better than the one tried in the previous post. Until I stumbled across the web site for Cooking With Kurma. If you go there, click on the recipe link on the left. Then scroll down the resulting page until you find the recipe link for homemade cottage cheese.

When you read it, you'll understand why I had to try this. How can I possibly pass on a recipe that suggests I cook it in a waxed cardboard carton? That's just too kicky-kinky to ignore. And a one-ingredient come-on is too tempting to turn down. You know how I love recipes that are easy, fast and tasty.

So I got a quart of buttermilk. This took a certain amount of blind trust in Kurma because I don't DO buttermilk. Never. A stand-up comedian of my youth, Shelley Berman, said it wasn't the taste of the buttermilk that was offensive -- it was the way the glass looked after you drank it. I tend to agree with him and have cheerfully abstained from buttermilk my whole life. I may have to reassess that position.

As you can see above, the quart carton fits nicely inside my big kettle. Keeping Kurma's instructions for a gentle boil in mind, I brought the water just barely up to boiling and then immediately turned it down just enough to keep a few steady boil-bubbles rising to the surface. The carton began to puff up like the cheeks of one of those old drawings of the wind god so I wasn't going to allow a vigorous boil to encourage the expansion. Even so, I kept my distance, convinced that carton was going to breech and blow like a cavorting whale at any moment. I was hugely relieved to turn the heat off after the required 30 minutes and plop the lid down to contain matters. From that point, it was just a matter of leaving everything alone while the contents of the carton incubated.

Kurma suggests a 12- to 18-hour wait. I thought about that. Gee. That's a 6-hour term of variance, folks. How do you decide where to end the process? If I stop at 12 hours, will the curds be too soft? At 18 hours, will they be too tough? It might help if I knew the deciding factors but I have no clue.

When in doubt, split the difference. I decided to open the carton at the midpoint of the extra 6 hours. As it happened, the 15-hour mark fell right at noon today.

First I lined my strainer with a paper towel and wet it down so it would hold its position when I poured off the whey. Then I set the strainer over a bowl because I want to save the whey to use for liquid in the next loaf of bread. Then I carefully opened the carton -- not an easy task with one's fingers crossed.

Oh my! Will you look at that beautiful hunk of cheese! Not only does it look good, it smells wonderful. A quick taste test had me grinning -- even before adding seasoning, this batch of cottage cheese is a flavor winner, absolutely. I should also note, the curds are not rubbery like the previous recipe, but have a nice just-barely-springy tenderness.

I pressed the chunk of cheese a bit with a fork to get out more whey, then transferred it to a bowl. A quick sprinkle of kosher salt and a few generous cranks of the pepper mill, then a good forking to break up the curds and mix the seasoning. Another taste test. Oh. MMMM. Yes.

I could dress the curds with a spoonful of sweet cream so it would be more like the store-bought stuff but it's nicely moist as is and the flavor is too good to mess with.

For the record, I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese from the quart of buttermilk. That makes it a little cheaper than the store-bought but even if there were no savings in price, the flavor is worth it -- to me, at least. Would I do this again? You betcha britches, Buckwheat! This method is so close to magical, I'm beginning to feel like David Copperfield. When my voice starts changing, please shut me off.


bb said...

Well now I was showing this to Wil. He said "why go through that fuss when lo fat cottage cheese is cheaper than buttermilk?"

Now I'd suggest you write him a note but with postage so high maybe a call would be better. :-)

btw did you see the recipe in my post yesterday? Picture included.

Dee said...

Heh, heh ... don't know about where you are but, where I am, the buttermilk is cheaper than the cottage cheese. But give Wil a hug for me anyway. (smile) And I just checked your crock pot recipe. Looks scrumptious! Makes my mouth water from clear over here.

Mage said...

Yup, you have fostered a full flavored food blog instead of the plant/cat/house and home/book shop/you blog. It's a good thing we like food too, isn't it. :)

Mike said...

waxwings and cheese curd - Bohemian lifestyle or what?

Monkey Boy