The holidays mean entertaining, and I see this time as the time to justify my culinary training. No slice-and-bake cookies for me. No box of candy. No cake mix. I’m not sure what would happen if I did that, but I am pretty sure it would involve a visit from the gastro-gestapo, and at the very least a healthy fine. If I don’t make everything from scratch, I would be disappointing every chef I every trained with and worked for. Plus, I could never look a student in the eye again. (Yes, I realize this is delusional, but it could be worse. I could be milking my own cow and raising chickens for eggs. Wait … that sounds pretty fun.)
This goes for savory foods too. It is not enough for me to simply put out a cheese ball and crackers. I need to actually make the cheese.
Some may see this as a bit over-the-top. But cheese making is actually pretty easy, and it offers a big impressive bang for a relatively small preparatory buck.
Try this recipe for Farmer’s Cheese if you are similarly afflicted with the scratch-cooking bug.
1 gallon whole milk
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
- Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, and stir occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.
- Turn off the heat at the boil and stir in lemon juice. The milk will curdle. (You may need to wait a couple minutes.)
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. What is left in the cheesecloth is the Farmer’s Cheese. The liquid is the whey, and can be discarded. Gather the cloth around the cheese and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Transfer cheese to a bowl and season as desired. Any number of things can be added, including chopped fresh or dried herbs, sautéed and cooled onions, shallots, or garlic, chives or citrus zest. You can even make a sweet cheese with the addition of sugar or honey. Add additional salt as needed.
- Line a perforated mold with cheesecloth. (I use clean margarine tubs with holes punched in the bottom.) Fill the mold with cheese and pack it well. Wrap cheesecloth over the top, cover and refrigerate. Store in the fridge for up to a week. The longer it sits, the creamier the texture will become.
- Unmold the finished cheese onto a plate and serve with crackers, or use it in any number of recipes. Try it as a filling for blinis, crepes, ravioli, or anywhere you might use ricotta.