Cheese for dummies

a/Recipes/Student Living by
Sam Reynolds

I know I’m not the only student who laments the price of cheese. How can such a comforting staple like a grilled cheese sandwich cost as much as a piece of chicken? The tiniest amount of cream cheese costs up to $5 and when you’re a student on a budget, a package that only lasts a few bagels just isn’t worth that price. But what’s one to do? I always thought homemade cheese seemed too time consuming, and never mind the cost of equipment. Oh, how wrong I was. The latest issue of Bon Appétit gives a DIY “Ricotta” from Chef Nancy Silverton. I couldn’t have been more surprised at how easy it looked. A litre of whole milk, a lemon, and some salt are the only ingredients in her recipe, which yields a more than a full cup of fresh, creamy cheese. Though it’s not a true ricotta, the quality of this queso fresco is considerably higher than those at a supermarket—free of stabilizers and preservatives. I tried out the recipe on Friday night and was more than impressed with how easy the process was and what a lovely cheese it made. I had my fresh ricotta with dinner and was still left with plenty of time afterwards to get ready before I went out for the night.

This homemade ricotta can be used to stuff pasta or for crepes. If drained long enough it can also be moulded into little ricotta pancakes. You can even use it in Italian ricotta cheesecakes, which are much fluffier than the New York style and lend themselves well to light citrus flavours. My personal favourite is to spread the queso fresco on toast with some fresh fruit or jam.

DIY cheese doesn’t end with ricotta. With increasing levels of effort you can make a mascarpone cream cheese, or mozzarella for an even greater challenge. However, for a quick, and wallet- friendly fix, this basic ricotta recipe is perfect.

The Bon Appétit recipe is as follows:

1) Bring four cups of milk, half a teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of lemon juice to a boil without stirring, and immediately remove from the heat.

2) Let stand for 15 minutes, while it begins to form curds. If only a few curds form, add one tablespoon of lemon juice, stir gently and let stand for another five minutes.

3) Line a sieve with cheesecloth (available in grocery stores or kitchen appliance stores) and place over a large bowl. Then, using a large spoon, scoop the curds into the sieve. Let the curds drain until they form a dense cheese.

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