My First Cheese Made: Queso Blanco

With no classes at Kellogg to keep me busy, I began to look around at some craft projects that I'd wanted to give a try and began to organize my thoughts around them.  Some of them are pretty seasonal - gardening, jamming, pickling, but I also wanted to try to take on some non-seasonal projects like cheese making and woodworking.  With a fiesta planned, cheesemaking came first.  

It started - like a lot of my hobbies do - with a trip to the Elmhurst Public Library where I checked out a few cheesemaking books.  After a few thumb-throughs, I settled on making Queso Blanco.  This appeared to be the easiest cheese to make (maybe Ricotta is up there, too) and one that I could cut my cheesemaking teeth on.  

We choose to go organic this time with both organic whole milk and organic apple cider vinegar.  Add salt and you have the three ingredients needed to make Queso Blanco.  

I started by heating the milk to 185 degrees.  (Pardon the electric stove, we were in Michigan at the lake when I made this!)
Once the four cups of whole milk reach temperature, you slowly stir in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and watch as the curds begin to separate.

Once they do, you carefully spoon them out with a slotted spoon to a piece of cheese cloth that is awaiting over a colander.  You gather the ends and wring the moisture out of the curds.
After letting it hang on a wooden spoon for 30 minutes, I peeled back the cheesecloth to find this wonderful ball of dry cheese.
After salting it heavily, it was time to press the cheese in the cheese press.  The only problem was that I don't own a cheese press.  They're pretty expensive.  And...I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the hobby until I know if I'm going to follow-up.  (Which...if you know me well, you know is a known issue.)  

Without a cheese press, I was left to improvise.  I settled on dumping a HUGE can of baked beans and cutting the top/bottom off to rig my own press.  I threw the cheese ball in the home-made press. 

I threw the lid back on top of the cheese ball and weighed it down with a pitcher full of water.  It did the job - by pressing all the last remnants of liquid out of the cheese and made a cute disc.  

It could almost pass for store-bought Queso Blanco.  And....because I salted it myself, it was delicious (and salty!)
I'm ruling this cheesemaking adventure a success and will serve as a gateway for other cheeses.  I got interested in the process so we can make our own (I can make my own!) ricotta and mozzarella for the pizza oven I have in my head.  I have all fall to master those!


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