Friday, November 20, 2009

Recipe Box: I made CHEESE

Usually I try to come up with a somewhat intriguing title.  But this time, the subject was so exciting that I had to rush past the presentation and skip to the good stuff.

I made cheese. No seriously, I did it, all by myself.  And most amazingly, it was really easy.  And most surprisingly, people (who usually eat salt, lots of it) really liked it.

So the scenario goes like this: like I said in my last post, I signed up to attend the Jam It session at 18 reasons on Thursday night at which jamming, pickling, and DIY-fooding enthusiasts and professionals would gather to share their recipes and their home-made goods.  I figured that this was a perfect testing ground to see how normal, everyday sodium-freaks would respond to my no-sodium food.  And I feel pretty confident in my pickling ability.  But to kick this conquest up a notch, I decided to risk it all, make cheese, and feed it to the masses.

Two friends sent me paneer and buttermilk cheese recipe - both very similar and simple - requiring the use of milk, lemons, and salt.  For my first attempt, I decided to use hemp milk.  I mean, I couldn't look more like a crazy northern Californian if I tried.  Hemp milk has virtually no sodium in it (5mg per serving), but it also has virtually no ability curdle.  So I threw the tie-dyed cartoon in the recycling bin and decided to use the real deal.

I passed on the whole milk and went with a lower-sodium option: soy milk.  It has 85mg of sodium per serving  and I knew, from an unfortunate previous experiences, that it indeed will curdle (unlike its free-loving substitute).  I bought a quart of unsweetened soy milk  and used half of it for my cheese.  I figure that the majority of the milk was not used to produce the curds and that the end product would be very low in sodium.

The entire cheese-making process lasted about 40 minutes max, with endless hours of eating enjoyment to follow.  I will be bringing this winning recipe to the east coast for Thanksgiving Day appetizers along with some curry carrot pickles and dill and fennel green bean pickles.  You better believe I'll impress the pants off of those Pilgrims.

1.  Heat half a quart of soy milk in a heavy saucepan - but let's be honest, I used a pot.

2.  When it begins to boil and starts to rise, immediately take it off the heat.  Be sure to watch for this, because the milk will rise quickly and if you don't have cat-like reflexes, you will end up with one hot, sticky mess on your stove.

3.  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the milk and stir for two minutes to help separate the curds from the whey.

4.  Let the curdy milk sit for 10 minutes.

5.  Pour the milk into a colander that is lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth.  When it is cool enough to handle, close the cheese cloth tightly around the curds and squeeze out the extra liquid.

6.  At this point, since there was no salt in the cheese, I added 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 2 teaspoons of fresh dill.  Mix the spices in with the cheese and close the cheese cloth again to remove the remaining liquid.

7.  Place the cheese (still in the cheese cloth) on a plate and flatten to about 1/2 inch thick.

8.  Place another plate on top of the cheese and weight it with your heaviest (or two heaviest) cooking books.

9.  After 20 minutes of flattening, you can refrigerate overnight or use immediately.  If it turns out to be a little more chunky and loose, use it as a spread on some crackers with your fennel relish that you made.  If it is harder, try preparing it like traditional paneer and fry it in some hot oil.

And just for fun, here is a shot early into the 18 Reasons event.  A special shout to Karen Solomon for eating my cheese, liking my pickled fennel relish, and for writing a kick ass book that I can't wait to plow through.  happy chowing everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment