Foodie Fridays: How to Make Cheese in an Elfin Kitchen!

(Whoops! Sorry once again for the late Foodie Friday post! I spent the last few days in Cambodia with a group from my church (not visa related!), and due to the hours of bus travel/brutally long passport control lines/crazy outreach in Siem Reap, blogging got a little delayed).

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to rant about my apartment in general, and my kitchen more specifically (see this post or this post). Basically, it was designed by/for elves. Everything is miniature, from the single hot plate, to the shelf that is perfectly positioned to smack your forehead when you stand up. The sink is so low that Todd washes dishes sitting down, and the fridge holds approximately one jug of milk and 3 eggs. Because of this, for the first few months that we lived here, we ate out most of the time. However, as time goes on, we have been craving a little home cooked (ie: not drenched in sugar and msg) goodness. This craving, coupled with the paucity of cheap dairy products in Bangkok, led me to experiment with cheese making. Unfortunately, rennet (necessary for harder cheeses) is not readily available in Bangkok, but the ingredients for ricotta/cottage cheese are easy to find. This is a great recipe for my fellow Bangkokians who have limited kitchen resources, or for anyone who wants to become reacquainted with the pioneering spirit.

Ricotta for an Elfin Kitchen

Time frame: 45min plus 1-5 hours of draining time

(recipe taken from this site)

1. Find a kitchen. Hopefully the elves haven’t hidden it.

Oops! There’s one hiding on the side of my toaster. Classy.

2. Gather your ingredients and equipment. You will need:

– A strainer/colander

– cheesecloth

– half a cup of white vinegar

– 2 litres of milk (any fat percentage will work, but remember that more fat = tastier).

– a saucepan with a lid

Tip: to make your own “cheesecloth,” you can use a tea towel, or, in this case, an old shirt. Simply find your husband or another random dude, steal his ugliest shirt, and cut it up. Wash it first if you don’t fancy man-flavoured cheese.

3. Begin by heating the milk in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. You want to heat it until it is 120F, or, if you don’t have a thermometer, until it feels warm but not hot.

Sterilize your finger with boiling water first if you’re nervous about germs.

4. When the milk has reached “warm” status, turn off the heat. Pour the vinegar into the milk, and gently stir the mixture until the ingredients are combined.

We haven’t splurged on measuring cups yet.

It will soon start to separate.

5. Cover the pot, and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. When you remove the cover after 30 minutes, the mixture should look something like this:

Curds and whey.

6. Line your strainer (in this case, part of my salad spinner) with the cheesecloth.

7. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the lined strainer.

Like I said, the shelf is the correct height for forehead whacking.

8. Allow it to drain for a few minutes, then gather the corners of the cloth together, and gently squeeze the mixture to release additional moisture.

Drain that sucker.

9. The next step is an optional one. Once most of the moisture has been drained from your bundle, you can rinse the bundle (still wrapped up) under the tap to get rid of the vinegar flavour, and gently massage it to break up the curd. I once forgot to follow this step, and my cheese still turned out fine.

I wasn’t able to take a photo of this step, because my photographer disappeared and I don’t have a third arm.

10. Once your cheese is rinsed (or not), hang the bundle on a protruding object to allow it to drain further. I like to use my kitchen tap. The longer you leave it, the firmer it will be. I let mine hang for 1-5 hours, depending on my mood and my schedule. If you’re unsure, open the bundle and take a peek to determine the firmness of the cheese.

11. After the cheese has hung out for a sufficient amount of time, open the bundle.

Sour milk is so tasty.

11. Scrape your fresh cheese into a container. I like to mix in some salt when I make it. You really could add any number of seasonings – pepper, garlic, chillies, jam, etc. I also like to refrigerate mine for a bit before eating, but you could also just tear into it like a ravening wolf.

It’s also great on pancakes, and I’m sure it would be charming in a lasagne, but since I don’t have an oven, I really can’t verify this.

12. Serve to your favourite elves, (now shirtless) husbands, and Intrepid Italian houseguests.

“Sorry” for cutting up your ugly shirt, T-bone.

The Italian approves.