Category Archives: Recipes

Playing Around with Vegan Cheeses…

cultured nut cheese- NO dairy! not an Urban Cheesecraft recipe, you will be re-directed to Sunny Raw Kitchen

So many people in my classes have asked if I have a vegan cheese kit or know of any recipes that I’ve started playing around with some nut cheeses. Believe it or not, I have been vegan for a total of 9 months in the not too distant past. I did it in support of my partner who took it on for longer than I did. Anyway, because of that and because I love a challenge, I often make vegan dishes. Nut-based mac and cheese, flax-seed egg cookies and banana bread…very delicious results if you know how to convert. Here are some tips if you’re interested.

Pre-made, vegan store-bought cheeses however, were not something I enjoyed. Even on a vegan diet, I preferred no cheese to vegan cheese. They often tasted like oil and plastic (which is not far from the truth). Since then, I’ve had some homemade nut cheeses and cheese sauces that aren’t bad at all. Not quite cheese, true, but delicious treats on their own- and since I love food in general, they deserve a fair chance if you ask me.

If you love cheese but have to limit your dairy, give these a try. The salty, creamy and even pungent flavors could definitely satisfy a cheese craving and go well with dried or fresh fruit, herbs, crackers and crudite. I’ll keep playing around and who knows, maybe I’ll make a kit!

Cream Cheese Ball
Cheddar Cheese Ball
More challenging and more complex taste, Cultured Cheese.

Hope you enjoy playing too. Claudia

ps. Etsy has been out to Portland to film me twice. A short documentary about cheese and my venture is said to be ready in late July, stay tuned! The films are great, check some out HERE.

pps. Did you know I have a facebook page? Be UCCs friend won’t you?

Whole Milk Ricotta

Ricotta is an example of a simple farmers cheese born out of necessity and invention.

Traditionally made from whey, a cheesemaking by-product, this cheese made sure nothing went to waste at the farm. If you don’t make hard cheeses you can make a delicious creamy ricotta from whole milk in one hour!

ricotta

Ingredients:

1 gallon of milk

1 tsp citric acid OR 1/4 cup vinegar of choice (to purchase citric acid or a complete ricotta kit visit our SHOP.)

1 tsp Cheese salt (To Taste)

Supplies:

Large pot- at least 6 quart

Butter Muslin (fine cheesecloth)

Thermometer

Colander

Large Slotted spoon

YIELD- 1 ½ to 2lbs. (lots!)

Here we go- fresh Ricotta is within our reach!

Step 1- Measure the citric acid into ½ cup of water and stir.

Step 2- Pour your milk into the pot, pour the citric acid solution and salt (optional) into the milk and mix thoroughly.

Step 3- Heat the milk to 180°F to 185°F (do not allow to boil over). Stir often to prevent scorching.

Step 4- As soon as the curds and whey separate (make sure there is no milky whey), turn off the heat. Allow to set undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Step 5- Line a colander with butter muslin (fine cheesecloth).

Curds, no Whey

Curds draining

Drain in the colander for 15-30 minutes, or until the cheese has reached the desired consistency (you can gently expedite by lifting the muslin by the corners and rocking the curds around to unblocked cloth areas. The cheese is ready to eat in sweet or savory dishes immediately!

Step 6- Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Simple Mozzarella

Who doesn’t love soft, fresh cheese with sun kissed tomatoes and bright basil? Throw in some fresh bread and a little olive oil…now imagine that with your own warm, homemade mozzarella! You can make it and have it ready in an hour. Check it out!

mozzarella knot

herbed warm mozzarella tied into a simple knot

Ingredients:

1 gallon of milk

1 ½ tsp citric acid (to purchase citric acid or a complete mozzarella kit visit our SHOP.)

¼ Rennet Tablet

1 tsp cheese salt (or to taste, herbs optional)


Supplies:

Large pot- at least 6 quart

Butter Muslin (fine cheesecloth)

Colander

Large Slotted spoon

Thermometer

microwaveable bowl

Rubber gloves or large spoon


YIELD- 1 ½ lb (2 big fists)


Ok, less than an hour to fresh Mozzarella!

If you’d like to see this process in step by step photos, check out my Facebook Album. The only part you don’t see is the heating of the curds before folding and kneading, you will choose microwave or hot water bath but the curd handling is the same.

Step 1- Dissolve ¼ rennet tablet into 1 cup of cool, chlorine-free water. Stir and set aside. Wrap the remaining pieces of tablet and store in the freezer.

Step 2- Mix 1 ½ teaspoons citric acid into 1 cup of cool, chlorine-free water until dissolved.

Step 3- Pour 1 gallon of milk into your pot. Pour the citric acid solution in and stir thoroughly. Heat to 90°F, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

Step 4- At 90°F slowly stir in the rennet solution with a gentle up and down motion for approximately 30 seconds. Continue to heat to 105°F (110°F if you will use the water bath).

Step 5- Your curds could already show clear signs of coagulation- curds would look like shiny yogurt, you’d see a separation between curds and whey and the curds would pull from the sides of the pot.

– If so, stir very gently for another minute and turn off the heat. Skip down to step 6.

– If the curd doesn’t look like shiny custard or yogurt but looks like clumps of melted cheese floating in yellow liquid, you’re still in good shape. Skip down to step 6.

– If you don’t see any of these signs and your whey is still milky instead of yellow, heat a little more (110°F max) while gently moving the curds around with your spoon. You are now cooking the curds and expelling whey. If you reach 110°F and still don’t see any signs, let the pot sit off the heat for 15-45 minutes. Skip down to step 6 when you have coagulation.

– If your milk did not form a curd at all, you may have some unlabeled ultra-pasteurized milk on your hands. Try another brand but follow this through- cheese has a way of working out!

Step 6- Ladle your curds into a heat-resistant bowl. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the curds for stretching later or move on to the heating and stretching steps.

Note- If you will use the “Water Bath” (no microwave) method, heat your whey to 185°F and read the following instructions in bold. For microwave instructions, continue below the bold print.

______________________________________________________________________________

No Microwave? No problem! Follow these instructions:

When your water/whey bath hits 185°F (no hotter or you’ll overcook your curds!) take the pot off the stove.

Gently shape half of your curds into a ball (as much as possible) and dip into the whey for 1-3 minutes or until your curds hit 135°F (heated to the core). Put on your rubber gloves, lift the ball of curds out of the whey and proceed with salting, stretching and shaping as detailed below in steps 11 and 12 (you may also stretch with a spoon in your heat-resistant bowl).

Repeat on all curds- more than once if necessary for a smooth ball of cheese. You may need to reheat your whey if you’re slow- remember, no hotter than 185°F! If temperamental curds don’t stretch sometimes, do not despair. Just fold, salt, and shape warm curds into balls. Practice, practice- enjoy!

___________________________________________________________________________________

Step 7- Ladle your curds into a large microwaveable bowl. Put on your rubber gloves or use a large spoon for steps 7-12. Gently hold back the curds while you pour off whey (don’t press much).

Step 8- Heat the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute.

Step 9- Gently use a spoon to fold the curds over several times and evenly distribute the heat. Drain off any whey as above.

Step 10- Microwave for another 30 seconds. Drain again and knead the curd gently- try stretching. It must be 135°F to stretch properly. If it isn’t hot enough, microwave for another 30 seconds.

Step 11- Add your salt (I like 1.5 tsp or so) plus any herbs and work into the cheese by stretching and folding, stretching and folding…the more you work the curd, the firmer the cheese will be.

Step 12- Stretch the cheese until it is smooth. Shape into a ball or get creative! This mozzarella is best eaten immediately but you can store it covered. Do NOT store in water or whey or it will get slimy and disintegrate. You can however, dunk your shaped mozz into ice water for just a few minutes to retain it’s shape. Otherwise, its own heat can flatten it. Use within 1 week.

Simple Crumbly Goat Cheese

When creamy and spreadable isn’t the goal, but rather firm crumbles for salad or to top dishes, try this recipe. You’ll be done in an hour or two (depends on if you want it very firm and chilled).

Firm ‘n’ Crumbly Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

half gallon of goat milk (2 quarts)

1 tsp plus a pinch citric acid (for citric acid or a complete goat cheese kit, visit our SHOP)

1 tsp Cheese salt (to taste)


Supplies:

Large pot- at least 4 quart

Butter Muslin (fine cheesecloth)

Colander

Large Slotted spoon

Cheese Molds


YIELD- About ¾ lb



Step 1- Mix the citric acid into ½ cup of water and stir. Let it sit and dissolve.

Step 2- Heat the milk in your pot until foamy and steamy (190˚F-195˚F) while stirring often to prevent scorching.

Step 3- Turn the heat to low, before the foam subsides, drizzle in the citric acid solution. Stir and cook for 15-30 seconds. You should see some subtle curdling.

Step 4- Remove from the heat and continue to stir gently until you see a clear separation between curds and whey. If the whey is whitish (should be yellowish-green), sprinkle a tiny bit more citric acid in the pot and stir.

Step 5- Gently pour the curds and whey into a cloth-lined colander (the curds can be very small). Drain for 5-10 minutes. Mix in your salt and stir the curds gently as they dry a little more. Add herbs if desired (split the batch if you want to try different flavors).

Step 6- Time to shape and press!

-For beautiful little cheese wheels, spoon some curds to fill about 1/3 of your goat cheese molds (place a flat tray underneath to catch any liquid) and press gently with your fingertips. If you like a nice firm cheese, you can place a full glass jar or bottle in each mold to press the wheels a little more. Press down gently but stop if curds seep out.

-For a nice rustic wheel. Leave the rest of the curds (or all of the curds) in the cloth and gather them up into a mound. Fold the cloth corners over the curds, place a plate and 1/2 gal. of water as a weight on top to press.

Allow the cheeses in the molds and colander to press until your desired firmness (usually 1 hour is plenty in the fridge but overnight can give you a firm cheese similar to feta). The cheese will be ready to crumble, slice and enjoy with your favorite fruit and bread.

Simple Creamy Goat Cheese

Goat cheese, or as the French say it, Chèvre (shev) is a deliciously tangy addition to almost any dish and is perfect eaten simply with crusty bread or fruit.

You can now whip it up in less than an hour (plus some optional wait time) and customize it with herbs and spices for endless variations. This tangy cheese makes a wonderful treat to take to a dinner party but be careful, you’ll start getting requests!

 

Stack of chevre wheels

It's easy to customize your chevre!

 

Simple Creamy Goat Cheese 

Ingredients:

half gallon of goat milk (2 quarts)

1 tsp citric acid (to purchase citric acid or a complete goat cheese kit visit our SHOP.)

1 tsp Cheese salt (to taste)

1 tsp Herbs de Provence (optional)

Supplies:

Large pot- at least 4 quart

Butter Muslin (fine cheesecloth)

Colander

Large Slotted spoon

Cheese Molds


YIELD- About ¾ lb


Step 1- Measure the citric acid into ½ cup of water and stir.

Step 2- Pour your milk into the pot, pour the citric acid solution and salt into the milk and mix thoroughly.

 

Curds and Whey

Curds and Whey

 

Step 3- Heat the milk to 180°F-185°F (do not allow to boil). Stir often to prevent scorching. You will see coagulation (white and yellowish separations), turn off the heat.

Step 4- Allow to set undisturbed and off the heat for 10-15 minutes. Line a colander with your fine cheesecloth and gently pour or scoop your curds into the colander to drain out the whey. Once most of the whey has drained out, sprinkle in your salt and blend in gently.

 

Curds, no Whey

Curds, no Whey

 

Step 5- Mix in your herbs (or you can coat the shaped wheels later instead) and stir minimally.

Step 6- Spoon your curds into the cheese molds. Press just enough to evenly fill the molds. Place the molds on a flat pan so any extra whey can drain. Drain 10-30 minutes or to your desired consistency. If you have more cheese, drain in it the cloth for a “bag cheese.“

 

Chevre Draining in Molds

Chevre Draining in Molds

 

Step 7- Gently but firmly unmold (hold upside down and tap out) your cheeses and enjoy! If the cheese sticks, you can cut small pieces of your cloth and line the molds next time. If you don’t have molds, you can alternately just shape the cheese into a log with the help of wax paper. Cover and store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Paneer

Paneer, a mild, no-fail cheese is great for beginners and fun to make with kids but it’s so delicious and versatile that advanced cheese makers and cooks around the world love it.

 

One gallon makes a lot of Paneer!

 

It is unique because though it softens, it doesn’t really melt. Paneer actually absorbs seasonings and sauces that surround it. This makes it a perfect tasty additions to curries, pasta dishes, saucy enchiladas, kabobs and any recipe that calls for tofu or chicken. With this simple recipe you can make it in less than an hour!

Paneer

Ingredients:

1 gallon milk

2 tsp citric acid or 8 tbsp lemon juice- no acid or water
(to purchase citric acid or a complete Paneer and Queso Blanco Kit visit our SHOP.)

2 tsp Cheese salt (to taste)


Supplies:

Large pot- at least 6 quart

Butter Muslin (fine cheesecloth)

Colander

Large Slotted spoon


YIELD- 1 ¾ to 2lbs.


Step 1- Measure the citric acid into 1 cup of cool water and stir. Let it sit and dissolve.

Step 2- Heat the milk in your pot stirring often to prevent scorching at the bottom. Heat until you see foam and steam (190˚F). Do not allow to boil.

Step 3- Turn the heat to low, before the foam subsides, drizzle in the citric acid solution in and watch the magic! Cook for 1 minute, stirring gently.

Step 4- Remove from the heat and continue to stir gently. The curds are white and the whey should be yellowish green. If the whey is whitish, sprinkle a pinch more citric acid in the pot.

Step 5- Once you get a clear separation of curds and whey, let the pot sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Step 6- Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Gently twist the top of the cloth to squeeze out extra whey. This is the time to add salt or optional herbs for savory dishes.

 

salting curds

salting the curds

 

Step 7- Rest the bundle in the colander, cover the curds with the cloths corners and place a plate and a weight (such as a gallon of water) on top and press for ½ hour-1 hour.

Step 8- Unwrap the cheese and refrigerate in a covered container for maximum firmness. You can cut it, cook with it, eat it as is and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Try browning a small piece in a little olive oil, salt and pepper…yum!

Oh! You can also make sweet cheese desserts using Paneer (check out the Ras Malai videos on our home page ‘World Cheese Tour’ or go to YouTube and search for Ras Malai)

Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco is the easiest of all cheeses to make in my opinion- great for beginners and kids!

Thick and Crumbly Queso Blanco

Thick and Crumbly Queso Blanco

 

To use this cheese in salads I drizzle a little olive oil in a cast iron pan, sprinkle the cheese with salt, pepper, sometimes chili powder (any herbs and spices you like), brown it (it uniquely doesn’t melt, just browns and gets soft and chewy) and then add the crusty warm chunks to our salads. Use any dressing you enjoy. SO GOOD and a full meal!

Queso Blanco

you need:

1 gallon of whole or lowfat milk cow or goat milk– regular grocery store pasteurized is fine but NOT ultra or ultra heat pasteurized.

1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar (I use apple cider but any will work though they all give their own flavor) or 2 tspn citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup of water (for citric acid or a complete Queso Blanco and Paneer Kit visit our SHOP)

1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste- at this point you can also add chives, fresh chopped herbs, cayenne, anything!)

Heat the milk to a foamy, steamy simmer. Do not allow to boil or your cheese will taste cooked and will be rubbery. If you have a thermometer it would be between 180-195 degrees F. Be sure to stir often to prevent scorching.

When you see steam and foam and a gentle simmer, turn the temp to low and slowly drizzle in your vinegar. You may not need it all before you start seeing the clear separation between curds and whey. It’s like magic! When you see it, stop the drizzle and cook for about 10 seconds longer.

Turn off the heat and ladle or pour your curds into a colander lined with butter muslin or cheesecloth (or a boiled tea towel or even a large coffee filter, if you use regular grocery store cheesecloth, triple it at least, the holes are very large). Allow to drain for 20 minutes or so.

Then take your cloth corners and gently twist more whey out of the bundle. Open it up and mix in your salt. Stir it in evenly and taste until you like it.

curds

curds…pure potential

For a softer cheese, hang this from a hook or faucet and let it drain for another hour or so (place a bowl underneath to catch the whey). You now have a cheese that can be called a fresh cheese, bag cheese, farmer cheese or in our case, Queso Blanco.

For a nice firm cheese that you can cut up and use as a meat replacement (like tofu), place the bundle back in the colander, put a plate on top of it and then fill the empty gallon of milk with water and use it as a weight on top of the plate.

Let this sit and continue to drain for 1 more hour or until the cheese is as firm as you like it. Then it’s ready to eat fresh and soft as is or cover and refrigerate. It firms up more in the fridge. Enjoy!”

Spicy Queso Blanco

Meanwhile, buttermilk cheese is apparently a Jewish thing? Who knew?!

I’ve been curious about the fact that buttermilk used to be a home staple but somehow has fallen out of favor. I’ve decided to try using it in many ways…pancakes, biscuits, waffles and of course cheese!!

Much to my excitement, it turns out that cultured buttermilk can be used as a mesophilic starter in cheese-making. More info. on that later.

As I searched for recipes I ran across this simple recipe that calls for baking buttermilk for a unique cheese- it sounded intriguingly different so I had to try it! Soooo easy and delicious.

Buttermilk Cheese (Tvarog) (D, TNT)
Source: “MealLeaniYUMM!” by Norene Gilletz
Yield: Approximately 2 cups

2 litres (quarts) of buttermilk

Place 2 litres (quarts) of buttermilk in a large covered ovenproof casserole. (I use a Corning Ware casserole.) Place in a preheated 375ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes. It will separate into curds and whey.

Pour warm liquid into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Tie ends of cheesecloth and let drain for several hours. (Hang it over the faucet of the sink; put a bowl underneath to catch the whey, which can be used to replace sour milk or buttermilk in baking.) For a firmer cheese, squeeze out most of the liquid. Wrap well and refrigerate. It will keep about a week.

Here it is draining…
bag o curds

The cheese was super creamy and tangy, kind of like a mix between cream cheese and sour cream. Next time I will try to make a cheesecake out of it. The yield was great!

Yogurt Cheese or Labneh


Yogurt Cheese

While some may not consider this an honest-to-goodness cheese, entire countries would disagree and so do I. Labneh or Labne as I have seen it labeled at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets is a quite delicious and very versatile cheese.

Not only that, if making cheese intimidates you, this is a good starting point. There is no messing this up and it familiarizes you with the draining of whey/use of salt and their transformational powers, which is a huge part of making cheese. Baby steps…enjoy!

All you need is:

 

yogurt cheese supplies

simple ingredients make such a tasty cheese!

 

1 quart plain yogurt

2 tsp pure salt (or more if you like this cheese as salty as feta, experiment)

colander

butter muslin or similarly tight cheesecloth- even a new or boiled tea towel/pillowcase will work

12-24 hours of draining time

All you have to do is:

Place your cloth in the colander and place the colander in the bowl. Stir the salt into the yogurt and dump it all into the colander.

 

yogurt in banana tree

my favorite technique requires a "banana tree"

 

For another draining method, you can tie the cloth corners and hang the wet sack of yogurt from a cupboard handle with a bowl beneath it.

If you have animals/pests or other reasons why you don’t want it out in the open, you can hang the wet bundle from a rack in your fridge with a bowl beneath it.

The idea is just to drain the whey and be left with a thick cheese.

Drain at room temperature (ideally) for at least 12 hours but I have found that 24-36 hours gives me a thicker, more delicious cheese. Beware, it starts smelling a bit funky but this is good!

Note that refrigerated draining takes longer and produced a less complex flavor but if you just can’t leave it out, let it drain in the fridge until you like the results.

When it’s done, you will have a thick, tart, delicious little ball of yogurt cheese.

 

I like to pat it dry with paper towels or dry cheesecloth

 

 

bowl of yogurt cheese

store it like cream cheese with or without herbs

 

*Use it as you would cream cheese for a rich tasting but lower fat cheesecake (omit salt).

*Mix dry herbs, fresh pepper and salt into it and use it as a spread on crackers and crisp veggies.

*Roll into little balls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with zattar (lebanese thyme and sesame seed herb mix) or other herbs and eat with pita.

 

 

Shape into balls and dry in fridge or out for a couple of hours before covering with oil in a jar

 

*I just use it liberally and drop a ball into chili, tacos, curry etc. YUM

I’m lucky to have a good friend who brings me Labne from the West Bank.

Tasting the real thing (and asking her to to grill grandmas on their methods) has improved my version of this cheese drastically!
The photos below show you my inspiration. Thanks Stephanie 🙂

 

jar of labne in olive oil

jar of salty labne from the West Bank

 

 

yogurt cheese balls in oil

deliciousness

 

 

zaatar

This is Zaatar, add olive oil, ummm