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Queso Fresco

I decided to try making some Queso Fresco because it looked like an easy cheese and I wanted to try out the new press and mold.

It is easy, and delicious!

2 gallons of milk ready to go in the pot. I love our new milk bottles! They are much easier to handle than 1/2 gallon canning jars.
This is the milk straight out of the milk fridge. If we keep our milk in sealed jars and at a low temperature, the raw goat’s milk still tastes fresh on day 10!
Heat the milk to 90˚F. No, I didn’t pasteurize it. I used raw milk and just heated it up.

I added 4 cubes of mesophilic starter that I had prepared and frozen from a mother culture. You can also add 1 packet of direct set starter if you don’t have prepared starter. I haven’t tried it with buttermilk or yogurt, but that might work, too. I’ll save that experiment for when we are getting 5 gallons of milk a day.

Mix in the starter well (or stir gently until the frozen starter is melted.) I had to turn the heat on very low after adding the frozen starter to keep the temp around 90˚F.

Next add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet that has been diluted in 1/4 cup of filtered, unchlorinated water. Stir gently with an up and down motion for about 1 minute until the rennet is completely mixed into the milk and starter.

Now go clean a bathroom (or whatever takes 30-45 minutes) until the milk sets up and you get a clean break. I let mine sit for an hour because I got distracted. It was fine!

Cut the curd into 1/4″ pieces. I try really hard to get my curd that small, but it isn’t a consistent size no matter what I do. I do the best I can and while I am stirring the curd, I break any that look too big into smaller chunks.

Stir the curd gently for 20 minutes slowly raising the temperature of the curds to 95˚F. This is the hardest part on an electric stove. Use the lowest setting and if there isn’t a change in the temperature within 3 minutes, turn the heat up slightly. The reason you heat slowly is to release the whey from the curds, but it has to be slowly or the curd forms a ‘rind’ on the outside and doesn’t let the whey out.

Turn off the heat and let the curds sit for 5 minutes.

Drain off the whey. I put the bowl on the floor (and sometimes a towel under the bowl) because it is easier to strain the whey off. I’m not quite tall enough to do this as gracefully in the sink. I use a spatter shield on the front of the pot to hold the curds in and let the whey out.

 The whey doesn’t all come out on the first pouring. I have to sit the pot on the floor and stir the curds gently and repeat the pouring/stirring process a few times until the whey is drained. Sometimes I will pour the whey off, then sit a strainer in the top of a pot and gently pour the curds into the strainer. Then I can let the curds sit there for a bit while they drain.

Pour the curds back into the pot if you used a strainer and add about 2 Tablespoons of cheese salt (salt with no iodine). Let the curds and salt sit there at 95˚F for 30 minutes. I put my curds in my oven with the light on. You could also use a Wonderbox, or wrap the pot in towels to keep it warm.

After 30 minutes gently mix in anything you think would be tasty. Our first batch had 2 cans of diced green chilies in it. Our next batch was mixed with basil, garlic, and onion. I think it would have tasted wonderful in some lasagna or crumbled on top of spaghetti–but it didn’t last that long.

Next line a mold with cheesecloth and fill it with the curds. This was the first time I used cheese cloth instead of buttermuslin to line the mold. The cheese cloth works much better! It is a lighter weight weave than the buttermuslin and is much easier to handle when putting the cheese into the mold. The follower fits in better, too, because there is less bulk.

Press at 35 pounds of pressure for 6 hours. I let our second batch go for 10 hours because I wasn’t really paying attention when I started the cheese and what time I put it into the mold. It turned out fine.

This is the first cheese we made in the new press with the new mold and the new drain. I LOVE them! It makes the process so much nicer than my old game board press!

Remove the cheese from the mold and taste it! Yummy!

I wrapped some up for a few good friends to try. They all loved it! One said I should add pimentos, too. I told him I would show him how to make the cheese and he could add anything he liked!

You can store this fresh, pressed cheese in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, at least that is what we read. Ours never lasts that long!

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