One of the best things I learned whilst at chef school was how to make fresh cheese. For years I’d imagined cheese to be made by some French geniuses somewhere. Not only did I learn that there are 100’s of difference cheeses from all over the world but that making cheese isn’t as complicated as I thought. A lot of milk, some acids and chemicals and boom! Cheese. Happiness.
I usually go on and on before sharing a recipe. I realised that Jamie Oliver does this too earlier today when I read one of his cookbooks. The reason we do this is not because we enjoy rambling off useless facts but to help you understand the reason why certain ingredients and dishes are used and made in a certain way. Knowing your food history and general knowledge comes in handy when looking to combine flavours and elements.
This recipe is for 2 cheeses. Haloumi and Ricotta. There’s a very good reason for this. First let me explain what cheese is…
Milk is made up of proteins, fat, water and calcium. In order to make cheese you need to separate the proteins, fat and calcium from the water. A nursery rhyme we all used to sing as kids “Little Miss Muffet” mentions this. They’re called Curds and Whey. The curds are the solids used to make hard cheese, the whey is the liquid left behind. To “curdle” milk you add an acid to it. I’m sure you’ve seen what happens when you accidentally add lemon juice to your milk tea. The same theory applies but to keep the two separate other chemicals are added.
In order to make Ricotta you need to use whey…however to get whey you need to separate it from the curds. A process that requires you to make a cheese. Hence this recipe being for 2 cheeses. One that uses curds and another that uses the whey. If you live or work near a farm I’d recommend you go purchase WHOLE milk (milk that has not been pasteurised) as the more fat in the milk the better the cheese. Fresh milk has cream in it. If you can’t get whole milk a milk that has very high fat content will do. The chemicals you need can be purchased at good chemists or pharmacies. I recommend you purchase plastic syringes too, reason being they give accurate readings for the chemicals you’ll be using. You need cheese cloth or muslin cloth, a thin cloth that good bakeries will have (if you can’t find one a clean pillowcase will do).
You’ll also need moulds for the haloumi. A deep plastic dish will do, if you want a round, prettier shape then buy short white plastic drain pipes from a hardware store. The reason they have to be plastic is because you’re going to have to punch drainage holes through them. The whey escapes through the holes as you squeeze the curds down. You also need a weight to weigh the cheese down. Take an old cement brick, wrap it in foil and then a lot of plastic wrap.
10 litres High Fat Milk
1g Calcium Chloride (diluted in 10ml water)
0,6ml Rennet (diluted in 10ml water)
2g Dried mint
* Add the diluted calcium chloride to the milk and place in a large pot
* Place the pot on the stove and heat slowly to +/- 32 degrees celsius. Stir
* Add the diluted rennet, stir thoroughly and allow the milk to coagulate (form solids). This will take around 45 minutes. Do not stir or disturb the milk during this step. Keep the temperature of the milk between 30 and 34 degrees.
* Test the coagulate (solid white block that’s on the top) and then cut it into rough 2-4 cm blocks
* Stir slowly whilst re-heating the curds and whey to 38 to 42 degrees as quickly as possible. Mix for 20 minutes at this temperature.
* Allow the curd to settle at the bottom of the pot and then scoop it into moulds lined with cheese cloth or muslin cloth. The whey will drain through the drainage holes. Place the bricks (they should weigh about 10kgs)on top of the curd. As you’ll need the whey do this in a deeper dish and not in the sink. Weigh down for 30 minutes.
* Place the whey in a pot and bring to 80-90 degrees celsius on the stove.
* Remove the curd from the cloth and cut it into 10cmx5cm blocks and place them in the heated whey. The blocks will float to the top eventually. Remove once they float
* Allow them to dry on a rack on a counter top over night
* Rub them with salt and mint the next day. Store in a sealed container or vacuum packed.
Use the remaining whey to make Ricotta. Here’s how…
5 Litres Whey (from making haloumi)
10ml Citric Acid (diluted in 40ml water)
Salt to taste
* Heat the whey to 90 degrees celsius
* Carefully add the citric acid. Stop once you see it start to form small clouds of curd on the surface. Let it stand for 5 – 8 minutes.
* Scoop the curd into a muslin lined sieve or clean pillow case, place hanging over the sink and let it drain for 5 hours. If its still very liquid, gently squeeze the cloth to squeeze more moisture out
* Stir in some salt and store in a sealed container
Chef Lesego (@LesDaChef)