There were a bunch of recipes that looked like a lot of fun so I have some bookmarked to try later, but the one I eventually settled on for the challenge was George’s Mom’s Homemade Herb Cheese. As with the cottage cheese I made for the Alton Brown challenge, the cooking time of 5 minutes is completely insane. I don’t know how to get your milk hot enough that fast without starting it on fire!! I halved the recipe because I wasn't sure if it would be tasty and I didn't want a giant wheel of cheese just to go to waste!
George’s Mom’s Homemade Herb Cheese
Courtesy George Duran
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1 pint half-and-half (I used evaporated milk- koffiemelk for NL folks)
- 1 cup white vinegar (Oh white vinegar, is there anything you can't do?)
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve (I sorta forgot this)
(Things you also need that aren't mentioned and might be useful to think about beforehand are a container you can make holes in for the cheese and a thermometer to know when your milk reaches the right temperature)
Drill holes into the bottom of a round plastic storage container approximately 6 inches wide and at least 4 inches high (I used an old yogurt bucket), and set aside. Line a colander with cheesecloth and set aside.
Put the milk and half-and-half into a large pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches 195 degrees F. There will be a slight simmer and the top will be very foamy (This took about a half hour on medium heat on my stove). Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the vinegar. Put the colander into the sink and pour this mixture into the cheesecloth. When most of the liquid has passed through, add the tomatoes, basil, and salt and stir gently to incorporate. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and transfer the cheese to the plastic container. Set the container on a rack on a sheet pan to catch the whey. Put a plate on top and weight it down with some heavy cans to squeeze out the excess liquid. Let rest for 1 hour, remove the cheesecloth, and return it to the plastic container with the plates and weights. Put it into the refrigerator overnight. To serve, put the cheese onto a plate and brush with a little olive oil (oops, forgot this part)
The Verdict: I took this to a New Year's Eve party and everyone seemed to like it. I didn't add enough salt (which was totally my fault because I didn't use the amount called for in the recipe) but it didn't RUIN it... just made it a little less flavorful. I was impressed with how firm it got, but it is still a little crumbly so be aware of that if you try it. This is a keeper, and I think it will be fun to play with different goodies mixed in.