Has your raw milk ever turned sour? Perhaps you left it out for too long and it separated? It happens. The bad news that it probably tastes too strong to drink (unless you are my dad – he drinks soured milk, old borscht, and stale bread. Yea, my dad is cool like that.) But don’t throw it out! Your milk hasn’t gone bad, it has simply changed forms. Now is your chance to make some delicious homemade cheese.
In Moldova, I learned to make this particular cheese at a very young age. Unlike other cheeses, its quite simple and the only thing it absolutely requires is a jar or two of raw milk. We often use it to make various cheese-breads, spread it on toast, or even feed the chickens with it if it’s too sour for us! Yes, little chicks love this simple cheese.
When I began making this cheese here in the US we couldn’t seem to eat as much of it as we did at home, and we have no chickens to feed the leftovers to, so as result we kept having leftover cheese that would go bad. It seemed like such a waste! A couple of weeks ago I visited my best friend Jackie, who blogs at Little Owl Crunchy Momma, and she cracked opened a jar of cheese suspended in olive oil. I tasted it and it was delicious! The bitterness of the oil combined with the tartness and smoothness of the cheese made my soul sing with joy. This was perfect! The cheese can last for a long time in this environment and gets more flavorful with time!
I asked Jackie how she came up with such a brilliant idea and she said her neighbor’s family, who is from Mexico, does it this way. Thank you Jackie’s neighbor and thank you Jackie for sharing this amazing tip with me! We have started putting this delicious cheese on everything. It not only makes a quick and easy snack if you are on the run, but doubles as gourmet appetizer in the right context.
- Raw Milk
- Extra virgin Olive Oil, find it here
- Fresh herbs
- Himalayan or Celtic salt, find it here
- Fresh cracked pepper.
1. Start with however much raw milk you want to turn into cheese. If you try making less than a half gallon jar you wont get much cheese. I started with a gallon and a half of sour milk and got about 2lb of cheese. First, leave the milk at room temperature until it ferments, separating into two parts: cream on top, kefir on bottom.
2. The kefir should get thick and chunky, like this. If it doesn’t, put it in a warm place and let it ferment a little longer. Don’t store it in a place that’s much warmer than room temperature, or else it may explode and you will have sour kefir all over the place. Not only that, it gives the cheese a more acrid flavor, rather than the tart smoothness we are going for.
3. Once the milk is fully separated, pour it into a pot and place it on the stove at low heat. You want to heat it up until the cheese raises up to the top. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot! Otherwise, it will kill all the good bacteria and the cheese will have a gummy consistency. I just stick my pinky in it – if it buns, I turn the heat down.
4. Next, you have to two options:
You may strain it through a cheesecloth by pouring it into the cloth, tying the cloth up, and hanging it over a bowl for a few hours. This the traditional way my mama taught me.
I used this method the last couple of times because I ran out of cheesecloth and had no money to buy more. I actually like it a lot more now for a few reasons. The cheese doesn’t get too dry; it take a lot less time; and I don’t have a messy cheesecloth caked with dry cheese to wash when I am done!
You will need a fine colander and a pot. Now pour the cheese in and, with a spoon, keep moving it around, pressing the cheese to the side, expelling the whey until you get the cheese to the dryness you prefer. I like to taste mine during this process to gauge how much moisture it has left. Everyone’s tastes are different, but if you leave too much or too little leave too much whey, you will have a hard time forming it into little cheese balls.
5. Now you have your cheese! Mix whatever spices and fresh herbs you like in with your cheese. I used dill because we have some growing in our back yard and I am Eastern European 😉 I also added some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Season to taste.
6. Blend it in a food processor to get a nice smooth consistency. Sorry, my hands were covered in cheese so no photo of this step.
7. Roll the cheese into bite sized balls and place them on a cookie sheet.
8. Fill a mason jar to the top with your freshly made cheese bites. Then, fill the remaining volume of the jar with olive oil, and more herbs if you want.
9. Place the jar in the refrigerator. I take it out and put it on the counter for a couple of hours before dinner because the olive oil turns solid in the refrigerator.
Note: You can re-use the olive oil for your next batch or for other cooking in your kitchen.