Red Chile Cheese

This is what I remember about my senior year boarding school chemistry classes, besides that I had the most wonderful teacher and what a horrible student I was. The classroom was an amphitheater 3/4 round setting with the teacher on the lower level at the front. The students could see each other mostly from across the round rows. I would lock my eyes on a student from across the room, and then yawn and move on to another student. Pretty soon the entire class would be yawning and I would hear from the floor, “Jamie !…” Needless to say I had a difficult time passing chemistry.

Making cheese is a science. Considering the fact that I am no scientist, nor did I pay attention in chemistry class, it is a wonder I can still make cheese. Our Jersey cow recently freshened and that means an abundance of milk. Coming out of a winter milk famine, and married to a Dutch cheese-head, we were hungry for cheese and that day I was short on time. I decided that after milking and straining the milk into our three and 1/2 gallon milk pail, I did not want to bottle the milk or mess up a large pan to heat the milk on the stove. The milk straight from the cow was already body warmth temperature, so I decided to make cheese in the milk pail.

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I had some lemon whey in the refrigerator and gently warmed that on the stove and poured it into the warm milk to add a bit of acid to the milk. I then added one teaspoon of rennet which was stirred into 1/4 cup of water first, then gently stirred that into the milk. I put the milk pail into a large canning pot filled with warm water to let the milk rest and solidify into curds and whey. A few hours later it had set properly, when you can pull it away from the sides of the pan and see whey, and when you stick your finger into the curds and pull up with a clean break. I cut the curds with a long knife into strips about 1/2 inch and then cut across those strips in the opposite direction. Then cut all those strips into small cubes at a diagonal. Stir the curds gently, breaking up any large cubes and let rest for about thirty minutes for more whey to be expelled from the curds. Line a strainer with good cheese cloth and ladle the curds in it to drain.

When enough whey is drained out of the curds, add sea salt to taste and any other herbs or seasonings you prefer. The only green I have in my “garden” is green-with-envy, thinking of other climates overflowing with verdant spring growth, so I opted for lovely red chile powder that my friends brought me from New Mexico.

Mix well and either hang as a ball in the cheese cloth, or press in a cheese mold. Since this is a “fresh” cheese as opposed to one hard pressed and aged, there is still a lot of whey in the curds and the cheese will be soft. Press for about thirty minutes, take out and turn over and press again a few times over the course of a couple of hours.

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The texture is soft, like a Farmer’s Cheese and the red chile flavor is mild and sweetly spicy.

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Someday I will try and really pay attention to the science of how to properly make cheese, and get an old refrigerator working again to make a cheese cave to age properly in. But for now, coming out of a cheese famine, any quick and easy cheese is good, and this one also melts well.

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Red Chile Farmers Cheese on Punk Domestics

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