Queso Chronicles

homemade creme fraiche

Posted on June 27, 2011

Cream, butter, cheese … oh, how I love them all. Today, let’s talk about creme fraiche, or french mature cream as Julia Child describes it. Creme fraiche is extremely versatile because it doesn’t separate when heated and it has a mild flavor that is still more distinct than heavy cream. Here at Chez Jojonoodle we use it quite often, but creme fraiche can’t always be found and is often expensive because it’s considered a specialty product. Thankfully, Julia Child noticed a similar phenomenon back in the 50s and included a recipe in her cookbook for making creme fraiche at home.  I decided it was time to plunge in.

Now, I’m about to tell you to do the most un-American of things, but stay with me. (After all, Julia Child told me to do it). First, heat some cream to a perfect bacteria-multiplying temperature of 85 degrees. And then let that sit out overnight at room temperature.

Homemade Creme Fraiche, from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1 cup heavy cream
1 t buttermilk

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and buttermilk to just under 85 degrees. Pour into a jar and loosely cover. Let sit out at room temperature (75 – 65 degrees) overnight, until thickened. Cover and refrigerate. Use on anything … from soups to crostini,  pizza to desserts. Strawberries and creme fraiche anyone?!?


Just try it … you won’t regret having this stuff on hand (even if it freaks you out to leave dairy at room temperature)!

-Emily

queso chronicles: homemade ricotta

Posted on April 5, 2011

You all might remember my trials and tribulations in the mozzarella realm. Well, after some deliberation, I decided my faint heart could not handle another mozzarella failure and that I should try to make an easier cheese. Ricotta is probably the easiest cheese to make (according to cheesemakers on the internet) and recently I found a new recipe on a great blog called I Made That. I followed her directions and ended up with a perfect ricotta. No tears or wasted milk!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

6 cups whole milk
2 cups cultured buttermilk
1 1/2 cups cream
1 T salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, heat until curds begin to form, stirring gently. After the curds form, turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes. Put two layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. Strain cheese until it has reached your desired consistency. I let it sit for about an hour. Transfer cheese into a tupper and refrigerate. When you pull your cheese out the next day, there may be some residual whey. Just pour that off and continue eating and cooking with your delicious fresh cheese!

Making ricotta from scratch is not any cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, but it is much more flavorful. I’ve found that many store-bought ricottas taste like nothing and often have a grainy texture. The milk flavor is very prominent in this homemade cheese and the texture is smooth and creamy. Yum!

-Emily

queso chronicles: brie and blue

Posted on March 2, 2011

Here we have two delightful cheeses that are both reasonably priced and crowd-pleasing.  One is a triple-cream brie (I’m really sorry, but I forgot which it was exactly, but you really can’t go wrong with anything that starts its name with ‘triple-cream’).  This cheese is so creamy and buttery it almost doesn’t count as cheese.  Typically, I’m not one for brie because of how mild it is, but while this one lacks in flavor it makes up for it with texture.  A great mild cheese for spreading on bread (which Emily always wants to do for some reason).

The second is one of my personal favorites: gorgonzola dolce.  This creamy blue is mild and sweet with a bit of nuttiness.  If your don’t like blue cheese you should give this one a shot; I characterized it as an “entry-level blue.”

Of course we couldn’t have these cheese by themselves, so as you can see they are accompanied by a very nice prosciutto americano by La Quercia and a sopressata by  Fra’mani.

-Jordan

queso chronicles: homemade mozzarella

I have this fantasy that I will one day be an excellent cheesemaker. I really like cheese and I really like making things from scratch soooo … logical conclusion, right?

Well, my first two forays into the world of cheesemaking have been (sadly) less than stellar. Armed with internet research, a recipe from Ricki the Cheese Queen and the appropriate ingredients, I thought I had it in the bag.  I didn’t. After two back-to-back disappointments, I have taken a hiatus from cheesemaking. I think my milk choices may have been to blame (too high of a pasturization temperature at the milk factory), that and also the lack of a microwave to aid with the stretching process.

Here’s a little breakdown (although, if you want to attempt yourself, I would recommend you go straight to Ricki. She has quite the cult following and an awesome 80s hairdo, so she must be doing something right).

The ingredients

1 gallon whole milk, as local as you can get and not ultrapasturized

1 1/2 t citric acid, diluted in 1 c water

1/4 tab rennet

Add the citric acid diluted in water to cold milk. SLOWLY heat to 90 degrees.

Remove from the heat, add the rennet, stir 30 seconds, cover and let it sit quiet for 5 minutes.

A curd should form. Cut the curd into 1 inch cubes. Heat to 105 degrees. Take of the heat and continue to stir for 3 – 5 minutes. Strain the curd.

And this is where is all went downhill. I did not get a clean break between the curds and the whey. My curds were also finer and more grainy than they should have been. Still, I soldiered on, attempting to drain the curds and then form balls of those curds. Not successful. On my first attempt, my “mozzarella” was this funny mix between ricotta and mozzarella and would not hold any shape. On my second attempt, the cheese formed balls, but they were rock hard and dry. (Eww). Neither time was I able to stretch the cheese like Ricki shows in her pictures, neither time did I end up with a cheese that was appealing in texture.

I have to say, after the second failure I was pretty heartbroken. I hate to waste food (but I could not force myself to eat those hard, dry cheese balls). I won’t pretend that that it’s not disappointing to know that my dreams of master cheesemaking are much further away that I once thought. But, if anyone has a cow (and wants to share some super fresh milk) or even wants to offer up the use of their microwave, I may just give it another go.

-Emily

the queso chronicles: cypress grove purple haze

Inspired by the San Francisco Chronicle’s lovely weekly feature – the cheese review –  and fueled by our frequent purchases of new, occasionally obscure or artisanal cheeses … the Queso Chronicles is born!

Up this week: Cypress Grove’s Purple Haze, a pasteurized goat milk cheese with lavender and fennel pollen.

The cheese was creamy with a flavor similar to most chevre. The fennel pollen lent a nice, but subtle anise flavor. Lastly, with a direct quote from Jordan, “this is the only application of lavender in food that I actually enjoy”. The additional flavor profiles were tasty and interesting, but did not over power the goat cheese flavor. I love goat cheese, and this one did not disappoint.

Added bonus … Jordan singing Purple Haze all night long.

-Emily