Super Easy Cheesemaking! “Queso Fresco”

February 23, 2009 · 26 comments

You won’t believe how easy it is to make your own cheese! Shauna took a cheesemaking class a while back and now that she’s taught me to make Queso Fresco, next I can’t wait to try making mozzarella! She said there’s only a little more to it, but assured me that it’s still very easy and fast, too. (I’ll let you know.)

This cheese crumbled like feta, but tasted very mild like mozzarella. I only added sea salt and then crumbled it into a Mexican Lasagna, but Shauna said you can do anything with it. You can add garlic or other herbs and use it like you would a Boursin cheese. You could add jam or a little sugar and some cranberries for a sweet spread for bagels. It’s very versatile.

Here’s how I did it:

  • Begin with a half gallon of raw milk – gently heat in a saucepan until it reaches 160*. Turn the heat off and stir in 3/4 – 1 t. powdered citric acid. (I got mine at a health food store.) As you stir, it will begin to separate and curdle, and will take less than 2 minutes or so. (At this point I think this is cottage cheese, based on what the Wikipedia link above says.)

  • Once it’s mostly all separated and clumpy, pour the cheese onto a cheesecloth that is draped over a collander which is setting over a bowl. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth up and hang them onto a knob and let the whey continue to drain into the bowl.

  • After about 45 minutes or so, it will be dry enough to crumble into your recipe, or add herbs or do whatever you’d like with it.

Isn’t that amazingly simple? :)

It only makes about 1 1/2 c. of cheese or so, you end up with a LOT of whey. Shauna has used it in her homemade bread (to replace the water) and said it turned out great. If you can drink it, it’s very good for you. Or if you’re using whey that hasn’t been heated (like the whey in this recipe has), it is used to make lacto-fermented foods.

What else can we do with all the whey we have now? Also, let us know what are some other easy types of cheese to make?

  • I don’t know when I’ll make the mozzarella, but soon I’ll tell you how to make cream cheese – it is also very simple, but there are a few more steps. (Maybe when I get my new computer I can finally, after almost a YEAR, figure out how to get the video podcast onto here that SHOWS you how I make cream cheese! I doubt it, but maybe…)
  • Easy, soft homemade bread recipe (it’s also organic and “soaked”)
  • My new ads start soon, do you know of anyone who would like to advertise on my blog?
  • Coming later this week: a guest post from Kristen at Food Renegade on successfully cooking grass-fed beef!
  • Don’t forget about Real Food Wednesday this week at Cheeseslave’s blog. The topic: Share Your Real Food Testimonies – how has real food changed your life?
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    { 25 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 theclevermom February 23, 2009 at 3:32 am

    There is no need for going out of your way to purchase citric acid. You can just use lemon juice!

    Reply

    2 Kelly February 23, 2009 at 7:03 am

    No kidding?????? Would I use the same amounts, too?

    Thanks!
    Kelly

    Reply

    3 Julie February 23, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Kelly, thanks for this. I have been wanting to learn how to make cheese and this seems easier than making mozzarella. clevermom, no wonder they call you clevermom for offering the tip of substituting lemon juice for the citric acid. (I await your reply to Kelly’s question about amount of lemon juice)

    Reply

    4 Kristin February 23, 2009 at 7:41 am

    When you try mozzarella, take a look at the recipe a http://www.fiascofarm.com. It is oh so much tastier than the 30 minute recipes. Takes a bit longer and uses some culture and lipase but it is just soooo good.

    Another great site for cheese is this one: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/Cheese/cheese.html by a professor that loves to make it.

    Reply

    5 Kristin February 23, 2009 at 7:45 am

    p.s. With whey, you can make a whey cheese the Scandanavians do. It is call Gjetost. It is on the Fankhauser site I mentioned above.

    Reply

    6 Shauna February 23, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Your cheese looks GREAT Kelly! Yes, for the most part, you *can* interchange acdic mediums…… however, the gal teaching the class said that on occasion, her cheese didn’t turn out as expected with alternates. She said this is not so much an issue with the “fresh cheeses”, however, if you are making AGED cheese, it seems to make a difference. My understanding is that when it comes to aged cheeses, it is the particular combination of acid, rennett and enzymes that cause a particular cheese to be made (i.e. gouda vs. cheddar). I also had a friend who used lemon juice in a pinch, and her fresh cheese (queso fresco) came out fine.

    Regarding amounts, just start with a little and see if it separates. Keep stirring – if you don’t see the curds coming together in a minute or so, add a little more. It is important to note, though that you want to sprinkle your acidic medium in as you are stirring – don’t dump it in one spot.

    HTH!

    Shauna

    Reply

    7 Katie February 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Hi Kelly
    Just wanted to point out that since this is not a raw milk cheese (it’s cooked to 160 degrees) , you can’t really use the whey to do lactofermenting. Although you can definitely drink it still, all of the bacteria will be dead.

    Congrats on some tasty looking cheese!

    Reply

    8 Martha February 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Fun post! I’d love to try this someday. I’m a little confused though. I thought that when I let my milk sit out until it separated and then drained it as you posted, that I was left with whey and cream cheese. I use my whey in fermenting, but never thought to drink it. I think I’ll add some the next time I make smoothies. Anyway, we spread the resulting solids on bagels and it tasted like cream cheese to me. It got too strong a taste pretty quickly though, at least for me. I’m still working on aquiring a taste for sour things.

    Reply

    9 Local Nourishment February 23, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I did this the slow way like Martha. I set my gallon of raw milk on the counter until it separates from its cream. That generally takes a day. I refrigerated the cream for later. I let the milk sit out another day or two until it separates into curds and whey. I drain the curds into a strainer lined with cheesecloth, then hang the cheesecloth just like you did in your photo.

    We love using leftover whey in smoothies. My teenaged son read about whey protein being used as a bodybuilder’s supplement and has begged for my jars of whey ever since! (Yeah, this is the kid who eats only Pop Tarts and Fluffer Nutters.)

    Reply

    10 Shauna February 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I’m not Kelly…… but….

    yes, cream cheese and “fresh cheese” are basically the same thing. The citric acid merely gives you a cheese that has not been “soured” first. If you don’t care for the sour taste, you might try it with the citric acid. The added benefit to the “slow method” is that you are culturing the cheese FIRST, so if you are wanting to get more beneficial bacteria and enzymes into your diet – the cultured cheese is a good way to go. The regular fresh cheese still has the raw milk benefits, it’s just not cultured first.

    If you leave your cream out at room temperature before making it into butter, this is how you get “cultured butter” too.

    Yogurt cheese is simply made by hanging yogurt in the same way and letting the whey drip out. The yogurt cheese would already be “cultured” by definition.

    HTH.

    Shauna (hope you don’t mind me piping in Kelly!)

    Reply

    11 Shauna February 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I should also note: the term “fresh” cheese is used to contrast with “aged” cheese. There are many varieties of fresh cheese, including also ricotta – which is a much moister cheese. The variances are often due to the length of time the cheese hangs, which yields either a very moist, spreadable cheese, or a more dry, crumbly cheese.

    Shauna

    Reply

    12 Kelly February 23, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Kristin, thanks for the sites, next time I have extra raw milk again, I’ll check those out. :)

    Katie, GREAT point, I’d better go fix that in the post… Thanks!!!

    Shauna, PLEASE pipe in anytime, you know more about this than I do, and explain it so well, too! I’m very thankful for you. :)

    That goes for all of you, ALWAYS feel free to jump in, it helps me when you can help each other, then I don’t feel guilty if I can’t reply to comments very quickly. :)

    Reply

    13 Erica February 24, 2009 at 9:30 am

    This looks remarkably similar to the recipe for the Indian Cheese Paneer…the only difference I see is that instead of hanging it to drain, you wrap it really well in cheesecloth, put it in the sink on a cutting board and place a heavy saucepan (or skillet) and let it squeeze the extra moisture out. Once it’s nice and compact, you can slice it and serve it in most any Indian sauce. Yum.

    Reply

    14 Martha February 24, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Shauna, thanks for answering my question. Kelly, thank you for allowing and encouraging this! I learn a lot here. :)

    Reply

    15 Jami from Arkansas February 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I never really considered not using the whey from my cheese making. How high is too high a heat to use for lactofermenting? How do you recommend getting the best whey?

    Reply

    16 Kelly February 25, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Jami, you can still use your whey (I’ll use mine in my breadmaking like Shauna does), but just not for lacto-fermenting. (Unless someone *has* done that and still had good results…???) To keep your whey raw, you can do what I do – make raw milk yogurt, then hang it to make cream cheese, and you have the raw whey leftover. Too bad I stink at lacto-fermentation, though! Someday I’ll experiment more with that again…

    Erica, interesting… that will be good to know, depending on how dry I want my cheese to come out, what I’m doing with it, etc.

    Thanks!

    Reply

    17 Victoria June 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I haven’t tried this but whey can be used to make Beet Kvass see http://editor.nourishedmagazine.com.au/articles/beet-kvass for a recipe.

    Reply

    18 Michelle August 4, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Kelly- Any idea on how to make this cheese without heating it to 180? If it was heated to say 110 and then I added the lemon drops, would it separate? What is the purpose of the heating? I have mine on the stove right now and I am hoping not to mess it up! I’m trying to make raw queso fresco for dinner tonight…ha we’ll see if it works…

    Reply

    19 KitchenKop August 4, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Michelle, I’m new at this cheese-making stuff, so I don’t know the answer – if you try it, let us know if it works!
    Kelly

    Reply

    20 Michelle August 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Kelly,

    I did it and it turned out great! I used 3 different recipes for ideas, yours included, and then I just wung it (haha past tense of wing it) and it worked. This is what I did:

    1. Bring 1 gal. whole raw milk to 90F, add 1 c. whole milk yogurt, cover, and let sit 4 hours.
    2. Raise temp of milk slowly to 100-ish so that it doesn’t pass 104F (that’s the definition of raw milk cheese, below 104.)
    3. Add 1/4 vinegar, let sit about 30 min. for curd to form.
    4. Strain into colander lined with porous towel, not cheesecloth. (Mix in salt, if you want it.) Hang and let drain, then squeeze dry.
    5. Store wrapped in a towel in fridge overnight and that will dry it more. After I did this, it was crumbly just like the queso fresco at the store. I made chiliquiles (fried tortillas, salsa, eggs) for breakfast with it and it was awesome.

    The whey did not come out clear like I’ve seen others’ and there was a lot more of it than what I’ve seen using rennet – but I’m using that to make bread like you suggested :) The cheese is a little tangy, probably because of the 4 hours of souring with yogurt. I wonder if I could leave that step out and get similar results.

    Oh, and this was the first time I ever did cheese other than cream cheese, so I’m no expert either!

    Reply

    21 Tammy Jo November 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Hi Kelly,

    I followed the PassionateHomemaking site and she linked me to you. I love your blog! Anyhow, many from our Co-op are all following Nourishing Traditions and learning how to cook all over again. I recently tried making cream cheese by just setting out out raw milk (covered). I thought I remembered 4 days, but it actually meant up to 4 days. Anyhow, after letting my “cream cheese” hang until the whey stopped dripping… I had my cheese. The only problem is that it is a little too dry. It isn’t quite creamy enough. Does anyone know if it was from letting it sit out too long or letting in drain too long? I guess I actually made some other type of cheese becuase it really isn’t that “creamy”. Thoughts?

    Reply

    22 KitchenKop November 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Tammy, when I’m making cream cheese I always start with yogurt and don’t normally let it hang more than 1 1/2 days or so and it’s usually still pretty creamy. I’ve never started from raw milk…maybe someone else can jump in?
    Kelly

    Reply

    23 Amy October 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Hi Kelly,
    I just made this and it turned out really yummy! I added Celtic sea salt, dill, garlic powder, and creamed in a little Kerrygold butter. Oh, and the lemon juice works great…I didn’t have the citric acid.
    Just wondering, since I heated the raw milk…are there any vitamins in here still?
    Thanks,
    Amy

    Reply

    24 KitchenKop October 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Yes, just not quite as many!

    Reply

    25 Evie February 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I make a “yogurt” that is similar to what ya’ll are talking about. It is:
    1 Gallon raw milk
    1 cup whey or yogurt
    Put in a roaster in the oven with the light on for about 12 hours.
    Pour in cheese cloth a little (how ever much can fit) at a time till the whey strains out and I have dry crumbly like (it’s about the consistency of cottage cheese) yogurt :)
    Its so good and cheesy tasting and my boys love it! I also give them the whey to drink with a couple drops of stevia. They love that too. Kinda like lemonade. :)

    Reply

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