Making homemade cheese. It’s such a breeze. I want some now, please. The freshness will appease. Make sure you don’t … sneeze…on it…
Ok, I’m done.
Making a good queso fresco may seem daunting, but once you actually give it a try, it’s not that intimdating. It is labor intensive, yes, but it only requires three ingredients! One is salt. One is an acid (vinegar). The most important one is milk. We’re going to make homemade cheese, but which kind of milk should we use?!
Does the fat content in milk make a difference when making queso fresco?
We will test making cheese using whole, 2% and 1% milk.
Whether you call it queso fresco, queso blanco, white cheese or paneer, the Indian cheese, this recipe is simple and delicious. This cheese does not melt nor become gooey. It’s great for grilling, frying or sprinkling it over your Mexican dish.
Like I said, it’s labor intensive, and if you want to get a great finished product, I would recommend using a cheese cloth.
There are three ingredients: milk (8 cups), salt (2 teaspoons) and vinegar (1/4 cup).
This cheese, like most cheeses, is simply the milk curds that are salted, drained and pressed together. The acidity adds some flavor, but the vinegar is also necessary for extracting the curds when boiling milk.
Here is a great site on how to make and press homemade cheese: http://www.fromaway.com/cooking/how-to-make-queso-blanco. I followed these instructions closely, except I made this THREE times:
The three milks used in this test: Whole vs. 2% vs. 1%
I also used white distilled vinegar and kosher salt.
1. Boil milk slowly, SLOWLY, for about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir often. Get it up to 190 degress.
2. Add vinegar, turn off heat and stir. You’ll see the curds separating. Stir for 10 minutes,
3. Take out curds and put in seive. Try to drain as much of the liquid as possible.
4. Add salt. Mix.
5. Still need to squeeze out liquid, so here we use a cheese cloth. Put the salted curds in the cheese cloth, wrap, let it hang somewhere for about 45 minutes.
6. Pressing time. Find a clean cylindrical thing (cut out both sides of metal can, making sure you clean it thoroughly), place on a towel, put in curds, and find something to press down on it. I used two plastic cups, one with a heavy bottle fit snugly into the top cup. Let it press for a few hours. The link above says 4 hours.
7. Eat cheese!
I created all 3 cheeses roughly at the same time, to minimize any affects of drying/cooling during post-pressing time. I had 5 friends help me with this blind taste test. After pressing each cheese, I put them on three different plates. Only I knew which cheese was which, and I wrote the type of cheese (whole, 2% or 1% milk) on a card beneath the plate.
We all used forks, but we had some bread to cleanse the pallet as well. Actually, we used some of my homemade bread I tested before.
Remember, the testers (excluding myself) had no idea which cheese they were tasting.
|Me||More milky taste, smoother, creamier||Too salty, better texture, drier in a good way, good milk taste is delayed||Rubbery, chewy, salty|
|Erin||Smoothest, least salty||Smooth, grainy, too salty||Salty, firm, I like the texture|
|Meg||Best flavor, could use less vinegar, grainy, crumbly texture||Salty, but best texture, smooth||Gross, hardcore negative reaction, salty, very grainy texture|
|Adam||Smooth, best flavor, quite pleasing||Saltiest, smoothest, best form when held in mouth, tastes vinegar||Rough, salty, disgusting!|
|Allison||Less salt, more vinegar, like ricotta||Salty, thick, nice texture||Spongier, like real “queso fresco”|
|Caroline||Smoothest, less grainy, less salt, favorite, a little creamy||Smoother, even texture||Salty, grainy, gummy, mild|
As we all guessed, the more fat the milk has, the better we preferred that cheese.
The clear last-place option was the cheese made with the 1% milk, the milk with the least amount of fat tested today. The descriptions such as “chewy”, “rough”, and “gummy”, made the texture really stand out. The taste was also not pleasant compared with the other two, but it seems that texture really affected the testers a great deal.
Looking at the results, it seems that the cheese made with whole milk is the crowd favorite. The whole milk had a more favorable taste, but it seems that the preferences of favorite texture were mixed between the whole and 2% milk.
There were many comments about how salty the 2% cheese was. Now, I am confident that I measured the ingredients (especially the salt) very carefully and used the SAME amount of salt in each of the recipes. There is a chance that I accidentally put too much salt in the 2% milk, or perhaps there is something about 2% milk that is saltier when turned into cheese? I am not sure.
So if you are going to make queso fresco from scratch, I would recommend whole milk, but 2% milk is fine as well, but go easy on the salt. Stay away from 1%. DEFINITELY stay away from fat free milk.
I used white vinegar, but what would the taste difference be when using apple cider vinegar?
Raw milk! Yes, this is a thing, although it is controversial since the sale of raw milk is not allowed in some states, and there is a good debate over whether it is dangerous for you or not. Some farms sell it, so in the future, if I find some raw milk, I will definitely test it when making cheese.
Bonus: taking the whole milk cheese, put some olive oil in a pan and heat, then fry the cheese for a minute or two on each side. Sprinkle some basil and perfect snack!