Thursday, October 01, 2009

Homemade cheese: queso blanco



What if I told you that making cheese required nothing more than a gallon of milk, a few limes and a cheese-cloth—would you believe me? OK, you might want to use a thermometer if you’re feeling scientific, but you don’t have to use one. Yep, with as much effort as it takes to go to the store, you can soon impress your friends with your homemade queso blanco.

After reading about Barbara Kingsolver’s cheese-making adventure in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” I knew it was something I definitely wanted to try—she made it sound so easy! But as I started doing research on making cheese, I realized that there were certain ingredients I would need to make most of the cheeses I wanted to create. Strange ingredients—such as rennet, calcium chloride, tartaric acid and mesophilic culture—that you won’t find at your local supermarket.



You can order these supplies online, but when I’m bitten by a bug I require instant gratification. And I was determined to make cheese right at that moment.

Enter queso blanco. This simple cheese doesn’t call for those other ingredients. And while the end result may not be as creamy as Brie, as smoky as Gouda or as nutty as Manchego—the end result is still recognizably cheese and a darn tasty one at that.

Now, queso blanco won’t melt, but you can slice it and fry it in your skillet, crumble it into your refried beans, wrap bacon around it and bake it, spread it on crusty bread or toss it with some vegetables and salsa. Because it’s not aged, it has a neutral flavor like mozzarella, but I like to add herbs, spices and chiles to punch it up a bit.



And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be completely intrigued with making cheese and will order the supplies to take it to the next level. So yes, if you were wondering, that is indeed a packet of rennet on my counter.

Queso blanco
Ingredients:
One gallon of whole milk, can use pasteurized or raw but don't use ultrapasteurized
1/2 cup of lime juice (about four limes) or 1/4 cup of white vinegar
Salt to taste

Method:
Heat the milk in a non-aluminum pot on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until it looks like it’s just about to boil (but don’t let it boil!). If you’re using a thermometer, the temperature should be 185 degrees.

Add the lime juice. The curds will separate from the whey and the mixture will look grainy, kind of like you’ve just thrown a bunch of corn meal into a pot of skim milk. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Pour the pot’s contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain for a couple of minutes. (If you want to save the whey so you can use it to make ricotta, feed your plants or add a bit of protein to your morning oatmeal, place the colander over a pot.)

Sprinkle the curds with salt (you can go saltier than you normally would as a lot of the salt will drain from the cheese as it dries). Now is the time to add any herbs, spices and/or chopped chiles.

Gather the curds in the center, tie the cheesecloth’s ends and hang the cloth on the faucet so it can drain for a few hours. I like to drain it for at least four hours, overnight if I’m patient.

Untie the cheesecloth, and look at that gorgeous white ball. You’ve made about 16 ounces of
cheese! It keeps in the refrigerator for as long as the milk would have kept, so please check your expiration date.

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78 comments:

Adrienne said...

WOW. I have read a lot of blog entries about the wonders of homemade cheese, but yours is by far the simplest and most encouraging. I do have just one question - how long do you let it sit to separate, and should you stir at all?

I just realized my colander kicked the bucket last week, so I'll be buying a new one (and a gallong of milk!) tonight! :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Adrienne--That's a great question. It separates immediately, but I usually cook it for a couple more minutes before pouring into the cheesecloth-lined colander.

Rebecca said...

This sounds amazing! I plan to give it a try this weekend. Considering it is hot in the Texas Hill Country, will the cheese be okay sitting out overnight?

Maggie said...

So cool. Do you have to use a certain kind of milk? Not ultrapasteurized? I bet it would be great with the good stuff, like Ronnybrook...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rebecca--It should be fine if you have air conditioning.

Maggie--Yes, regular pasteurized not ultrapasteurized is best, if you don't have access to raw milk that is!

Lo said...

Awesome!
I have to admit the thought of making cheese always makes me feel a little bit giddy.

So, how much cheese (approx) does a recipe make?

Alanna said...

I took a cheese class a year ago from an internationally known cheese expert/consultant (who shall stay unnamed for the reason that will become obvious) and he insisted on organic, non-ultra pasteurized (so yes, regular pasteurized milk is good) and non-homogenized milk.

That said - he couldn't get a single cheese to set. He blamed it on the batch of milk. So just a word to the wise, that if you're not successful the first time, it might actually BE the milk and is worth re-trying.

Sara said...

Interesting! Would you be willing to share a little more detail on what herbs, spices and peppers you used to flavor it? Yum!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Absolutely going to do this! There is nothing quite as magical as making cheese in your very own kitchen. I've made mozzarella and paneer. Queso blanco, here I come.

Anonymous said...

is whole milk better than skim?
erin

Tatersmama said...

I've been looking forward to trying my hand at cheesemaking, (after reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral) and this has definitely convinced me!
Thanks for sharing - and for making it sound so easy!!
Two guesses what I'll be doing with my locally produced raw milk this weekend!

Celeste said...

I loved that book!

I'm in a transitional living situation right now and when I get where I'm going and have a proper kitchen again, I want to try this.

Ann from Montana said...

Another WOW! Now I need a cow or a goat or sheep to get my own milk with nothing added!

Phoo-D said...

I'll have to give this a try! I ordered the supplies from "The Cheese Queen" after reading Barbara's book, but my first attempt at homemade mozzerella was an utter failure. I haven't worked up the courage to try it again with another gallon of milk! This looks like it might be the perfect "gateway" cheese recipe for me!

avis said...

OMG! This sounds so simple and good! And I could finally make poutine - using my own cheese curds! Woot!

Deepa said...

I've always wanted to try making cheese and this looks brilliant! How long does the cheese keep for in the fridge? And how should you store it?

Screwed Up Texan said...

I too have the question of whether the fat content of milk matters and how long it needs to sit over the colander.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lo--I'd say it makes about two cups.

Alanna--That's a good point, thanks for bringing it up!

Sara--I like to add chopped roasted poblanos and cilantro. About half cup of each. I've also added garlic and rosemary, basil, red chile flakes and canned pimientos. Black pepper is good, too.

Lydia--You'll find that this is very similar to paneer. Enjoy!

Anon--Yes, I'd go with whole milk.

Tatersmama--Oh, lucky you having locally produced raw milk! It should be fantastic!

Celeste--Wasn't that a great book? Very inspiring!

Ann--Oh, yes! Having your own cow, goat or sheep would be fantastic!

Phoo-D--This is indeed a perfect "gateway" cheese.

Avis--Well, the curds that come from this aren't exactly large and chunky like they would be if you used rennet--they're more cornmeal sized than what you'd have in poutine. So unfortunately, I don't think you'll be able to make poutine with this cheese. That said, I understand if you mix half buttermilk with half regular, whole milk, the curd is larger (I haven't tried that yet.)

Deepa--The cheese keeps as long as the milk would have kept--so check your expiration date.

Screwed Up Texan--Definitely go with full-fat milk. And It doesn't take long to drain--I'd leave it over the colander for a minute or so.

Southern Grace Gourmet said...

This looks easy, I have wanted to make homemade cheese, but have been afraid, thanks for sharing an easy recipe!

MEM said...

Has anyone done this queso blanco with goat milk? We're lucky enough to have full-fat goat's milk just about everywhere here...

Eliz. K said...

ah! I plan to try Barbara Kingsolver's cheese recipe as well! "Animal Vegetable Mineral" has been so very inspiring!

Also, I love your blog! I have quite successfully copied several of your recipes, and they have been the recipes people ask for copies afterwards. Thank you! :-)

Melissa said...

I love making cheese! Ricotta cheese was one of my first posts on my blog. I was amazed as to how easy it was...and delicious to boot!

Rhillian said...

Ahha! Just in time for the tacos al carbon I'll be feeding a lot of folks this weekend.

RCakeWalk said...

Thanks for another inspiring recipe. Another one for the books, I think!

Farmer Jen said...

Talk about a timely post! I am right in the middle of reading Barbara Kingsolver's book and I too have been bitten by the homemade cheese bug. I ordered my home cheesemaking kit (book, rennet, salt, etc) online then bought a gallon of milk, but haven't made time to make the cheese yet. Thanks for the Queso Blanco recipe. I will try that soon!

Debs said...

Wow, glad I stumbled across this. I am a big cheese lover. You've now got me hooked on cheese making too. Thanks for sharing.

Liz said...

This sounds a lot like Indian 'Paneer' cheese, made using yogurt instead of lime juice to separate the milk. There are lots of recipes on the web - I first saw it made on BBC 'Indian cooking made easy' and it looks about as easy as you described. I'm not sure where to get a cheesecloth but I'll have to try both recipes some day and see if there is a taste difference.

Lea Ann said...

This is fabulous. I'll be making my own cheese soon.

Thanks for the post.

heidigoseek said...

i have have the cheesemaking bug for about 10 years. mozzerella is my favorite. i am using the same packet of rennet tablets i bought back then. it keeps forever in the freezer or fridge. i guess i'm onto queso blanco this time :)
thanks.

Chris said...

I live in Mississippi & I have been looking for the white cheese dip recipe that they sell in the local Mexican restaurants here. It is not what we call Rotel dip...it has to use some form of white cheese, milk, garlic or heavy cream...I dunno. There are no tomatoes in this dip. I have been told by a worker at one restaurant that the cheese they use is white cheddar cheese. I have also been told by someone at another restaurant that it is asiago cheese. Do you have any idea about the dip I am talking about and if so can you give me any advice on how to make it? Thanks for all of your help & I REALLY enjoy your recipes & post every week. Keep up the great work!

MidnightAgenda said...

for Chris,

A simple google search for white cheese dip brought up this little find 'http://www.xenite.org/white_cheese/queso-blanco-recipe.html'

Chack it out, it sounds like what you are looking for, apparently it is avail in the deli section of Wal-Mart.

people-

Do not underestimate the power and allure of using Google to find what you need, thats how I found this GEM of a recipe site!

(I was looking for homemade tortilla recipes, total WIN)

Keep fighting the good fight Homesick Texan, I have printed a few of your recipes to put in my homemade cookbook and plan on putting them all (esp. the cheese sticks) to full use come the holidays!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this recipe! i usually make this cheese using rennet but the place I used to buy the rennet tablets went out of business. All I could find was junket brand rennet tablets but they did not work so the rennet and the gallon of milk were wasted.
chrisq

Jennifer said...

I can't wait to try this! I love queso blanco, and now I will finally make the time to make it myself! Thanks for the post and inspiration!

lisa said...

I love the idea of fried queso blanco! I've been thinking about making some soft cheese, and this is one more source of inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I too was wondering what spices you put in the cheese, could you be more specific in regards to how much garlic, black pepper and rosemary etc. you put in. Thanks, I really enjoy your blogs, brings back a lot of memories for me.

laura said...

So, sooo doing this ... now!!

Ninette said...

This is also like making ricotta cheese, except you use lemon instead of lime juice. How interesting that queso blanco, paneer, and ricotta are almost the same!

Kelsey B. said...

I loved Barbara's book and was also intrigued by the cheesemaking. This looks delicious - now I'll pull my copy off the shelf and give it a try. I think I saw you at BlogHer last week but didn't get a chance to talk to you - bummer!

Kevin said...

Making your own cheese is always fun!

Cynthia said...

Reading this made me excited to make paneer again :) I love your blog!

RecipeGirl said...

What a terrific idea. I too was intrigued with the cheese-making process when I read that book. I can completely relate to the "have to make it now and not wait to order ingredients" frenzy!

Tommy said...

Pardon my ignorance, but is there a difference between queso blanco and queso fresco ?

Seems like every Food Network cook is using queso fresco and I was curious to see how it compares to ricotta or cottage cheese.

Do people top off Mexican dishes with this cheese because it is dairy and it can help kill the heat ?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Southern Grace Gourmet--It is easy!

MEM--I haven't, but I bet it's delicious! Let us know what you think.

Eliz K.--Thank you--I'm so happy to hear the recipes have worked for you.

Melissa--Haven't made ricotta but it's next on my list!

Rhillian--This goes perfect with tacos al carbon.

RCakeWalk--Thank you and enjoy!

Farmer Jen--This is an easy way to get started.

Debs--You're very welcome.

Liz--It's very similar to paneer cheese.

Lea Ann--You're very welcome.

Heidigoseek--I can't wait to try making mozzarella!

Chris--I know what you're talking about, let me see if I can find a recipe for you.

MidnightAgenda-Happy holiday cooking--I'm honored to be in your homemade cookbook!

Anon--I've heard that the junket rennet doesn't really work. You can order rennet online, though.

Jennifer--You're very welcome.

Lisa--It's tasty fried as it doesn't melt, just gets a bit crisp.

Anon--Rosemary is good, as is black pepper, garlic, red pepper--anything you like! I usually use a tablespoon or so of fresh herbs, and a teaspoon of dried (but you could definitely add more to taste).

Laura--Have fun!

Ninette--It is interesting--different cuisines all coming up with similar simple solutions to keeping milk.

Kelsey B.--I was there! I'm so sorry I missed you. So many people and not nearly enough time.

Kevin--Yes it is!

Cynthia--Aw, thank you! And yes, this is very similar to paneer.

RecipeGirl--Ha! That's the story of my life!

Tommy--Queso Fresco uses rennet and mesophilic culture and ends up a cheese you can melt, similar to mozzarella. That said, in some parts of Mexico the terms are interchangeable, so it does get confusing!

dining tables said...

Interesting! I have been doubts in making cheese at home. I am afraid that it will not turn out to be the cheese I wanted.

Georgia said...

I made it and it's good! The recipe is deceptively simple but so very very good! Thanks for the recipe - we are sadly lacking in Mexican ingredients here in Australia so it's good to be able make my own!

denise said...

Some days I'm quite patient, but most days I'm all about instant gratification. I like the addition of chiles. Looks like a plan.

PPW said...

I made this cheese yesterday and it's delicious! Very easy to do. My very discriminating yankee friend tried it today on a cracker and loved it. I added alot of roasted garlic, and herbs from my garden (chives, parlsey and basil) and it is so good. I encourage y'all to do this. So nice to have these recipes up here in the Berkshires! Thank you!

Melanie said...

Thank you for posting this recipe! I just moved to Germany from the States and am having trouble finding Mexican ingredients (most stores here don't even carry black beans). I was wondering what cheese to use as gouda fills the isles here. I served tacos last night, and will try it again with your chewy flour tortilla recipe and this cheese (I'm not a bread baker, so I'm nervous and excited about trying the tortillas).

MEM said...

Oooh, I know this one! As an American in Amsterdam, I'm constantly trying to refine my Mexican cheese substitutions.

I really like a medium-aged Gouda as a Monterey Jack substitute, the young stuff doesn't taste like much, and the old stuff is too strong.

There are also medium- and hard- goat cheeses here that work excellently with Mexican food. They melt nicely and the older ones are sharp in a very complementary way...

The Greasy Spoon said...

I like the simplicity of this. Have you ever tried to make your own mustard?

AngAK said...

Just a note that the title of Barbara's book is "Animal, Vegetable, MIRACLE", for those who might like to search for it. I listened to the Audio version from my library and highly recommend it.

Haley said...

Lisa,

I just found your blog today while searching for a new flour tortilla recipe, and I can't wait to try yours when I have a friend over for some chicken tortilla soup tomorrow night.

I'm in Littleton, CO, so I hope our altitude won't be much of a problem (I usually avoid baking and recipes with leaveners), but since we got our first snow today, I'm at home and yearning for some comfort food.

I also can't wait to try this cheese recipe and--fingers crossed--hope to talk my family into trying the gingerbread pancakes on Christmas morning, instead of our traditional monkey bread.

Anyway, I'm a Colorado girl, but I went to school in Dallas, so when I read your post about Central Market, I could relate. The first time I walked into that place, I thought I had died and gone to heaven (and I was a theology major, so I don't use that phrase lightly!).

But all this is to say: I am so delighted to have a new favorite food blog! Your pictures are gorgeous and the background stories along side each recipe are priceless. Thank you! I've already sent links to my mom and a girlfriend.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Dining Tables--You never know until you try!

Georgia--Yay! I'm so happy you liked it!

Denise--Excellent plan, indeed!

PPW--Oh! I'll definitely be adding roasted garlic next time. And so happy you were able to please a discriminating Yankee!

MEM--I never would have thought of Gouda as a Monterey Jack substitute, so good to know when my European readers ask me for one.

The Greasy Spoon--Nope, but I make my own sausage so there's no reason why I shouldn't make mustard, too.

AngAK--Thanks for the correction. Doh! I KNEW that!

Haley--Welcome, and so nice to meet you! And I'll keep my fingers crossed that they let you make gingerbread pancakes, too!

Screwed Up Texan said...

Oh My Chicken Fingers...I just made CHEESE! I had my doubts, but had to try it. It worked. I halved the recipe.

Matt C said...

Wow, I'm definitely going to make this. We live in Perth, Australia and struggle to find Mexican ingredients, especially cheese and some varieties of chillie (chile). This recipe looks so easy!

Thank you

Sarah said...

I tried making the cheese this weekend while on a girls trip with my sisters and mother. We read the book for our family book club and thought it was a perfect activity for us.

We added roasted poblanos. It was good but a bit lime-y. Maybe we used too much lime juice?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Screwed Up Texan--You are now a cheese maker! Wear that honor with pride!

Matt C--It is easy, enjoy!

Sarah--Glad you gave it a try but I'm sorry you didn't like the lime flavor. Perhaps I just like the lime flavor more than you. You can certainly use less lime juice and more vinegar to make the curds if you prefer.

Alex said...

Made this cheese on Saturday with Hatch Green Chilis (roasted) ... so fantastic!

It's a perfect "football" snack, which goes nicely with some Burnt Orange and crackers (and surprisingly, pretzels)!

Who knew it could be this easy!

(Thank you Matthew Amster-Burton for pointing me to this blog!)

Sassy Molassy said...

For some reason, I can't seem to find milk that isn't ultrapasturized. I wonder how it would turn out using all buttermilk?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sassy Molassy--It would be great with buttermilk. And because buttermilk is already acidic, you wouldn't have to use as much lime juice.

Brett said...

I just made a batch of queso blanco using your recipe and it turned out fabulous. From one homesick Texan to another, thanks a bunch!

Evening said...

Lisa, if you are not already famous, you should be! I stumbled on your blog doing a search for "where to buy beef lard" and your rendering page came up. I have been wanting to make cheese for over a year. I suffer from what I call "Life Long Chronic Fatigue of Unknown Origin" and I rarely get to do anthing I want to. With your recipe for cheese, I think I might be able to manage it. I'm almost excited and that is saying a lot! Thank you for your blog.

Evin said...

Tried this for the first time today -- success! So easy and fun. I threw in some cilantro, parsely and jalapeno. It's really good! Thanks for the great tip.

Colleen said...

I've always wondered about homemade cheese, but never thought of really doing it on my own. Nice to see some of us are brave enough to attempt it. I may have to enter the realms of cheese making myself now.

Thanks for this,

Colleen

small one said...

Oh my goodness. I made this tonight and... I think I may die. I couldn't wait the entire four hours to see what was waiting for me in the little package, so I took it out after three. It's a wonderful cross between cream cheese and ricotta. SO delicious.

And my favorite thing about your blog is combining recipes. I also made the AMAZING bacon jam this evening. So for dinner, it was sliced tomatoes topped with bacon jam and delicious queso blanco. Thank you thank you!!!

Mrigaa said...

Lisa! I've just discovered your blog at work, and my productivity has declined seriously. Wonderful work!

The queso blanco is exactly like Indian homemade paneer, which you might already know--just wash out the vinegar and skip the salting.

After draining, if you tie it up tight and put a weight on it for several hours, you get a hard block, which you can cube and make dishes like palak paneer, etc.

Kathy said...

The cheese is great. You mentioned making ricotta out of the whey--is it easy and how is it done? I enjoy your blog immensely since I am a born Texan and have lived here all my life.

Gloria said...

Great recipe, have already tried it once and all went well. Was wondering if we could use the vinegar in canned jalapenos instead of the white vinegar or lime juice. It seems that if your going to use chopped chilis for spice, the vinegar would add heat also add great flavor.
Please, someone let me know soon. I've got the bug too.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Gloria--I've never done that but I think it could definitely work. Sounds delicious! If for some reason there's not enough acidity in the jalapeƱo pickle juice, you can always augment it with plain vinegar.

Gloria said...

Thanks, am ready to go again. Will let you know how it turns out. Love this site, just like having my home ec teacher in the kitchen.

AbrashTX said...

Just made this cheese today and raided the curds to put on our broccoli! Mine made really big curds right away though; no little bitty cornmeal-type ones. It took the better part of an hour to get up to 180-185 degrees--wonder if that had anything to do with it.

JoyceK said...

when you pull the cheesecloth up over the cheese and tie it, be sure to squeeze it tight from the top and twist a little to squeeze out the water; this will cause it to compact, and the curds will be larger, and the piece will have more the texture and appearance of queso fresco. The taste is also very very similar to good queso fresco you buy. Either way it is always a delicious fresh cheese; even better after it is chilled for a few hours before unwrapping. Good luck! Hope this helps a little.

Tony541 said...

I like to smoke cheeses.
would you think that this cheese would do good smoked?

Anonymous said...

Yum! I was so happy to find this and to know how easy it is. The one local store that sold queso fresco closed, so my kitchen will now produce copious amounts (friends seem to already be knocking down my door).

My one "tip" is to pay attention and use your instincts. Each stove is different (I had to set mine at medium high for about 15 minutes before the milk came to temperature. After I put the lime in, I simmered for atleast 10 minutes without stirring).
Once I poured into the cheesecloth, I gently stirred in about 2 tbsp of kosher salt.

This has been hanging on my faucet for about an hour. It's about the size of 1 1/2 softballs, maybe 2.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! I have been making yogurt and wanted to try cheese (also read Kingsolver's book!) This recipe looks perfect. Here are some tips from yogurt-making which might benefit other readers:

Use a crock-pot to heat the milk so no worry about scalding. Takes longer but you can walk the dog, clean, or run errands and come back to find milk perfect 165-185 degrees. I have bad luck with scalding the milk in conventional pot.
Milk quality makes a HUGE difference in yogurt (and cheese???) The best yogurt so far was from grass-fed organic milk. I could taste the difference. For budget reasons, I will use grocery-store organic milk in this recipe. I have made yogurt with all types of milk (except ultra-pasteurized which won't work) and organic whole milk makes best results.
To the poster who was confused about names: Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, (and Queso Ranchero, too?) are all the same thing - just depends on regional habits what people call it.

Texan in Acadiana said...

Made it this weekend and can call it a huge success! My buddy and I added finely-chopped garlic and oregano. The final cheese came out a little runny, almost like a thick cheese spread, instead of like the ball in the picture after draining for 5 hours. Still tasted great, though.

Suzan Wood-Young said...

Isn't this queso fresco?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Suzan--Queso fresco is made with rennet.

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