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.
- 1 gallon gallon whole milk
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 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° F.
- 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 if you like. Anything goes!
- 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 4 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.
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.
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.
I like to smoke cheeses.
would you think that this cheese would do good smoked?
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.
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.