Well it’s been a while since I’ve had a spare 36 hours to make a batch of cheese…but I finally had some free time two weekends ago, and oh how welcome the opportunity to do nothing but sit and watch the dairy thermometer rise was.
Then things got busy again, and so I’m only now finding the time to write about it! But this is definitely a cheese worth writing home about.
I’ve always seen neufchâtel in grocery stores, sold in blocks next to the cream cheese — but I’ve never bought it. According to my book, this cheese originates from the Normandy region of France, where it is usually mold-ripened and heart-shaped; here in the U.S. it is typically just eaten fresh.
I’ve never had a cheese turn out on the first try before, and I was CERTAIN I’d screw this up somehow — but, this cheese was awesome and my favorite I’ve ever made thus far. It has the consistency of cream cheese, with a sharper, stronger flavor. Great on bagels, crackers, toast and sandwiches!
From Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carrol
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 pint heavy cream
1 packet mesophilic starter
3 drops liquid rennet diluted in 1/3 cup cool, unchlorinated water (I used the double strength vegetable rennet — 2 drops diluted in 40 drops water)
Salt, herbs, spices to taste
1. Sterilize all equipment and workspace.
2. Combine the milk and the cream in a large pot set inside an even larger pot of water in a sort of double boiler setup. Heat to 80° F.
3. Add the starter and mix thoroughly.
4. Add 1 teaspoon of the diluted rennet (in my setup I ended up using about half of the diluted rennet). This may take a little finagling as the volumes are really too small to measure and the amount of rennet apparently makes a big difference in the texture of the cheese. Luckily, mine turned out okay.
5. After adding the rennet stir with an up-and-down motion for two minutes. Cover and let sit at room temperature (at least 72°) for 12-18 hours. It should look like yogurt after this time.
6. Pour into a large colander lined with a large piece of butter muslin. tie the corners together and let drain for 6-12 hours, until the bag has stopped dripping and the cheese is noticeably thicker.
7. Place the bag back into the colander and put the colander in a pot. Put a plate on top of the cheese and something that weighs approximately 5 pounds on top of the plate. Cover and refrigerate for 13 hours.
8. Remove the cheese from the bag and into a bowl. Season with salt to taste and whatever seasonings you’d like. I used scallions (white and green parts), chives and onions and it was DIVINE. Some other ideas include: jalapenos, fresh fruit, pickles, sun-dried tomatoes….use your imagination.
9. Knead the cheese a bit, divide into four and shape each section into a small round. Wrap in wax or parchment paper and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
This cheese was SO GOOD! I can’t wait to make it again. I loved eating it plain on crackers, and it was also delicious on an open-faced sandwich I made with some fresh tomatoes and chard from my garden!
Oh man. I love summer.