At my elementary school, it was tradition for 5th graders to celebrate Colonial Day. Normal classes were cancelled for the day. Dressed in colonial garb, instead of our usual uniforms, we did our best to imitate colonial school children for a day. We were required to pack colonial lunches, which meant none of the usual lunchmeat sandwiches, chips, and pizza rolls that were so popular in the lunchroom. As a nine year old, I baffled by the fact that we couldn’t even use modern containers; no Tupperware, plastic lunch boxes, aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Baskets and linen were the norm. That day, nearly all the students packed lunches of cheese, fruits, and bread. Simple but delicious fare.
The highlight of the day was not the novelty of lunches in wicker baskets, it was my mom’s presentation on cheese-making. During the day, parents visited our classroom to teach home-making and life skills. I vaguely remember a demo on homemade jam and another on sewing. The one that stuck out the most, however, was my mom’s. Homemade cheese was not something new to me. My grandmothers, aunts, and mom frequently made cheese at home. It wasn’t a novelty, but a fact. Of course people made cheese at home. Why wouldn’t they? It wasn’t until my mom presented her methods for cheese-making to my classmates that I realized just how amazing it actually was. Many of my classmates, and a few of the parents, were quite impressed that you could make cheese at home. It made me incredibly proud of my mom, and her magical cheese-making skills.
Today, I love homemade cheese, or gupta d’baetha, and I recognize that part of that appreciation stems from the moment my mom shared her culinary talents with my 5th grade class. This past week, I decided it was time to tackle a household staple that I love eating. I’m glad to say that my first attempt at cheese was a success. To make this recipe, I turned to my mom, of course, for guidance and expertise.
1 gallon whole milk
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/3 cup vinegar
salt, for sprinkling
- Pour the gallon of milk into a medium stainless steel pot. Add the chives and garlic. Place the milk on medium-high heat, and keep an eye on it.
- As the milk slowly rises in the pot, small bubbles will form on the surface. Once the bubbles form, and the milk is nearly at a boil, add the vinegar. Leave the milk on heat for two to five minutes, or until you see curds forming. (Note: If you add the vinegar too soon, the milk will not curdle right away. You will need to leave it on the heat longer).
- Using a spoon, slowly pull the curds away from the edge of the pot. (As you pull the curds towards the center of the pot, you’ll notice that the milk has turned a yellowish clear. This liquid is whey.)
- Scoop the curds into a strainer that is lined with a cheesecloth. Pour the remaining whey and curds into the strainer.
- Moving quickly, sprinkle the curds with some salt, and squeeze the cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. Using the cheesecloth, wrap the curds into a flat disk shape. Place the wrapped curds into a strainer with a weight on top. (For weight, I fill the pot I used to boil milk with water).
- Let the cheese sit under the weight for about an hour.
- Remove the weight and cheesecloth. You can now enjoy the cheese. If you prefer, chill the cheese before eating, and sprinkle with more salt. Serve with vegetables, olives, bread, and any of your favorite cheese accompaniments!