Raw Goat Milk Hard Cheese — Picture Tutorial
Recipe by Wardee Harmon and her mom, Martha Bisharat
This is the traditional Middle Eastern goat cheese. It is salty and yummy. It is best tasting when made from fresh goat's milk. I'm not going to lie to you, though — not everyone likes this cheese. It is definitely an acquired taste. I'm one of those who love it. I gobbled it up as often as I could. Growing up, whenever we would get together with extended family, one of my aunts (usually Aunt Nina or Aunt Selma) would add some to the feast. We ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There would be squares of it laid out. I never ate it on a sandwich or on anything else — I just alternated bites of it with the other delicious foods being served.
The process of making the goat's cheese can easily take the whole day. You won't be working most of the time, though, just waiting. You don't want to rush it. I would encourage you to make sure your dishes are done because you'll tie up your sink for hours — unless you're one of the blessed who may have a laundry room sink or other sink to use for this process.
I'm not an expert at cheese making– I've made this cheese a half dozen times now. I am following in the footsteps of my talented and gifted mom, who learned how to make it from my Aunt Nina. So I'll share what we do. If you have questions, please ask!
This recipe may be doubled or tripled successfully. Any more than that and you will have a hard time handling it. The pictures in the tutorial show the recipe doubled (using 2 gallons of raw goat milk).
- 1 gallon fresh, raw goat milk
- 20 drops of liquid rennet (available at a health food store)
1. Prepare a Press.
You will need to have a press of some sort. One way to do this is to use a cutting board. The cheese will lay on top of this, along with a tray of heavy objects (such as rocks or canned goods). If you wish, you can use another cutting board on top of the cheese, and then weight it down with a bucket full of sand or the tray full of heavy objects.
My dad gave me the following homemade cheese press last Christmas (2005). It consists of 2 cutting boards with holes in the corners, into which I insert bolts to connect them together. A wing nut is attached to the end of the corner bolt to tighten down the “press.”
This is 1 of the 2 14″ x 18″ plastic cutting boards. The red dots show you where my dad drilled 1/4″ holes in each corner, 1-1/2″ from each edge. The holes in this cutting board line up exactly with the holes in the other cutting board.
Through each corner, I insert a 3″ long, 3/16″ wide bolt. I also use 2 washers — one under the screw head of the bolt and the other under the wing nut that attaches to the free end of the bolt. I lay the entire unit down (both cutting boards screwed together loosely) over the sink, with the wing nuts facing up. Then when I put the cheese between the 2 cutting boards, I can tighten the wing nuts to bring the boards closer together, thereby acting as a press on the cheese.
A note about my press: It was the first one my dad made. He observed it in action. Since then, we have decided that it would be better if the cutting boards were smaller. Because the screws in the corners are so far away from the cheese in the middle between the boards, they don't exert enough pressure on the cheese when tightened down. To counteract this, I put a weight (such as a bucket full of sand or a tray full of canned goods) on top of the cutting boards, directly over the cheese. So use this as a guide, but recognize that we are still figuring it out ourselves.
2. Heat the Milk.
In a pot of sufficient size (with a lid), heat the milk to lukewarm (86 degrees), enough to take the chill out. Remove from heat.
3. Add the Rennet.
Measure out the rennet into a bowl, stirring a little milk into it. Then pour all of it into the lukewarm milk. Cover and let this sit for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
You will know it has been enough time when the whey is separating out and the solids have a yogurt-like consistency.
Uncover and let cool for 15 to 30 minutes.
4. Squeeze out Whey.
Pour the solidifying milk into a cloth drip bag, such as a pillow case. The cloth mesh should be fine enough for the whey to strain but no milk solids to escape.
It gets a little tricky here and you must work fast to keep your milk from spilling out into the sink. A firm twist to the cloth bag will control the contents. The whey will seem to be gushing out from all directions.
Continue squeezing out the whey until the remaining contents in the bag feel fairly solid. This can take time, so be patient. When it no longer feels like liquid, move it over in the sink and get the bottom layer of your press (one cutting board) set up over the sink.
Create a squared-up shape of the bag and its contents.
Add the other cutting board (if using) and weight to compress the cheese. Let set 2 hours or so.
After about 2 hours, the cheese is getting firm and close to the desired thickness of 1/2-inch.
The cheese is still moldable at this stage. It is a good time to square up your block. For example, where the drip cloth is twisted, it can create a hole in the center of the block of cheese. Removing the weights and handling only the outside of the cloth, untwist the cloth and lay it across the cheese.
Stop pressing out the whey when the cheese reaches a thickness of 1/2-inch. If necessary, add more weight to continue pressing out the whey to achieve the 1/2-inch thickness. This period may take many hours; this is okay. When done, the cheese should be slightly bendable without breaking and slightly rubbery.
5. Cut the Cheese.
Remove the cheese from the cloth bag.
Cut cheese into 2-inch squares or 2-inch by 3-inch pieces.
6. Desiccate* the Cheese.
Desiccate — to thoroughly dry out.
Lay 2 layers of paper towels on a baking tray.
Place the pieces of cheese on the tray.
Salt liberally on both sides. Cover with another 2 layers of paper towel. Let sit for the next 3 days, changing the paper towel at least one time every day. Repeat the salting process daily. The cheese will continue to drain over these days. Room temperature is okay.
7. Sanitize the Cheese.
Bring a pot of filtered water to boil. Boil 2 to 3 pieces of cheese at a time for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Do not boil for more than 1 minute or the cheese will get soggy. Cool on cutting board.
8. Storage and Serving.
Store in airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze in ziploc bag. Before serving, soak the cheese in very cold water to extract some of the saltiness and then pat dry to serve. This cheese is delicious with pocket bread.
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