Making Homemade Cheese – Israeli Style
There are two kinds of people in the world, those that don’t like to drink the milk of another mammal, and the rest of us…those that love the yellowish, yet white, creamy goodness that only a cow, goat, or sheep can produce (ok there are some other animals too).
I have written, posted, tweeted, shared, and consumed some of the NW’s best cheeses and I know that I have only barely scratched the surface of what these local artisans are doing. The French? Why they have been kicking out great cheese for hundreds of years and no matter how you feel about them, or their government, they have given us some of the greatest, most basic, and yet most delicious contributions to humanity that very few cultures have…great cheese.
As most of you faithful blog followers probably know by now, I recently spent some time in Cyprus visiting my kid sister. They are internationally known for a lot of things, but one of the most prized is their cheese, haloumi. Haloumi is truly native to Cyprus, much like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is to the Parma region of Italy. You can’t call it haloumi, if it doesn’t come from Cyprus. Haloumi is great, I mean, I really like it, and you will here more about it in a week or so when I finish up my rant on the food of that ancient island (if you missed my write-up on their other big export, Commandaria, check out this great piece I posted this past weekend).
Ah, but haloumi is not what I am here to chat about. Another cheese experience in Cyprus is what has me pursuing homemade cheese-making in my humble chalet in the Highlands. One of the families that had us over, are Matt and Serah Rudolph. They are more than the leaders of the base my sister works at (Gateways Beyond), but they are avid food lovers, and come to find out, they are cheese-makers! The night we were over, they served us wine, crackers, local almonds, and several cheeses. Two of the cheeses were store bought, one a nice Camembert, and the other an Irish Cheddar (always good), but the third was something else entirely…and the subject of this post! In a dish, they served us little meatball-sized cheese balls that were soaked in local olive oil, a few chilies, and some rosemary. Slathering this ball of white, thick marshmallowy cheese on a cracker, with a follow up spoon over of the oil, was a scene right out of a great movie.
It was absolute perfection, and even cooler was learning that it came from their recent Israel trip, and even cooler, how easy it is to make. So I am going to make this not-sure-what-its called cheese and going to tell you, show you, and try my best to teach you how to make a dead-simple cheese at home.
Grab a quart of your favorite full fat plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has live cultures, which are a great source of “good bacteria.” Add a pinch or two of sea salt and stir until thoroughly mixed. Place yogurt in cheesecloth or clean linen (I am using a newer linen napkin), fold up the four corners, and hang from a spoon, or in my case, one of my cupboard handles. In a day, a lot of water will leak through, leaving behind a murky white, cloudy substance in the bowl below. Let it sit for about 4 days in a milder temperature (spring in the Pacific NW is plenty mild) and check after 2 days.
More to come…