Out fearless leader Lois instructs us on how to make queso fresco.
two gallons of whole milk
1 packet of direct-set mesophilic starter
1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet (dilute it into 1/4 cups of unchlorinated water)
2 tbsp cheese salt
35 pounds of weight to press the cheese
Start by heating two gallons to 90˚ F.
Elisabeth, the Vanna White of cheese making, showing off the rennet.
Add the starter and rennet to the heated milk and stir well (as demonstrated by Sam and Lois).
Allow to sit for 30-40 minutes. It's ready when the curds give a clean break (the texture of this reminds me of a soft flan).
Linda is ready to cut the curds.
To cut the curds, make a series of slices through about 1/2 inch apart, then do the same perpendicular to those cuts to make a checkerboard pattern. Make a third set of cuts at a 45° angle to bottom of the pot to produce sugar cube sized chunks of curds.
Gradually, heat the curds up to 95˚ F (the curd chunks will be swimming in the whey). Let sit for 5 minutes.
Strain the whey (the liquid) from the curds (this whey can be saved and then used to make ricotta cheese).
Team work from Linda & Lois-- scooping out the curds into cheese cloth to remove more of the whey.
The curds go back into the pot!
Kari is in charge of quality control during the cheese making process.
I gently stir in the salt-- trying not to break up the curds too much. We didn't have cheese salt, so we used canning salt instead. After adding the salt, the curds need to sit at 95˚ F for another 30 minutes.
Lois made her own cheese press from something she found a Value Village. What a crafty gal!
Iris scoops the curds into the cheese press that is lined with cheese cloth.
Lois built this contraption as well to put weight on the cheese press.
Linda takes a seat and begins to squeeze some of the moisture out of the cheese.
But since it has to sit under 35 pounds of pressure for six hours, Linda gets replaced by a 5 gallon jug of water.
The final product: it looks like real cheese...
And it tastes delicious!