Homemade Goat Queso Blanco

I’ve been a fan of making cheese for a few years now. My go-to cheese is fresh goat cheese, which requires some culture and rennet to make the magic work (not hard to buy online, but not a spur of the moment project). I recently joined a year-long cheesemaking challenge, hosted by Rachel and Tom on the local Bay Area blog Another Year Without Groceries. Our first challenge was to make a cheese using only curdled milk. I chose to follow Rachel’s lead and make a goat-milk based Queso Blanco, which is curdled with cider vinegar. This is a crumbly fresh cheese that you often see topping Mexican dishes.

Summerhill Goat Milk

Since I don’t have my own goats like Rachel, I bought my milk. I like the Summerhill Dairy goat milk you can buy at Trader Joe’s and my local grocery heaven, Berkeley Bowl. It is not ultra-pasteurized, which is really important for good cheesemaking (the ultra high heat breaks down some of the proteins that make the cheesemaking magic happen). I used 3 quarts…don’t ask me why I didn’t round it out at a gallon…no idea! You can certainly use regular whole cow milk as well.

Dump your milk into a non-reactive pan (stainless steel or enameled is best, don’t use aluminum or cast iron). First, heat the milk to 180 degrees. You will need to use a thermometer for this step, but any meat or candy one should do. Then add cider vinegar. For a gallon, you need about a quarter cup. Since I used 3/4 of a gallon, I just under-filled the 1/4 cup measure by a bit…it doesn’t need to be an exact science. Stir slowly as you add the vinegar, and let it dribble in vs. dumping. Keep stirring slowly until you see the mixture begin to separate, with white clumps and a yellowish liquid. You now have curds and whey (see above)!

Take a large bowl and place a strainer on top. Line the strainer with a fine-weaved dish cloth (like the flour sack variety) or real cheesecloth (not the type with big holes you get at the grocery store). One of my favorite tools in the kitchen is a set of straining cloths (called “All-Strain cloths”, pictured above) I purchased from the chef Michael Ruhlman. He has a shop on the website Open Sky where he sells kitchen implements that he and local Cleveland craftsman have made. Open Sky is an amazing site where many chefs and other prominent folks sell items they personally use and endorse at a competitive prices. It’s one of those sites where you have to join to see prices and buy, but it’s really worth it–I’ve gotten many things from chefs like Tom Colicchio and Dorie Greenspan. If you are interested, you can follow this link for $10 off your first purchase.  All-Strain cloths are $22 for 3, so only $12 with the discount. They are heavy-duty, and I use them for everything from straining stocks to draining fresh goat cheese. (I do get a little referral bonus if you follow my link to Open Sky and end up purchasing, but I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t really buy a ton of kitchen things from them!)

Keep transferring the contents of the pot (emptying the drained whey as needed to keep the liquid from touching the strainer) until it is empty. If you want to salt your cheese, as I did, wait until a lot of the liquid has drained off (maybe 30 minutes), then transfer the curds into another bowl. Add salt to your taste. I added 1 tsp for this amount, and it seemed to work well. Mix well to incorporate the salt, then transfer back to the cloth to do your final draining.

It is important to tie it up to drain for the final step, as the weight of the bundle hanging will drain out more of the liquid. I used kitchen string to knot the cloth together into a bag, and hang it from the handle of the microwave above my stove. All you need is a place to tie some string and hang your bundle above a bowl. It will still be dripping for a while–it’s up to you how dry you want your cheese. You can feel the bundle and see how firm it is getting, and take it down once it’s the consistency you want. It only took a couple of hours for mine to feel right to me. It is a firm, crumbly texture, as you see from my picture on the top of the post.

I was inspired by Rachel to use my cheese on a homemade whole-wheat pizza made with pesto and sauteed rapini (aka broccoli rabe). So yummy! It doesn’t really melt (similar to goat cheese or feta), but worked great on a pizza when topped at the last few minutes of cooking with a little bit of shredded mozzarella to hold it together. It also was delicious on a quesadilla, as long as you remember it’s a bit more loose than regular melted cheese and eat carefully. I think I’m really going to enjoy this cheesemaking challenge!

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7 Comments

January 31, 2012 · 8:11 am

7 responses to “Homemade Goat Queso Blanco

  1. Thank you for this! I’m just starting cheese making and this makes it seem not quite so daunting!

  2. Joan Spencer

    Becky,
    How much did this make? I would like to try to make it but unless I can
    freeze some or use it quickly I think I would make a smaller batch.
    Also how long does it last in the refrigerator?

    • Becky from Kitchen Solo

      It lasts about 1-2 weeks, and makes about a pound. I think you could freeze it without any problem. You can make as much or as little as you want…just adjust the cider vinegar and salt to match your amount of milk. (1/8 of a cup of vinegar for 1/2 gallon of milk, for example)

      • I took one of Ricki’s wpohskros and the warehouse of supplies is in the basement. Oh the armloads of stuff people walked out with! I decided to get a few basics (rennet, citric acid, a few cultures) with plans to reassess once I determined if I would actually make enough cheese to be worth it.Now I’ve been doing enough motz, ricotta, and paneer, etc. that I feel I want to move on to some hard cheeses. I want to give my husband the DIY cheese press instructions, too, but right now he is concentrating on our chicken coop, so I don’t want to push too much, too soon. Then again, he has been asking for some additional cheeses, so maybe I should strike while the iron is hot.By the way, I read that nettles can be used as a vegetable rennet. Haven’t tried it, but it might be an option.Also, is there a trick to getting yogurt culture to remain good indefinitely? It seems that my yogurt gets more and more sour over time and eventually needs to be freshened with a new start. I’d like to avoid having to do that, if possible.

      • I am not an erepxt on a lot of cheeses, but you can definitely keep a batch of thermofilic (sp?) going in the fridge. I have used Dairy connections MA culture for chevre, but I actually now prefer their buttermilk culture for chevre. I periodically culture buttermilk from dry culture in a quart of milk. Then I use a couple of tablespoons of live buttermilk to a quart of milk for chevre. When the buttermilk gets low, reculture some fresh milk from the buttermilk. I have gone three or four generations without a problem. Freezing the original generation buttermilk is a good idea, but I haven’t tried that. I think when I bought my original cheese supplies from dairy connection, I spent about $35 for a pint of rennet, a couple cultures and cheese cloth. I haven’t had to go back yet, three years later. But I keep things simple, making chevre, mozzerella, yogurt, quaso blanco and yogurt, so I don’t need a lot of different cultures. I am planning to try Gouda this season, an aged MA/buttermilk cheese so I won’t need to get into a new culture.

  3. Hopped over from Homestead Revival and so happy I did!Great blog! We are new to goats and mlkniig but LOVE them for our kids and pet. Ours are exactly like big smart gentle dogs. No horns and bottle raised 4-H projects so they are easy to handle. I love that they can clear brush from under trees but have plans to use only wethers for this is as I’ve heard diet can effect flavor… Also heard that each goat can be different so you should try the milk before you buy.My hubby and friends agree it tastes great. I looked into the min Jerseys and Dexter cattle. I laugh at the gateway drug as I could see us with cows very soon. Will be back often to see what you do. Thanks for sharing!

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