My very favorite "semi-soft" cheese to make is Queso Fresco. I
consider Mozzarella a semi-soft cheese as well, and I find Queso Fresco
can substitute for Mozzarella on many occasions. Queso Fresco
means "Fresh Cheese". Sometimes, I find people confuse it with
Queso Blanco ("white cheese") because of the "queso" in the name.
Queso is Spanish for cheese, and these two cheeses really have nothing
in common, except that they're both easy to make and they are both cheese.
like my cheese to have lots of flavor, and this Queso Fresco supplies
it. It is lightly pressed and ready to eat in just a few days.
It is of Latin American origin, and has many variations. I make
all my cheeses with goat milk, because I raise dairy goats. You
could substitute cow milk, just raise the temperatures by 4°.
temperatures are very important in cheese making, so be sure to use
a good thermometer. I find that the easiest way to control the
temperature of the curds is to use a homemade double boiler. I
place my big cheese making pot into my big ol' canning kettle, which
I have placed on the stove. I fill the canner with water up to
the level of the milk in the cheese making pot. I place a thermometer
in the water of the canner as well as the milk. This way I can
tell the temperature of the water, which in turn, helps me control the
temperature of the milk and curds.
gallons goat milk (or cow milk) (I
use raw, unpasteurized milk)
Culture "MM" or "MA" *
or 4 oz. mesophilic culture (from
a mother culture)
tsp. calf lipase powder (mild "piccante") (lipase
is animal product- vegetarians may wish to omit this, but the cheese
will not have as much flavor )
tsp. Liquid rennet (I
use double strength vegetable rennet),
dissolved in 1/4 C. water
T. kosher salt
DVI cultures I use are EZAL cultures from
France purchased from The Dairy Connection.
the milk to 86°
cow milk) and
add the mesophilic culture and lipase. Stir well and let set, to
ripen, for 1 hour. Add the rennet and stir briskly for 15 seconds.
Cover the pot and let the milk set for 45 minutes, or until you get a
clean break. Hold the milk at a temperature of 86°
cow milk) for
the entire time.
the curds into 1/4" pieces with a stainless steel knife. This
always seem to be the trickiest part of cheese making, but take your
time, and don't worry if all the curds are cut to exactly 1/4".
After you have cut the curds, do not stir them yet. Let them rest,
undisturbed for 10 minutes (5 minutes for cow milk).
you can stir the curds and cut any that you had missed. If you
stir the curds with a big wire whisk, this will cut any curds you missed
automatically. Raise the temperature of the curds to 95°
cow milk) over
the next 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the curds do not stick
together. Let the curds settle for 5 minutes, undisturbed.
the whey from the curds and save it for making Ricotta. Now, leave
the curds in their cheese making pot that is placed inside the canner.
Make sure the water in the canner is kept at 95° (99°
for cow milk) and
this will allow you to hold the curds at a temperature of 95°
for cow milk)
Hold the curds at 95°
cow milk) for
10 minutes, stirring with your hand occasionally so that the curds don't
you have held the curds for at 95°
cow milk) for
10 minutes, stir in the salt. At this point in the cheese making
you could spice up your cheese by adding some herbs, such as chives,
or even minced jalapena peppers, if you'd like. (To be honest,
I never add herbs, I think this cheese is great just plain.)
Line a cheese mold with cheesecloth and add the curds. Press the
cheese at 10 lb. for 10 minutes, remove it from the press, flip it over
and place it back in the press. Continue pressing at 20 pounds
for 1 hours and then raise the weight to 35 pounds for 6 hours.
it has pressed for six hours, remove the cheese from the mold and let
it air dry on a rack overnight. The next day, wrap it (I put it in a
ziploc bag), and refrigerate the cheese for several days before testing.
Really, believe me on this, it's worth the wait. If you taste
the cheese too soon, it may seem "rubbery". Also, the flavor develops
during the short "aging" process. This cheese will keep for several
weeks in the fridge. From experience I have learned that this
cheese does not freeze well.