Thursday, November 4, 2010

Our November Cheesy Challenge: Queso Fresco

With the holidays dominating most of our time for the next couple of months, we've decided to keep the cheesin' simple and go with another fresh cheese this month...and we're heading to....
...and who better to take us there than my kitchen idol, Mr. Rick Bayless himself?  Yup, his newest book Fiesta at Rick's has a fabulous recipe for Queso of my favorites and staple in our house at all times.  I must admit, though...I haven't made my own in quite some time.  Better get back to it...there's nothing like it!
*Bayless notes that he likes to use the buttermilk in this recipe as a let the milk culture for a few hours before moving on to the cheesing process.  The flavor reminds more of the artisanal cheeses that he knows and loves.  Good enough for me! BUT, if you don't have the time...or the buttermilk...then you may skip this step.  And I imagine sacrifice some depth.

Queso Fresco
from Fiesta at Rick's by Rick Bayless
makes ~1 lb.

1 gallon whole or 2% milk (remember, the richer the milk/flavor, the better the cheese)
2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. Citric Acid (sometimes called sour salt, sometimes found in kosher section of grocery stores)
1 c. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. salt (pure, fine-ground sea salt works best)

1. Culture the milk.  Pour milk into a very large pot over med-low heat.  Stir in buttermilk.  Bring milks to 75° F, turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for 3 to 4 hours.

2. Set the curd.  If using citric acid, stir it into ¼ c. cold water, continuing to stir until dissolved.  With lid off pot, turn heat to medium and stir dissolved citric acid or lime juice into milk mixture.  You will immediately see small curds start to form.  Every couple of minutes, stir slowly, gently, & thoroughly over entire bottom of pot until milk reaches 195°F, ~20 minutes.  At this point the curds will be very obvious, floating in the milky-transparent whey.  Remove from heat, let stand five minutes without stirring so all the curd can rise to the top.

3.  Drain the curd from the whey.  Wet a large piece of cheesecloth and line a large colander with it.  Set colander in sink (or over bowl if saving the whey).  Carefully ladle all of the curd into the colander. Gather the cheesecloth around the curd and gently squeeze to expel a bit more whey.  Unwrap curd onto a plate, break it up, and sprinkle w/ the salt...working it in with a spoon or your fingers.

4.  Gather the cheese curds into a 1" thick disk, transfer to a plate, cover, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

...and can I just add...THEN GO USE IT IN A FABULOUS MEXICAN RECIPE!  Or sprinkle it on tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, name it!  I cannot get enough Queso Fresco!

As always, if there's a different Queso Fresco recipe you'd like to use, then please do so.  Link up your posts (or any past forges) to this months linky, which you can find through the sidebar, in the top rh corner!  

Cheese on, Forgers!


pam said...

This one sounds easy enough for me!

NKP said...

Cool! Sounds like a fun one!

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Since we're milking our own cow now, we have lots and lots of creamy milk. Easy cheese is what we need to get started! Thanks!

Rebecca said...

Yum! I love queso fresco, and there are so many ways to use it. Thanks (as always) for the challenge!

Odette said...

Can I sub sour cream for buttermilk and if so how much for this recipe? We're very rural and no buttermilk for 90+ miles but plenty of sour cream.

NKP said...

Hi Odette,
Hmm, I think that, because buttermilk is cultured, it is an active agent in inoculating the cheese. Maybe try plain yogurt with live bacterial cultures instead?
I think regular sour cream has been pasteurized and doesn't contain the live cultures needed.

Heather S-G said...

Yes, Natashya is right...the buttermilk is used to culture the milk itself, so I don't think sour cream would do it. Perhaps soured milk (w/ lemon juice or vinegar) in its place? Or simply skip the culturing process?

Odette said...

Thanks for the replies. I make my own full milk yoghurt and alway have some of that on hand, so will use that instead. Would I use the same amount as the buttermilk? Thanks again.

Odette said...

I think I'll use yoghurt, but just noticed that the Homemade Sour Cream recipe uses sour cream or buttermilk ... does that mean sour cream is live?

NKP said...

Good point Odette - maybe that was me just guessing it had to be live. Seemed like a good assumption at the time! I would say that no, store bought sour cream is not live.
Just experiment, see what happens for you.
Give it more time if it seems liquidy, and, as it contains whipping cream, it is whip-able if you can't get it to thicken in the end.
(I always hear the chefs on tv, mentioning that creme fraiche is whip-able, so that must mean it isn't exactly stiff to begin with.

Odette said...

Perhap it would be a good idea then to remove sour cream as an option for culturing the milk in the Homemade Sour Cream recipe that's on the blog front page at the moment? Just a thought. :)