Homemade Buffalo Curd Cheese…
I’m going to confess something. You’ll either nod sagely at my bravery or recoil in horror and never speak to me again. I’m just not that into cheese…
That’s not to say I don’t ever eat it. I’m partial to a nice slice of Jarlsberg (the holes make it taste better). I keep Parmesan in the house to add some extra umami to everything. And I’ll eat cheese at other people’s houses, but I never think to buy it and I never crave it. It just doesn’t tickle my fancy the same way a nice salami does. So I’m as surprised as you are that I made my own cheese last night.
My eye was caught by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s column in the Guardian the other week explaining that making certain types of cheese at home is a walk in the park. I imagine cheese to be a combination of dairy and witchcraft so this intrigued me. And then I happened to come across a bottle of rennet in Waitrose* the very next day and the spell was cast. I was going to make my own curd cheese!
It is ridiculously simple. You need some non-homogenised milk, some rennet, a pinch of salt and some muslin or ahem, cheesecloth and then you can get going with a few small pieces of attention to detail. You should be able to get non-homogenised milk at a Farmers’ Market but if you want to do raw or unpasteurised milk for whatever reason, then source yours through Duchy Originals at most major supermarkets or try some of the suggestions here. And while you’re at the supermarket, follow this excellent tip from the comments on the original article and pick up a pack of muslin squares from the baby aisle. Much larger than the trendy facecloths around, you’ll get about 5 for a fiver and can use them for cheese making or the forthcoming preserves season. Just iron before use to sterilise it.
I was using raw buffalo milk from Alham Wood Farms and I was surprised to see just how creamy it looked in colour and texture. Much more like the milk when I was a kid and most appetising looking. I heated it to 38° with the aid of a thermometer and then added the rennet. I think I used a touch too much, around a quarter of a teaspoon to a pint of milk, but a little bit extra splashed in so I suggest you measure carefully and not above the milk itself if your hand isn’t too steady. I stirred it in well and then left it for 15 minutes to separate into curds and whey while I got on with a batch of lemon curd.
And when I came back, it really was like magic. What had been thick creamy milk was now a slightly unappealing layer of watery liquid and something that did look quite cheese like already. I scooped the curds out with a slotted spoon into the muslin and tied onto the kitchen tap to drain and set for around three hours, dispensing with the whey completely. This is all you need to do. I won’t judge you though if like me you keep going in and staring at it as if hoping to catch a glimpse of the alchemy as it happens.
About three hours later, when I could wait no more, I unwrapped my little milky miracle. And it looked like real, honest to goodness cheese! Possibly a little bit firmer than it was meant to be due to the extra splash of rennet, it looked like cottage cheese with the firmness of mozzarella. I served it crumbled on some green lentils and homegrown tomatoes and it was stunning. Slightly bouncy, with a touch of saltiness while rich and creamy, it turned some placid pulses into something rather racy as it melted slightly and soaked up the juice from the tomatoes.
I couldn’t get over how delicious it was and how unlike the shop bought equivalent in flavour and depth. That’s probably the buffalo milk but I like to think it’s my natural cheesemaking skills. On an effort to taste ratio, it scores maximum points. I enjoyed it so much I had exactly the same dinner the next night as well and probably would have done so a third night had I not run out of cheese. Had I been able to get my hands on some more milk, I’d have made more and served it on my favourite black pepper infused crackers from Ryvita. I might even have remembered to photograph the meal instead of gorging myself. I think it’s safe to say I finally get the cheese obsession. I’ve come over the dark side of dairy…
*which happened to be vegetarian on closer inspection.
I can’t believe you made cheese! Am suitably impressed 🙂 To be completely honest I’m on your wavelength when it comes to cheese – I love parmesan on pasta and in salads, or creamy mozzarella and tomato salads, but I’m not really a cheese board kind of person. This looks perfect though – milky, delicate and the perfect base for other, stronger flavours (like your lentil/tomato combo).
Sadly I think cheese making isn’t going to happen in the littleloaf household for a little while – I want to have a go at sausage making from the Bocca cookbook first – but in the meantime will look on jealously at your lovely pics!
I’m going to have a go at the mozzarella next. I highly recommend this curd cheese though. Exactly as you describe it and if I get the rennet levels right next time, it should be softer and better for spreading. Preferably on some sourdough with a smearing of homemade lemon curd (which is my other new obsession).
I cannot wait to hear about the sausage making. That impresses the hell out of me and I can’t imagine doing it myself. But am imagining you doing your sausage rolls again with homemade sausage and swooning with excitement!
This is actually a truly excellent write-up! Cheers much for that details. I will travel home at once and discover a little more about this.
Good job – I’ve been fiddling with cottage cheese and cream cheese and ricotta a couple times but never actually used rennet, only lemon juice or vinegar to separate curd and whey. Had no idea where to find rennet but now I will most definitely be searching Waitrose for some! Also, buffalo milk = heaven mmm ahh!
Hanna, the rennet was in the baking aisle if memory serves me correctly. And it was the ridiculously good price of £1.19 for a 150ml bottle! I assumed it would be expensive and tricky to get hold of, but not at all. I haven’t done cheese with lemon juice or vinegar, but this was so easy I imagine I’ll be eating cheese constantly. Ricotta sounds particularly appealing…
Well, I AM a cheese person, and I’m captivated by how easy you make this seem. Is that it… no sorcery, magic or years of apprenticeship? Wow!
I may have to try and source some organic full fat milk from a local farm. I’ve not seen buffalo in the Pennines before…
It really is as easy as I said. Stock up on your full fat milk as you can freeze it and have it handy when you fancy impressing someone with homemade cheese (or get stuck in a riot zone and get bored like I did!) You’ll be rivalling the Pextenement lot in no time!