My next batch of cultured cheese from my Artisan Cheese Making at Home book (actually, not mine, it's borrowed from my dad) was a Fromage Blanc. This is like a French version of cream cheese. Initially, it didn't look like the milk was doing anything. I heated it to the desired temperature, mixed in my culture, my calcium and my rennet... and nothing. It looked like milk. I decided to just trust a little and put it away in my cloth oven for the requisite 12 hours, and when I opened it up in the morning, it was cheese! Look at that beautiful cylinder of curds sitting in the whey! I couldn't believe it. I have decided that cheese making requires a little measuring, a little science, and a whole lot of faith.
Closing up the pot and leaving it be with no further faff took trust, but I am so glad I did decide to just trust the process! I am hoping that in time and with experience it will feel a little less like a leap of faith each time. Like baking. Everyone says it's a science, not an art, but I am perfectly happy winging it, making up recipes on the fly and not really measuring, and 90% of the time things come out beautifully. Not identically, granted, but I don't cook for identical results. I cook for taste, and my baking comes out very well even though I don't treat it like a science. Maybe someday my cheese making will be the same. For now, though, it is most definitely an exercise in blind trust every time I make cheese.
Instead of ladling the curds into the cheese-cloth lined strainer as called for, I decided to take a cue from the local cheese-makers I've seen around here and get the cloth under the lot of curds and whey and then lift it out, draining the whey that way. I always struggle with a little strainer balanced over a bowl and invariably end up with my draining curds dipped back into the whey by accident once or twice. This time, though, bypassing the strainer entirely, my curds were hung directly in their draining sack from the kitchen cupboard, the whey dripped directly into the bowl beneath, and the process was much smoother.
I did have a little kitchen helper attempting to get into the bowl of whey to play with it, the ladle, the bottle lid, the funnel or anything else on the counter. This meant I had to transfer the whey directly into its glass bottles almost as soon as it drained to avoid having a huge mess to clean up. Unfortunately, the only cupboard I can set up my draining sack from is the one over the counter that Little Bit has access to, so unless the whole thing happens while he is asleep, this is a regular problem I encounter.
The cheese came out very well and was very tasty. I used it in a number of things, including little Börek-like packages of Fromage blanc and herbs in filo pastry. I made these in part to be able to try out my new air fryer which has finally arrived. The cheese also went really nicely in Savoury Autumn Crêpes with pumpkin, bacon and mushrooms, and as a topper for the Sweet Potato Soup. It also made a nice spread for bread. I think I liked this better than the cream cheese I made previously.
I have a second batch sitting in the cloth oven again to go in ravioli tomorrow. Let's see if the leap of faith pays off again!