Queso Blanco and Whey Ricotta

After my last mozzarella attempt, I feel I have just about reached the end of the possibilities offered me by my cheese making kit, and so I am now moving on to working through the book I have, borrowed from my dad, Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Carlin. The first recipe is for mascarpone, and while I'd like to compare the methods and resulting mascarpone from the book and the kit, making them side by side at some point, now isn't the time. The next recipe is paneer, which I will try, but with black beans soaking to make my Aunt's Cuban black beans, I thought Queso Blanco, the third recipe, was a good place to start.

I have never had Queso Blanco, which maybe made knowing what I was aiming for a little difficult. The cheese making in itself went well though and I believe I got an end product similar to what was described. The hardest bit about the process was figuring out where to hang my draining sack. In the end I hung it from a kitchen cabinet and that worked quite well. I also came to the conclusion that I need a bigger strainer. Trying to drain 4 litres of fluid through a 1 litre strainer is a slow, frustrating process.

The cheese came out pretty well, but I find it a little bland. Maybe it needed more vinegar? Or salt? I might try herbing it if I make it again. I used it in Purple Sweet Potato Frittatas, on the side with Cuban Black Beans and baked Sweet Potato, As a topping for Roast Aubergine Soup and still have some left over. As it is a fresh cheese which is supposed to be eaten relatively quickly after production, I think I might make only half the recipe at a time in future.

I also tried making whey ricotta for the first time, also from the book. My previous ricotta attempts have been from the kit and were from a whole milk ricotta recipe. This was at once a different recipe and also a change in style and ingredients. I saved my whey from the queso blanco therefore and tried it today. I only did half of the amounts called for as, for one thing I don't have a pot big enough to take 8 litres (4 of whey and 4 of milk), and for another I only had just shy of 3 litres of whey.

This recipe called for vinegar rather than citric acid, which was another shift. I followed the instructions (almost) to the letter (I only heated the milk to 185°F and not 192°F because time was running short. I don't know if it was because of this or because I used regular white cooking vinegar and not distilled vinegar, but I didn't get nearly as much ricotta as I should have. I only got about 2/3 c and not the 1 1/2 c that the recipe predicted. The whey also looked very milky still, and the curds were more gel-like than formed cheese curds (making draining very complicated). When it was clear that I wasn't getting as much as I should have I added more vinegar but it didn't appear to have much of an effect. The failure of this to produce enough cheese messed me up a bit as I had planned on making pasta with pesto and ricotta for dinner. I used the last of the queso blanco instead, and then reheated the curds to the required 95°C and added 1 tsp citric acid and this time I have more and firmer curds. Curiously, in fact, I have more curds from this second pass than I was supposed to have at all.

This is a recipe I may have to try again to figure out where I went wrong... The suggestion from this and from my last attempt at ricotta where I used lemon juice rather than citric acid is that insufficient acid causes looser more gel-like curds. This might be something to attempt to achieve on purpose. I wonder if this is the method behind Blanc Battu for example. A hypothesis to be tested at some point. Or it may be that in both instances of the looser curd I failed to heat my milk fully to the prescribed temperature. I don't know. Something to be looked out for in any case.


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