Make cheese like Booba? Piece of cake

Once, ev­ery Jewish house­wife would make her own cheese — but now we don’t know our curds from our whey. Ruth Joseph reck­ons it’s time to re­dis­cover the lost art

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

DO YOU re­mem­ber your grand­mother mak­ing her own cheese? Many, par­tic­u­larly the older among you, will re­call the vi­sion of small, white muslin bags at­tached to a con­ve­nient tree in the gar­den, swing­ing gen­tly in a sum­mer breeze.

Later, they were brought in, the muslins peeled away to leave a per­fect few ounces of soft curd cheese. The con­tents were beaten with a lit­tle fresh milk and, mag­i­cally, a few hours later would emerge a won­der­ful cheese cake or a batch of tasty blintzes ooz­ing with sweet­ened cheese, or even the height of de­li­cious­ness — a kaese kugel made with lok­shen, sweet­ened with su­gar and sul­tanas and fra­grant with vanilla and lemon rind.

Poverty was never far away in those days and cheese-mak­ing con­verted an un­us­able prod­uct — sour milk — into some­thing ed­i­ble and de­li­cious. Since the ad­vent of pas­teuri­sa­tion, it has not been so easy to make cheese from sour milk. How­ever it is still pos­si­ble to make a won­der­ful home-made soft cheese.

For four to six gen­er­ous por­tions, take a 450g tub of Greek-style yo­ghurt and scoop into a clean glass bowl. Add one tea­spoon of fresh lemon juice and stir. Place this bowl in the mi­crowave and heat for ex­actly one minute — the yo­ghurt should be blood tem­per­a­ture. Now line a large bowl with a piece of clean muslin — sold in nurs­ery and kitchen shops. Now scoop all the yo­ghurt mix­ture into this bowl and pull all the edges to­gether so that it’s con­tained in the cen­tre. Wind an elas­tic band or use string to tie around the neck, keep­ing a bowl un­der it for drips. Then at­tach some twine to the neck and you are ready to hang your cheese bag — tra­di­tion­ally in the gar­den, or per­haps on a bal­cony, or even in the fridge. In a few hours you will have soft, moist curd cheese; if you leave it overnight, the cheese will have a firmer, drier con­sis­tency.

For a ba­sic spread, de­li­cious on a warm bagel, mix your cheese with salt and ground black pep­per, or masses of pa­prika and some car­away seeds. Or add basil and chives chopped with a ta­ble­spoon of capers and a lit­tle milk and serve as a dip with toasted pitta. It also makes a great jacket po­tato mix blended with grid­dled field mush­rooms and chopped wa­ter­cress. And while soured cream notches up 205 calo­ries for 100g, our home­made cheese made with yo­ghurt slims in at 133 calo­ries for 125g.

For a slimline din­ner-party starter ar­range a bed of rocket, slices of fresh pear dipped in lemon juice, toasted pine nuts and pome­gran­ate seeds, and top with a scoop of cheese. For a lus­cious al­ter­na­tive, line ramekins with a layer of cling-wrap, then thin smoked sal­mon leav­ing some to hang over the edge. Com­bine the cheese with ei­ther flaked, skinned fil­lets of smoked trout and chopped pi­men­tos, or smoked sal­mon pieces and grated lemon rind, and place in cen­tre. Tuck in the ends and chill. To serve, turn out ramekins and add an el­e­gant side salad.

For dessert, try stuff­ing fresh peaches with the cheese sweet­ened with a lit­tle honey and a squeeze of lime. Sprin­kle with de­mer­ara su­gar, pop un­der a hot grill and serve bub­bling and gor­geous. Or recre­ate your favourite cheese cake recipe, or stroll down mem­ory lane with this per­fect kugel.

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