Make Your Own String Cheese

A few weeks ago (maybe closer to a month ago) I was eating my lunch at work, and was feeling particularly virtuous about my food choices. All organic, all healthy, and a good balance of nutrients…..until, of course, I looked at the little pile of plastic wrappers from my string cheese. I thought “There has to be a better way” and off I went to find a good recipe so I could make my own string cheese, and prevent more plastic from being manufactured in the name of food containment.

I used a recipe from Cooking with Tien (which uses videos, and makes it really easy to tell what you are doing and what you’re supposed to end up with)

You will need:

-2 tsp citric acid (this can be found in the canning or bulk section of your grocery or natural foods store)

-1 gallon of milk (I used 2% vat pasteurized milk…just make sure you use a milk that has NOT been ultra-pasteurized)

-1/4 tablet rennet (Bought vegetarian rennet from PCC Natural Foods. Can also use animal rennet. No biggie)

-salt (I used kosher salt)

-water to dissolve the citric acid and rennet (separately, use 1/4 cup each)

-a thermometer

-a big pot to hold all the milk

-a spoon, a knife, a plate, and a big bowl

-cheesecloth and a strainey vessel

First, empty your gallon of milk into the big pot, and put over low heat. Dissolve the citric acid into 1/4 water and pour into the milk. Stir once.

Slap a thermometer in it, and wait til it reads 88 degrees. While you wait, dissolve the 1/4 rennet tablet into 1/4 cup of water. I know it doesn’t look like much, as the rennet tablets are already small, but trust me, this little bit is enough to do the job. And rennet is not cheap you know, so just use the 1/4 tablet per gallon of milk.

Once it hits 88 degrees, pour in the rennet water, and then stir only once.  Curds start happening almost immediately, and you don’t want to break them up too much.

When you can use a knife to pull the curd away from the edge of the pot, and you can see the yellowish whey, you are ready. Grab a knife and cut the curds just like you saw in Tien’s video.

Fun, right?

While you are waiting, put the cheesecloth into the straining device (I used an old colander) and then pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth. Do this slowly, as you don’t want splashing and/or to overflow the colander (ask me how I know….*wipes a spot off her skirt*). Once you’ve got it all in there, gather up the ends of the cheesecloth so no curds can escape, and do the roll and twist as you saw in the video. I ended up squeezing a whole bunch of whey out of it. And if I had thought of it, I would have drained it into a jar to save for bread making….*Sigh*

Use your big spoon (or a slotted spoon) to scoop out the curds into your big bowl. Get ‘em all. Now microwave that curd-y mess in the micro for 1 minute. When it comes out, it will be rocket hot, and there will be more whey to drain off (into your jar, because you remembered beforehand that you want to make bread). Pour the remaining curds out onto a plate and use the spoon to fold them in on each other, like you would be kneading bread. It looks bad now, but trust me, it will come together.

When it is cool enough to touch, continue folding the curds in on each other for a few more passes. It will start to get a little hard. This is when you want to toss it back into the microwave for about 35 seconds. This heats it up enough so that you can keep folding and stretching it. Add the salt at this point, before it all comes together. I used about 2 tbsp. Yes, it seems like a lot, but trust me. It took me 2 repeats of heating and folding to get to the next step.

Once your curds have melded into a shiny ball, you are set to choose your shape. Discs, logs, or string cheese. I chose string cheese, for obvious reasons.

When you get to this point, microwave the cheese for another 10 second go. This will make it easier to stretch and shape into little string cheese logs!

Pinch off a little bit of the shiny cheese, and then revert to a kindergartner, and make little snakes by rolling it between your hands.  The idea is to roll them out slowly, so they are smooth and elastic.

As you make each one, drop it into an ice water bath to cool down and set the shape.  Once they have bathed for about 15 minutes, you can take them out and wrap them in a little plastic wrap or ziploc bag. I chose plastic wrap, because I could wrap them up in the same length of plastic wrap with a little wrap between them to prevent sticking.

Pop them in the fridge or in your mouth! And congratulate yourself on being particularly clever.

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