If you ferment kefir, you can make kefir cheese. The easiest cheese in the world to make!
We make two basic types – a simple drained cheese, and a simple cooked cheese. Both are good, and work for a wide variety of uses.
For both of them, you need cheesecloth. NOT the kind they sell at the hardware store or grocery store. Something with a tighter weave.
A piece of cheesecloth about 18″ square, and a colander or strainer set over a bowl will get the job done, as long as you have the right kind of cloth, which isn’t all that hard. There are a lot of things you can use.
- Old sheets – these are very tightly woven, so you have to loosen the cheese from the edges periodically or the middle and top of the kefir won’t drain. May take more than a day to drain.
- Muslin – this is a traditional option, though it is only slightly looser weave than sheeting material. Will still need to be loosened periodically. Should drain mostly within a day.
- Dish towels (NOT terrycloth) – flour bag dish towels, linen weave dish towels, waffle weave dish towels (leaves a nice print on your finished cheese), or other towels that will release the curd. All of these are loose enough that you will still have to loosen the curd, but only once or twice, and the cheese will drain mostly within 12 hours, completely within 24.
- Birdseye cotton – Ok, people, this means diaper cotton – NEW diaper cotton. Yes, it makes great cheesecloth! It is designed to let moisture through rapidly, and as such, makes a perfect fabric to drain kefir or cheese curd. You’ll want to pink or serge the edges though, it does unravel.
- Looser weave cottons – anything between a 90 and 150 weave cotton will likely do the job well. The looser the weave, the more reason to pink or serge the edges.
- T-shirt fabric – this drains cheese wonderfully! Pretty much any weight knit will do just great.
You really want cotton. Nylon sheds moisture more than it absorbs it, and that tends to make the whey puddle in the cheese instead of draining through. Cotton is generally considered safer for food use also.
White fabrics are actually NOT the best, natural undyed ones are preferrable. White is second best.
Ok, now that you have located something to use, you’ll need to care for it.
Wash it before use. We usually do this by hand, using dishwashing detergent, not laundry detergent. Since the cheesecloth is coming in direct contact with the food, you want it to be clean, and free of chemicals that should not be ingested. Rinse it really well, so it does not smell like dishwashing detergent when you are done. Hang it to dry where it is not going to get dusty.
During use, always let your kefir or cheese drain for a few hours before you loosen the curd from the edges. This allows it to dry out sufficiently to peel right off the cloth, instead of smearing into it. You can then use a spoon to peel it away and into the middle, thus getting the wetter stuff from the middle back out near the edges. Wider weaves only need you to do this once or twice. Tighter weaves may require additional times, or longer wait periods before it is dry enough to loosen.
When you are done making the cheese, you can usually round it into a ball right in the cheesecloth, and then tip that ball into a container. You may also wish to put it in a fresh piece of cheesecloth, and wrap it to press it, if you are making a pressed cheese.
You’ll then need to wash the cheesecloth. Again, we wash it by hand, using dish soap, which also acts as a disinfectant.
Fill a bowl or sink with warm or hot water. Drop the cloth in, and agitate it in the water, to loosen any remaining curds. When the cloth looks free of curds, dump the water, and refill, this time adding dish detergent.
Scrub the fabric with your hands, rubbing it against itself, and working it against the bottom of the bowl, working water through the fabric. It just takes a few minutes. Drain the soapy water.
Refill the bowl or sink, and rinse. Again, work the fabric against the bottom, working water through it. The water will still turn cloudy this time. Work for a few minutes. Drain the water, and repeat the rinse process one more time.
Pre-rinse to get the curds out. Wash with dish detergent. Rinse twice.
Fold the cheesecloth up into a square, about 4 or 6 inches square (size is not critical). Roll that up, and twist it to wring it out. This is the most efficient way to wring it, and it keeps from distorting the cloth.
Unfold it, and lay it or hang it to dry. I often dry it overnight in the dish rack, and it is often on top of dishes that are air drying there.
This process can allow you to reuse cheesecloth over and over.
So what if you can’t wash it as soon as the cheese is done? Sometimes these things happen! Just put it in a bowl filled with hot water and dishsoap, and get to it as quickly as you can.
If your cheesecloth gets stained, or has an odor you cannot remove from washing, simply fill a bowl with water, add a splash of bleach, and toss in the cloth. Let it sit for about an hour.
Smell will tell you whether the cloth is clean. Ideally, it should not smell like anything at all – not detergent, not sour milk, not anything.
It is a bit easier to wash cheesecloth if you have a small washboard, but you don’t actually need it.
The ORIGINAL one-way valve fermenting airlock! Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery, and we have noticed that our product has been copied by other sellers of fermenting products. Remember, if you see someone else selling a one-way valve airlock for fermenting, THEY copied US, not the other way around! Fermenta Lock is still the only original invention, handmade in the US. If it isn't orange, it isn't the original!
We invented Fermenta Lock, Fermenta Free, and the valve used for Fermenta Fido and other Fermenta Airlock products. We invented Fermenta Dunk Extender. Patents are prohibitively expensive, and designed by the government not to protect the rights of individuals, but to provide another source of revenue and control for the government and lawyers. We are good at what we do. We have endless ideas and endless creativity, and competition does not scare us. Impatient thieves do not scare us - they are too busy taking shortcuts to make a success of it anyway, and they won't want to take the effort to actually MAKE a product and fill orders.
So if you want to copy our idea, go right ahead. If you want to market and sell a competing product, you are welcome to do so, as long as you do not patent our idea - we had it first, and our posts on FaceBook announcing the invention and launch of it will prove that. This idea is officially in the public domain, placed there by us. We will NOT release supply sources, or part names unless you want to buy them - we'll be happy to sell you an instruction kit. If you buy our product, or look at the images and figure it out for yourself, good on you. Compete with us if you like, just don't screw us, and we'll get along just fine. Big companies who might want to screw us may have more money, and more lawyers than we do, but we have more to gain by suing the pants off a big company, and believe me, we will be well motivated to do so if anyone patents our idea and claims it as their own - this is a free idea. Everybody now owns it.
Published June 23, 2012
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