The other night we went round to the neighbour’s house to see how he made his cheese. To make absolutely sure that I could recreate the same method, I took a thermometer with me. When he makes cheese, he normally warms the milk in front of a fire on the hearth. I was surprised to find that he heats the milk to around 40ºC before adding rennet (42ºC to be precise). He then cut the cheese with a stick (making the sign of a cross by cutting it from north to south and west to east) and beat it quite rigorously so that it was like sloppy cottage cheese. He left it warming for another 20 minutes before transferring the mass of cheese to the mould. For the mould, he uses the traditional “pleita” which is a strip made from plaiting strands of esparto grass. This is wound into a circle and put onto a wooden draining board. Using his hands, he presses the cheese to expel as much of the whey as possible before placing the wooden patterned board on top and leaving to drain. The cheese is then turned and left again to drain.
So, this is the method I used today.
I heated the milk to 42ºC before adding the rennet, turning off the heat and leaving for 45 minutes. I cut, stirred and beat and then left on a very gently heat for 20 minutes. I lifted out the cheese mass into a colander and drained off as much liquid as possible by squeezing the cheese. I then used one of these plastic moulds for a change, pressing and turning the cheese every 30 minutes before salting the top and putting in the fridge.
I decided to try flavouring some of the cheese. Using a stick blender, I whizzed it into very small crumbs and then seasoned with salt and two crushed cloves of garlic. I added back some of the whey as it was very dry and then pressed it in a mould, turning a couple of times.