Pressed Milk Kefir Cheese
If you’ve been around my blog awhile, you know I’m all for experimentation. But –
Kevin is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He has an immediate distrust of new foods. He fears bacteria (this is undoubtedly a reasonable fear). He fears large clumpy cauliflower-esque SCOBYs contained in what logic tells him should be soured milk. Now, if that sentence didn’t scare you off, you may want to try this out!
Milk Kefir is jam-packed with multitudes of probiotic bacteria. It’s somewhat similar to yogurt; but the probiotic content is MUCH higher. Sounds like a great reason to try it! So when I first read about it a few years ago, that is exactly what I did.
I was immediately intent on experimenting with this new wonderful flavor! If you haven’t yet tried Milk Kefir, put it on your list!! The ‘grains’ only take a few hours to convert regular milk into an intriguing milk product. The flavor and probiotic content develop over time, ranging from a mildly tangy yogurt-y drink to a sour and thick milkshake-texture. And your body will thank you! Gut health affects overall health, and extra probiotic intake helps balance gut flora.
Straining milk kefir through a few layers of cheesecloth separates the curd from the whey, leaving you with an amazing impersonation of cream cheese.
I did this in several batches, freezing each batch of curds until I had enough for a pressed cheese. You could also freeze the kefir and strain after thawing.
Once the Milk Kefir has been strained, it can be made into a pressed cheese; without using heat or rennet. They whey can be drank as is, or added to breads and soups.
I added cheese salt, black pepper and red chili flakes to my kefir “cream cheese”, but there is tons of space for experimenting here!!
In an ideal world I’d use a proper cheese mold, follower, and cheese press. But this is not an ideal world – I was forced to improvise!
After a little trial and error, I used 2 small margarine containers to create a mold. In one container I cut slits and drilled holes on the sides and bottom respectively. With the second container, I removed the bottom to be used as a sleeve to support the first container (I discovered the need for this after the picture was taken:)). The bottom of that container acted as a follower.
For weights I used some big heavy books (approx. 15 pds.) and a 20 pd. bag of flour (approx. total 35 lbs.).
Everything was placed on a wire rack over a baking pan to let the whey drain. I also used 2 lids along the sides to prevent anything from slipping under the weight.
It worked great.:)
The ‘cream cheese’ was scooped into the cheese mold (lined with dampened and well-wrung cheesecloth). Then the cloth was folded to cover the top and a follower topped it off. The cheese was gently pressed using 15 pds. weight for 30 minutes. Then the curd was flipped and pressed another 30 minutes.
After the initial hour, the cheesecloth was rinsed and wrung out before I placed it back in the mold.
The cheese was flipped and pressed using 35 pds weight for 24 hours.
(So hard to wait!!)
After 24 hours, I deconstructed the leaning tower of cheese squashery.
I combined a small amount of vinegar, water, and cheese salt, and using a clean cheesecloth I rubbed the mixture over the entire surface of the cheese making sure to get any little divots. The cheese stayed in a cool room another 24 hours on parchment paper on top of a wire rack.
I then buffed the entire surface with clover honey and let it sit 2 – 3 hours longer to absorb any stickiness from the honey.
I debated vacuum sealing and aging it, but I don’t think I could stand the waiting and I decided I’d rather eat it! As it turned out, Kevin was impressed enough to eat some too! I finally found a way to get him to try milk kefir…and he likes it!
Because it was never heated, it retains all those friendly bacteria (probiotics).
The pressed kefir cheese tastes great. The flavor could be drastically different depending on how long the original milk kefir is aged, the spices added, or if it was flavored with a secondary ferment. I made this batch fairly mild with a nice tang; and the chili flakes added a spicy kick.
It shreds and slices beautifully!!
I’ll make a bigger batch next time as we really enjoyed this easy-to-make cheese! Also, you get to claim bragging rights on a pressed cheese.:D
Have you ever made pressed cheese? What kind(s) have you made?