Vinegar Cheese aka The World’s Easiest Cheese
Do not be put off by the title of ‘vinegar cheese’. This cheese is creamy and mild and does not taste of the vinegar used to make it. (Unless you try to make it using red wine vinegar–I’m telling you right now that’s just a bad idea. Don’t even bother trying it.)
Some people call this homemade mozzarella cheese, and while you can get mild, stretchy cheese out of it, that is where the similarity ends. True, fresh mozzarella is a more involved process resulting in an out of this world taste experience. I would be doing you a disservice if I claimed this cheese was the same as fresh mozzarella. I will say though, that this homemade vinegar cheese can be used in place of mozzarella in recipes, and works quite well as a mozzarella substitute. It’s particularly good on homemade pizza.
I often use this recipe to use up raw milk that’s about to go sour. You know, when it’s not actually sour yet, but it’s just not the same as when it was fresh, and you know it’s going to finish turning any time now. That milk. You can even use sour milk, but if it’s gone completely sour that does affect the taste (and sometimes texture) of the finished cheese, so it’s best to catch it on the cusp of change.
A variety of temperatures are recommended for making this cheese. If you want to make a raw cheese, heat the milk no hotter than 104 degrees (the body temperature of a cow). (It may require extra vinegar to get a full yield of cheese at this temperature.) If you forget about the milk and it gets very hot it’s still perfectly good for making cheese, as long as it’s not burnt. My preferred temperature is somewhere around 110 degrees, or just under–I can stick my finger in it and it feels very hot, but doesn’t burn me at all. (For the record, I in no way recommend sticking your finger in hot milk to see if it would burn you. It’s really a very bad idea.) On my stove, on medium heat, it takes about 5 minutes for a quart of milk to reach this temperature, or 20 minutes for a gallon of milk.
You can substitute other acids (such as white vinegar or lemon juice) but I find the best flavor comes from using apple cider vinegar.
If, after adding the vinegar and letting cheese sit for a minutes, the whey is still cloudy, I add a little more vinegar until the whey is translucent and yellowish. Here’s a picture of what the whey should look like when all the cheese particles have been extracted from it:
The white part is cheese and foam, the yellowy clear part in the back is whey.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
Once again, it’s a simple recipe. Milk, vinegar, salt and spices all qualify as healthy foods in my book.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
My husband will go get this cheese out of the fridge to eat with crackers as a snack, which places it solidly in the taste-approved category. (Now I just need to work on a healthier cracker option to go with the cheese.)
1 quart of milk
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
salt to taste (perhaps 1/2 a tsp)
optional seasonings: basil, onion powder or flakes, garlic powder, etc
In medium saucepan, heat milk to desired temperature. Stir in vinegar. Let sit for a few minutes to curdle. (If at this point I see that the whey is still opaque rather than yellowish and translucent I add a bit more vinegar to make sure I get the maximum yield of cheese.)
Strain cheese through a cheesecloth or cotton dishtowel lined colander or mesh strainer. (I generally use a mesh strainer, but I try very hard to clean it immediately so the tiny bits of cheese don’t get stuck in all the tiny holes.)
If harder, more mozzarella like cheese is desired, strain out as much whey as possible.
If softer, spreadable cheese is desired, transfer back to the pot while some whey (perhaps 1/4 of a cup) is remaining in the strainer with the cheese.
Mix salt and (if desired) seasonings into the cheese. Refrigerate. (Even if the cheese seems harder than you want, refrigerating it in just enough whey to cover it will usually result in a softer cheese within 24 hours as the cheese absorbs the whey back in. If it’s already the desired consistency there’s no need to add extra whey.)
I usually make a softer cheese, add about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp of basil, and 1/4 tsp of onion powder, and my husband eats it with crackers.