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How To Make Soft Cheese Easily at Home

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Cheese making may seem daunting to those who have not tried it before. There are many recipes to give all manner of different styles of cheese. Some require very specific equipment and ingredients and take a care and time to produce but for the uninitiated this is a simple method of making a delicious soft cheese overnight. You will not need to send away for special adjuncts or rennet and it can be made with standard cooking tools that you can find in a reasonably equipped domestic kitchen. The cheese is soft and white and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks although I always find it is never around for that long before it is eaten. The method comes from a simple Indian recipe used for making a slightly firmer cheese that takes a little longer to drain out in order make it a drier mix more suitable for Indian cookery. For this cheese though that retains a soft and creamy texture it is ready overnight.
What you'll need: 
6 pints of full fat goat or cows’ milk.
2 lemons
A large bain marie or one small and one large steel cooking saucepans. Make sure the smaller pan can accommodate easily 6 pints of liquid. The larger one should be big enough to fit the smaller one inside, allowing for about an inch all around it.
A glass mixing bowl, thermometer, fork and a lemon squeezer
A metal or ceramic eggcup may be needed
A muslin bag
Some dry herbs of your choice
If using a Bain Marie place sufficient water in the bottom half to cover the base of the top part that sits in it up to a depth of around 2 inches. If using pans, firstly make sure that the smaller saucepan can be suspended within the larger one so that it does not make contact with the base of the larger pan. If it does place a metal or ceramic eggcup in the bottom of the big pan to sit the smaller pan on. Place enough water into the larger saucepan to ensure it covers the bottom two inches of the smaller pan and then place it onto a hob or a gas ring and bring up to the boil.
In the smaller pan place 6 pints of milk (This can be bought very cheaply from the shops if it is just approaching its sell-by-date. If it is only a day or two out of date and has be refrigerated it should still be fine for this purpose).
Take two large ripe lemons and using a squeezer extract all the juice. Place this into the milk and mix the two together well.
Once the water in the larger pan is up to temperature lower the smaller pan containing the milky mixture into the hot water in the larger pan making sure that there is water all around the base.
Stir continually testing with the thermometer until the milky mixture reaches around 28˚c. Turn down the temperature so that the mix does not boil and agitate occasionally until the milk starts to separate into curds (a thick white substance) and whey (a lightly straw coloured liquid). At this point stop stirring and remove from the heat!
Once separated remove the smaller pan from the large one cover with a lid and leave to cool thoroughly.
When cold poor the mix into a muslin bag. This can get messy so a little trick is to place the bag into a pan or a jug pulling the edges of the bag up over the rim of the vessel. Get someone to help and hold down the edges of the bag so it doesn’t slip into the mix as you are pouring it. If no one else is around you can pull the edges of the bag over the rim of the vessel and then tie string around the outside to hold it firmly in place while you pour.
Draw the mouth of the bag closed and tie it up so that all the solids are sealed in suspend it over a sink or a drainer and leave it to drip overnight.
In the morning you will have a nice white ball of cheese inside your muslin bag. Tip it out into a glass bowl and using a fork mix into it a teaspoon of salt.
Put some dried herbs into a bowl (a favourite of mine is a mix of dried ground elder and parsley, but you can used any dried herbs or even cracked pepper corns). With clean hands pick up some of the mix (around about a large desert spoon full) and form it into a ball shape. Role this around in the herbs until covered and place onto a clean plate. Continue this until all the mixture is used up and formed into balls. Store them in the fridge until they are eaten.
A great way to serve up this cheese is on a board surrounded by crackers, water biscuits and digestives with a garnish of grapes, cherry tomatoes and a sprig of fresh parsley. The flavour is creamy and tangy and the texture is soft white and fluffy. I always put out one serving that is covered with herbs and another covered in cracked pepper corns, the cheese picks up the flavour of its coating so the two mini portions of cheese have distinctly different and pleasingly contrasting tastes, hot and fiery and fresh and herby.
With all dairy product making it is crucial to ensure the utmost cleanliness – infections can easily set in and ruin your cheese if everything is not really clean.
When dishing this up for friends always remind them that the pepper coating is very hot in taste.
This is not suitable for anyone who is lactose intolerant.


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