Queso Blanco Recipe

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Photo courtesy txakel/Fotolia
Queso blanco or white cheese is a Latin American cheese great for crumbling on dishes.
4 to 6 servings SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk (8 cups)
    2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (leaves only) (I used thyme, marjoram and rosemary) 

Directions

  • Soft cheeses are best when they drain at a room temperature of 72°F. If the room is too warm, the cheese may develop an odor; if it's too cold it won't drain properly. If you make cheese on a cold, drafty day, hang the cheese in a warm spot such as near the stove.

    Heating

    Pour the milk into a large saucepan. Warm over a low heat, whisking frequently, until milk reaches 180°F. Keep heat low so that the milk stays at 180°F for ten minutes.

    Separating

    After ten minutes, turn off the heat and drizzle the vinegar over the milk. Give the milk a quick stir and let it sit for a minute or so. You should see the curd sinking and the cloudy whey (liquid) rising to the top. If nothing happens, add a bit more vinegar, carefully — a teaspoon at a time.

    Draining

    Cut two pieces of cheesecloth measuring about 1 1/2 feet long each. Line a colander with one piece of cheesecloth with the ends draped over the top of the colander, then lay the other piece of cloth perpendicular to first. Pour the curds and whey into the cloth-lined colander. Using your fingers, press out some of the liquid whey. Sprinkle the salt on top of the curds (if you add herbs, let the curds cool for about five minutes). Draw up the ends of the cheesecloth, pressing the cheese into as tight a ball as possible. Twist the cheesecloth just above the ball of cheese and tie it off tightly with string or a rubber band.

    Hanging

    Hang the cheese up by the string in a warm place (about 72°F) over a bowl for about two hours. When the cheese is firm, refrigerate it for about an hour before removing the cheesecloth if you want the cheese to be less crumbly. Remove the cheesecloth and wrap in plastic wrap. To serve: Crumble or slice the cheese into circles. Cheese is best eaten within two or three days.
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Queso blanco (white cheese) is a sweet, mild cheese that’s great for crumbling on top of tacos or, if you add some fresh herbs, for spreading on crackers or toast. This Latin American cheese is similar to panir, a cheese made in India that is cut into cubes and added to cooked spinach and other vegetarian dishes. If you live near a dairy farm, milk straight from the bulk tank is sure to be fresher, more nutritious and better-tasting than supermarket milk. Otherwise, try to use organic. This recipe yields a 3/4-pound ball of cheese, but can be easily doubled if you want more.