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Meanwhile, buttermilk cheese is apparently a Jewish thing? Who knew?!

April 18, 2009

I’ve been curious about the fact that buttermilk used to be a home staple but somehow has fallen out of favor. I’ve decided to try using it in many ways…pancakes, biscuits, waffles and of course cheese!!

Much to my excitement, it turns out that cultured buttermilk can be used as a mesophilic starter in cheese-making. More info. on that later.

As I searched for recipes I ran across this simple recipe that calls for baking buttermilk for a unique cheese- it sounded intriguingly different so I had to try it! Soooo easy and delicious.

Buttermilk Cheese (Tvarog) (D, TNT)
Source: “MealLeaniYUMM!” by Norene Gilletz
Yield: Approximately 2 cups

2 litres (quarts) of buttermilk

Place 2 litres (quarts) of buttermilk in a large covered ovenproof casserole. (I use a Corning Ware casserole.) Place in a preheated 375ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes. It will separate into curds and whey.

Pour warm liquid into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Tie ends of cheesecloth and let drain for several hours. (Hang it over the faucet of the sink; put a bowl underneath to catch the whey, which can be used to replace sour milk or buttermilk in baking.) For a firmer cheese, squeeze out most of the liquid. Wrap well and refrigerate. It will keep about a week.

Here it is draining…
bag o curds

The cheese was super creamy and tangy, kind of like a mix between cream cheese and sour cream. Next time I will try to make a cheesecake out of it. The yield was great!


Messing with Mozzarella

March 23, 2009

Ever since I made my first easy microwave mozzarella my mad scientist little brain has been cooking up variations. Mozzarella is delicious and very useful as is but besides that I can never seem to leave well enough alone, it’s not really a savory, snacking cheese in my opinion. I did however see its potential, with some additions.

moz knot

moz knot

So today I made a gallon batch, split the results in two, added dried jalapeno flakes and red pepper flakes to one bowl (fresh and pungent, bought at Limbo Inc., sorry they don’t have a website but they are at SE 39th and Holgate in Portland, OR- HUGE selection of dried herbs, spices as well as some local produce) and I added mixed herbs to the other (I believe it’s tarragon, parsley, dill and basil; along with cheese salt of course) and both varieties turned out so yummy.

Now they’re dangerously snacky! Yum, I could really eat the entire pound and a half right now. So is it good or bad that I experimented? Oh boy. Must. Exercise. Control.

One motivation that helps me not eat the entire batch now is that I want to see how the flavors change/improve/intensify with some time to infuse the cheese thoroughly. moz ball

Here are the end results and a photo of my lunch. Try some crazy variations yourself, I won’t tell Italy if you don’t.

Mozzarella Tasting

Mozzarella Tasting

Yogurt Cheese or Labneh

February 22, 2009

Yogurt Cheese

While some may not consider this an honest-to-goodness cheese, entire countries would disagree and so do I. Labneh or Labne as I have seen it labeled at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets is a quite delicious and very versatile cheese.

Not only that, if making cheese intimidates you, this is a good starting point. There is no messing this up and it familiarizes you with the draining of whey/use of salt and their transformational powers, which is a huge part of making cheese. Baby steps…enjoy!

All you need is:


yogurt cheese supplies

simple ingredients make such a tasty cheese!


1 quart plain yogurt

2 tsp pure salt (or more if you like this cheese as salty as feta, experiment)


butter muslin or similarly tight cheesecloth- even a new or boiled tea towel/pillowcase will work

12-24 hours of draining time

All you have to do is:

Place your cloth in the colander and place the colander in the bowl. Stir the salt into the yogurt and dump it all into the colander.


yogurt in banana tree

my favorite technique requires a "banana tree"


For another draining method, you can tie the cloth corners and hang the wet sack of yogurt from a cupboard handle with a bowl beneath it.

If you have animals/pests or other reasons why you don’t want it out in the open, you can hang the wet bundle from a rack in your fridge with a bowl beneath it.

The idea is just to drain the whey and be left with a thick cheese.

Drain at room temperature (ideally) for at least 12 hours but I have found that 24-36 hours gives me a thicker, more delicious cheese. Beware, it starts smelling a bit funky but this is good!

Note that refrigerated draining takes longer and produced a less complex flavor but if you just can’t leave it out, let it drain in the fridge until you like the results.

When it’s done, you will have a thick, tart, delicious little ball of yogurt cheese.


I like to pat it dry with paper towels or dry cheesecloth



bowl of yogurt cheese

store it like cream cheese with or without herbs


*Use it as you would cream cheese for a rich tasting but lower fat cheesecake (omit salt).

*Mix dry herbs, fresh pepper and salt into it and use it as a spread on crackers and crisp veggies.

*Roll into little balls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with zattar (lebanese thyme and sesame seed herb mix) or other herbs and eat with pita.



Shape into balls and dry in fridge or out for a couple of hours before covering with oil in a jar


*I just use it liberally and drop a ball into chili, tacos, curry etc. YUM

I’m lucky to have a good friend who brings me Labne from the West Bank.

Tasting the real thing (and asking her to to grill grandmas on their methods) has improved my version of this cheese drastically!
The photos below show you my inspiration. Thanks Stephanie 🙂


jar of labne in olive oil

jar of salty labne from the West Bank



yogurt cheese balls in oil





This is Zaatar, add olive oil, ummm


Forgot to tell you a have a fresh batch of Feta curing!

February 22, 2009

Lovely giant jar of February Feta

Lovely giant jar of February Feta

Unless I make some sort of fancy cheese schedule, I will just let you know about the cheeses I’m making and their different stages/developments like this. So, I made a huge batch of raw cow milk Feta in early Feb. (if you’re in Portland, I get it at Kookoolan Farms) It’s supposed to age 2-3 months in brine. So far so good. I do fear daily that I will open the fridge to find a jar of green sludge but luckily, it still just looks like feta in brine (water that has been saturated with salt). If all goes as planned, I’ll let you know more about it when I taste it in April and May. Here are some pics of the giant jar…it is so gratifying to see it in the fridge every day!
Creepy science project view of Feta

Creepy science project view of Feta

the tao of cheese

February 15, 2009

Feb. 15, 2009

A wise cheese maker recently said to me, never name your cheese until it’s done. Last week I found out why and I let her advice ease my mind.

Fresh raw milk

Fresh raw milk

It was supposed to be mozzarella but for some reason the curds never did what they were “supposed” to. I thought I was a pro at making this easy cheese by now but whether it was the temp of the water/rennet or the different brand of milk I used, this batch refused to be mozzarella. I’m proud of myself for not letting this bother me. It’s a Taoist approach to cheese making and I have to say, it rather suits me! The cheese was still delicious but it ended up like a really thick, tasty cream cheese, almost a goat cheese consistency so I treated it as such. I made pizza and just scooped some flat spoonfuls onto the crust, they melted deliciously and the pizza was creamy and good!

the come hither look

the come hither look

I also shaped some of this thick cheese into a small wheel and rolled it in freshly chopped parsley, chives and cracked peppercorns. I served this with crackers, it tasted fresh and delicious. I had so much cheese that I dropped spoonfuls into a jar along with some crushed garlic chunks, pepper flakes and covered it all in good quality extra virgin olive oil. I let it sit in the fridge for a day. The next evening, I took it to a potluck and we spread the delicious oily concoction onto toasted rustic baguette rounds- delicious again!! I didn’t end up with Mozzarella but I did end up with a cream cheese for pizza, an herbed appetizer cheese as well as potluck oily cheese balls. Not glamorous names but I wish you could’ve tasted them! So, my cheese tip of the week, go with the flow and enjoy the cheese that comes with it!