For the fifth year in a row, Elsa and I will present at the Good Food Commons as part of the Good Food Expo. And this year we will do a 30 minute presentation called Smokin’ – Cheese, Tofu, and Fire. Learn how to make tofu, nufu (a tofu style curd with peanuts replacing the soy beans), and fresh cheese. Then add another layer of flavor by smoking them. We will explore smoking using a smoker device at home or by adding smoky flavors. There will be tasty samples to compare and contrast the range of smoky flavors.
Mysost is a Scandinavian cheese made out of whey and cream. It is also known as gjesost when it is made from goat’s milk or brunost for it’s brown color. The name mysost indicates that the cheese was made from cow’s milk. The recipe below is inspired by David Asher’s recipe for mysost in his book The Art of Natural Cheesemaking.
We adapted the recipe significantly in order to make mysost starting with one gallon of milk. We decided to make paneer out of the milk in order extract the whey required for mysost.
How to make mysost
Approximately 8 cups left over whey (in this case we used the amount leftover from after making paneer with one gallon of milk)
1 cup Cream
Small pot (glass or stainless steel is ideal)
Step 1: Concentrate the whey
Pour all of the leftover whey into a slow cooker and let it cook on low without a cover so that the liquid will slowly evaporate without burning. For the amount we used it took about 22 hours in the slow cooker to achieve our desired result. The goal is to concentrate the whey without burning it. The result is basically the sugars derived from milk.
Step 2: Blend concentrated whey with cream
Carefully scrape and pour the concentrated whey from the slow cooker into a blender. Then blend it with about 1 cup of cream to make a smooth mixture. Do not blend too long so the cream mixture does not become thick whipped cream.
Step 3: Very slowly heat the cream mixture
Cream burns very easily so it is critical that the cream mixture is heated very slowly and on the lowest heat possible. Consider using a double boiler or be sure to take the cream on and off the low heat. Also it is critical to constantly stir.
Step 4: Pour heated cream mixture into a mold
By the end of this process there will be a thick and runny caramel like mixture. Find a mold that can hold the volume of 1 cup. We used a square mold that did not have a bottom or a top and lined it with parchment paper. The parchment paper was essential for getting the finished mysost successfully out of the mold. A cookie cutter lined with parchment paper could work. We tried just using a greased cupcake pan but that was not ideal because it was very hard to get the mysost out of the pan and preserve its shape. After the mysost is in its mold put it in the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours.
Step 5: Remove mysost from mold, cut and serve
Finally, carefully remove the mysost from the mold by pulling it out by the parchment paper.
Paneer is a South Asian cheese that is frequently used in dishes from the Indian subcontinent. Probably the most common dish in which it is used is palak paneer, also known as saag paneer. The recipe below is adapted from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey. Paneer is a great cheese for anyone new to making cheese or anyone who loves Indian food. Making paneer teaches the techniques of curdling milk, separating curds from whey, and pressing curds- three key steps in any cheese making.
How to make paneer
1 gallon of milk
2 Tablespoons of vinegar
Large Pot (glass or stainless steel is ideal)
Large bowl (glass or stainless steel is ideal)
Large stirring spoon
Cotton kitchen towel or cheese cloth
Step 1: Heat up milk
Pour the entire gallon of milk in the pot on the stove, turn the burner to at most medium, and heat it up slowly stirring regularly. Milk burns easily so be sure to gently scrape the bottom of the pot as the milk heats up so the bottom does not get scorched. This can take from 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: Curdle the milk
Just after the milk begins to bubble turn the stove burner to very low, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and gently stir it in. The milk curd should begin to separate from the whey. The milk curd will be white solids floating in the yellowish hazy whey. Turn the burner off after the curds have formed.
Step 3: Strain the curd
Line a strainer with a clean cotton kitchen towel, clean old t-shirt, or clean cheese cloth. Then put the lined strainer into a bowl.
Slowly and carefully pour the hot curdled milk into the bowl with the lined strainer. Be sure the bowl is large enough to hold all the whey. Then gather all the corners of the cloth in one hand and lift the curds out of the whey. Let the whey drip into the bowl as you hold the straining curds. After most of the dripping has stopped twist the little sack of curds to squeeze out a little more whey. Finally, hang the curds above the bowl with whey and let it continue to drain. The whey can be used to make mysost.
Let the paneer drip for about 20 minutes and then remove the curds from the towel.
For the fourth year in a row, Elsa and I presented at the Good Food Commons as part of the Good Food Festival. And this year we did two 20 minute presentations. Presentation 1: “Easy Cheeses” was from 12-12:20pm. And Presentation 2: “Vegan Cheese Techniques” was from 1:30-1:50pm. Check out our Resources Page to find links to recipes and instructions to the tasty foods we demonstrated. The Good Food Festival was held at UIC Forum (725 W Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, IL).
Our two time slots were on the chalkboard schedule.
Yogurt cultured with buttermilk topped with strawberries and granola from our Easy Cheeses Presentation
Cashew “cheddar” from our Vegan Cheese Techniques Presentation
Almond “feta” on matza and drizzled with dill infused olive oil from our Vegan Cheese Techniques Presentation
We had a lot of fun presenting in the Good Food Commons as part of the Good Food Festival. Our presentation flew by! We had 20 minutes but with all the preparation that went into it, the presentation felt like 20 seconds. Our presentation was called “Making Cheese, Tofu, and Tofu Cheese”.
After making ricotta and paneer successfully Elsa and I thought we should try making tofu from scratch. Our curiosity was also stirred after our “Making Fresh Cheese” presentation at the 2014 Good Food Festival. A few people came up to us and asked if we had any ideas for vegan cheese. It turned out the process of making tofu was very similar to making fresh cheeses.
Both tofu making and fresh cheese making include slowly heating up soy or dairy milk, curdling or coagulating the milk, and finally straining the curds. For tofu it is particularly interesting taking a whole bean and changing it into something quite different simply by heating and adding a mineral like gypsum to change its form from liquid to solid.
Below are the steps it takes for making tofu at home. We followed the instructions in Madhur Jaffrey’s book, World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. For exact measurements please try to find the Madhur Jaffrey book. The instructions were meant for a home kitchen and therefore do not require any particularly special tools. Below are a list of the things we used:
Gypsum, food-grade epsom salt, or nigari
Large stirring spoon
Cotton kitchen towel or cheese cloth
Expandable vegetable steamer
Step 1: Soak soy beans
I soaked these soy beans before work…
11 hours later they looked like this…
Step 2: Puree the soy beans
Add equal parts water and soy beans and liquefy in the blender.
Step 3: Make soy milk
To make soy milk, Elsa and I boiled water on the stove in a large pot. Then after the water was boiling we poured our soy bean puree into it and stirred it around. Then we lined a colander with a clean cotton kitchen towel. Elsa held the colander with the towel over a large bowl as I poured the hot liquid into the colander. The bowl caught all the liquid, which was soy milk. What was left in the towel was soy bean pulp a.k.a. okara. Elsa gave a Hippie History lesson and told me that in the 1970s natural food stores would sell Okara Burgers and some people use the pulp to make bread.
Step 4: Coagulate soy milk
This step is where the magic happens. To coagulate the soy milk use gypsum, food-grade epsom salt, or nigari flakes. Gypsum is the primary ingredient in drywall (but buy your gypsum at a grocery store- we got ours at an Asian grocery store near Argyle and Broadway in Chicago, DO NOT scrape off some dry wall at the hardware store). Nigari is the left over minerals from sea water after removing all the water and all the salt.
First we mixed the gypsum with water and set it aside. Then we heated up the soy milk again just until it started to boil. We then turned off the heat and stirred in the gypsum mixture. Then we waited 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, since our soy milk did not coagulate enough we heated it up once more just until it started to boil and stirred in another dose of gypsum. Then we waited another 10 minutes.
Step 5: Strain and press curds
As our soy milk and gypsum mixture was busy coagulating we set up our straining apparatus in the sink. It basically was a colander with a vegetable steamer nested inside it, and then a clean cotton kitchen towel draped over all of that.
After our mixture coagulated, we poured the contents into our straining apparatus, wrapped the soy curd with the towel, and pressed it with a pot of water that fits snugly into the colander.
We let the tofu drain for about 15-20 minutes. We gradually pressed the tofu by adding a little more water to the pot after 10 minutes. To get firmer tofu gradually press it with more weight by adding water to the pot and/or let it drain longer.
Step 6: Remove tofu cake from cloth
After the tofu was pressed sufficiently, we had to gently remove the tofu cake from the towel in which it was being pressed. This took some very gentle finesse. After we took the pot off the curds, I lifted up the towel with the tofu cake nestled in it, and transferred it to a pot of water. Using the water to help support the tofu cake with some buoyancy, I gently worked my fingers between the tofu cake and the towel, slowly pulling the towel off. This was all done with the tofu cake fully submerged in the cool water.
After the tofu had been separated from the towel it was ready to be eaten.
I felt like a snob reading an in depth book about the history of a French cheese. My real goal was to learn about a tradition of cheese-making and this book covered one. Camembert: A National Myth was translated from French and had a convincing air of authority since it was written by a proud Frenchman. Although I ended up skimming through the book, focused mostly on production, I learned a great deal about Camembert and to that effect some interesting issues that developed as Camembert went from being a local homemade product, to a regional artisan product, to a national industrial product, and finally to an international industrial product.
What I learned about Camembert:
It was invented by a woman from Normandy and a priest
French Cheese was traditionally made by women
To make Camembert, milk is first coagulated with rennet, then ladled into circular molds that strain out the whey, and then left to age in a structure that has adjustable vents (adjusted to provide optimum humidity or dryness)
Traditional Camembert contains milk from the Auge region of Normandy that is not pasteurized
The recipe for Camembert is so generic that it cannot be patented or restricted the way Champagne is restricted to regional production
Roquefort is the only French cheese that has a regional restrictive label and certification
Camembert became the national cheese of France after World War I
Camembert is sold in small round wooden boxes
Traditional Camembert had a reddish or bluish rind; the rind becomes white because it gets coated in penicillin
Pasteurization neutralizes natural variety in regional milk flavors
All Camembert made with pasteurized milk tastes the same — and is bland compared to the Camembert made with unpasteurized milk
Boisard frequently discussed the dynamic in developing from artisan to industry. He described the struggle of French artisans, like the Syndicate des Frabricants du Veritable Camembert de Normandie, trying to maintain their authentic regional character as they grappled with industrial production and health impositions like pasteurization. “In imposing on Camembert its whiteness, evocative of hygiene and asepsis, Pasteur’s disciples were telling the cheese maker that the era of empiricism had arrived and that the cheese, the product of peasant know-how, could become a product of mass consumption only if it were ‘cleansed’ under laboratory control” (page 80). To balance the antiseptic nature of industrial production in cheese making, Boisard proposes that the most important aspect of production is to maintain the relationship between the milk producer and the cheese maker. The milk should be sourced very close to the cheese producer, must be unpastuerized, and there should be a kinship between both.
In the final chapter of Camembert Boisard rallies for tradition by sensually describing the delight of a Camembert made with unpasteurized milk from Normandy. He compares the aroma of sex to the scent of a well aged Camembert saying they “may provoke disgust or excitement, but they rarely create indifference” (page 216). He continues to colorfully describe the experience of Camembert with pride and affection turning all that read the book from ignorant cheese-eater to a passionate snob.