How to Make Queso Blanco With Yogurt Culture: An Illustrated Guide
What Is Queso Blanco?
Queso blanco made from yogurt culture is an acidic yet mild semi-hard pressed cheese.
It is particularly good for:
- Slicing for sandwiches
- Frying into delicious cheese snacks
- Chopping into chunky omelettes, hashes, soups, and stir-fries
When heated, queso blanco softens into a puddle, yet does not become gooey or stringy, like mozzarella or sometimes cheddar. When fried, it softens into a circle, browns beautifully, and retains a satisfying "bite" when eaten.
When eaten raw, this "bite" quality comes across as a squeak—sometimes literally—and my children therefore call this "squeaky cheese."
- Accurate thermometer (digital is easiest to use)
- Tea towels (or a lot of cheesecloth)
- 1-cup liquid measuring cup
- Small measuring cup or glass, for mixing down rennet
- Colander (metal preferred)
- Large bowl (stainless steel or glass are preferred over plastics)
- Long-handled spoon. Mine is custom made, so I can work with 5-gallon stock pots more easily.
- 1 gallon fresh, preferably raw goat's milk
- 8 oz. cultured buttermilk or 8 oz. plain yogurt, for culturing the curds
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet (I use a vegetable-derived variety) or 1/4 of 1 rennet tablet
- 3-4 oz. cool water
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, kosher salt, or canning salt (Use non-iodized salt. Iodine may turn your cheese greenish.)
As long as your cheese press can hold a larger amount, you can process more than one gallon of milk at a time. Your yield should be about 1/5 of a gallon of curds per gallon of milk, or not quite a quart of actual cheese.
- Gently warm milk to 92-94* F.
- Stir in buttermilk or yogurt and mix well.
- Dilute the rennet in cool water and pour into milk, stirring well for about a minute.
- Let the milk alone for about 30 minutes, after which it should be coagulated (be forming curds). Maintain the temperature of 92-94* F.
- Allow the curd to settle to the bottom of the pot, forming a cake, then drain the whey. The curds may break up some as you pour. This is OK.
- Transfer curds to a bowl, and add salt, one teaspoon at a time, every five minutes.
Line a cheese press with a tea towel or cheesecloth, and fill with curds. Fold edges of cloth over curds. It's OK if they are a bit uneven, but it will affect the final appearance of your cheese.
- Press for 3 hours using light pressure. Remove and unwrap cheese, slice or package, and either refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for longer term storage.
How Much Time Will It Take?
You should not start this cheese unless you have 5 to 6 hours in which to finish it. Starting in the morning is best. It is possible to leave the curds longer than the optimal time of 30 minutes, but they will continue to culture and develop, creating air pockets which make them fragile and spongy. Here is what you can expect, for the time spent in different stages of processing:
- Warming a pot of milk from refrigerator temperature may take a 1/2 hour or 40 minutes.
- Curds will take a minimum of 30 minutes to form.
- Time needed for draining them can be unpredictable, but count on at least 15-20 minutes.
- Pressing will take about 3 hours, plus time needed for wrapping the curds in cloth.
- Finally, packaging the cheese, and washing up your equipment will take a few minutes, say, 15.
- Don't forget to rinse any tea towels you should use, then hang them to dry until you can properly wash them! Cheese making processes leave an unpleasant odor in fabrics and plastics.
Stage 1 - Warm Milk, Add Culture, Let Cheese Rest
Stage 2 - Drain Whey, Salt Cheese
Stage 3 - Press Cheese in a Cheese Press
How to Store Your Cheese
Storage of Semi-Firm Queso Blanco
Fresh cheese is far better than any other kind of queso blanco!
Long freezing leaves this cheese crumbly, so plan on using it within 6 months to a year. I only make cheese in quantity when I have a huge excess of fresh, raw goat's milk, and a big block of time in which to work it. Otherwise, smaller batches are more tasty.
A Batch Left Longer Than Six Hours
My Cheese Press
Heavy-Duty DIY Cheese Press Components
The part of this DIY cheese press that holds the curds is made of:
- PVC pipe, 6” in diameter
- 2 wooden discs which fit nicely but not snugly
- An old pan
The discs are made of 1” material, and the dowel is 1” in diameter. A lunch plate fits in the bottom of the pan to provide for whey run-off.
No Cheese Press?
Queso blanco varieties need only very slight pressing. A 1" slice of PVC pipe, or a plastic container, can do a decent job of "pressing" your cheese, even without added weight. If left 6 hours to overnight, the cheese will settle and grow more firm, developing a delightful texture and flavor which you are unlikely to get from a mass-produced, commercial variety.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Joilene Rasmussen