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How to Make Queso Blanco With Yogurt Culture: An Illustrated Guide

Joy has been a goat lover and cheese lover for 20 years. She enjoys experimenting with making her own cheeses and dairy products.

Fresh queso blanco. While technically mild flavored, this cheese has character.

Fresh queso blanco. While technically mild flavored, this cheese has character.

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."

The ingredients list is short, and many kitchens will already have most of the resources you will need to make this cheese, with the exception of rennet.

The ingredients list is short, and many kitchens will already have most of the resources you will need to make this cheese, with the exception of rennet.

Necessary Equipment

  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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.)

Your Cheese Yield

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.

Instructions

  1. Gently warm milk to 92–94° F.
  2. Stir in buttermilk or yogurt and mix well.
  3. Dilute the rennet in cool water and pour into milk, stirring well for about a minute.
  4. Let the milk alone for about 30 minutes, after which it should be coagulated (be forming curds). Maintain the temperature of 92–94° F.
  5. 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.
  6. Transfer curds to a bowl, and add salt, one teaspoon at a time, every five minutes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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! Cheesemaking processes leave an unpleasant odor in fabrics and plastics.

Stage 1 - Warm Milk, Add Culture, Let Cheese Rest

I am making several kinds of cheese today! The front right pot is our focus for this article. I have brought the milk up to temperature, added the ingredients - except salt - and the curds are forming.

I am making several kinds of cheese today! The front right pot is our focus for this article. I have brought the milk up to temperature, added the ingredients - except salt - and the curds are forming.

This is one cup of plain, homemade yogurt, intended to culture the milk into cheese.

This is one cup of plain, homemade yogurt, intended to culture the milk into cheese.

This is the rennet, mixed down with cool water so it mixes evenly with the milk.

This is the rennet, mixed down with cool water so it mixes evenly with the milk.

You can see that the curds have coagulated, and are beginning to pull away from the edges of the pot.

You can see that the curds have coagulated, and are beginning to pull away from the edges of the pot.

These curds are ready.

These curds are ready.

You can see, toward the front of the pot, how the curds are still soft, but leave a definite depression when tested with a finger.

You can see, toward the front of the pot, how the curds are still soft, but leave a definite depression when tested with a finger.

Here the curds are sinking to the bottom of the pot, and the yellow whey, which is the watery part of milk, has risen above it.

Here the curds are sinking to the bottom of the pot, and the yellow whey, which is the watery part of milk, has risen above it.

Stage 2 - Drain Whey, Salt Cheese

Here is half if a 2-gallon stock pot of curds and whey, partway through draining.

Here is half if a 2-gallon stock pot of curds and whey, partway through draining.

I am adding the remaining curds to the colander, pouring directly from the stock pot.

I am adding the remaining curds to the colander, pouring directly from the stock pot.

My cheese press will handle up to 2 small stock pots of curds at a time, or almost 4 gallons of milk total.

My cheese press will handle up to 2 small stock pots of curds at a time, or almost 4 gallons of milk total.

These curds, when drained sufficiently, are silky and soft but not fragile.

These curds, when drained sufficiently, are silky and soft but not fragile.

I am adding salt, gradually, sprinkling it from a measuring spoon.

I am adding salt, gradually, sprinkling it from a measuring spoon.

These curds have been gently mixed and broken slightly apart, just enough to allow the salt to penetrate.

These curds have been gently mixed and broken slightly apart, just enough to allow the salt to penetrate.

Stage 3 - Press Cheese in a Cheese Press

My press has been filled almost to capacity. This cheese will remain soggy in the center if the curds are stacked too tall. Two shorter cheeses are better than one big wheel.

My press has been filled almost to capacity. This cheese will remain soggy in the center if the curds are stacked too tall. Two shorter cheeses are better than one big wheel.

Fold the cloth (I'm using a tea towel) over the curds. My cheese wheels turn out a bit uneven, but delicious. Layers of cheesecloth may yield a smoother product.

Fold the cloth (I'm using a tea towel) over the curds. My cheese wheels turn out a bit uneven, but delicious. Layers of cheesecloth may yield a smoother product.

I am using a 10-pound weight. If your curds are quite juicy, you may wish to begin with a 5-pound weight for the first few minutes, and give them time to settle.

I am using a 10-pound weight. If your curds are quite juicy, you may wish to begin with a 5-pound weight for the first few minutes, and give them time to settle.

Here is a finished wheel of cheese, which has been pressed for 3 hours.

Here is a finished wheel of cheese, which has been pressed for 3 hours.

How to Store Your Cheese

Slice the finished cheese however you like, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. I like to put a week's worth of portions in a zipper bag, after wrapping individually.

Slice the finished cheese however you like, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. I like to put a week's worth of portions in a zipper bag, after wrapping individually.

A Batch Left Longer Than Six Hours

This is what happens when curds are left to culture longer than six hours...so don't leave them overnight! I've never had curds actually overflow a pot,..but they certainly grow!

This is what happens when curds are left to culture longer than six hours...so don't leave them overnight! I've never had curds actually overflow a pot,..but they certainly grow!

The lid has left indents in the spongy curds.

The lid has left indents in the spongy curds.

This batch was left too long...but at a cooler temperature. It is still quite puffy and fragile. Such curds, if broken up, do not conform correctly in a cheese press.

This batch was left too long...but at a cooler temperature. It is still quite puffy and fragile. Such curds, if broken up, do not conform correctly in a cheese press.

You could hang overdeveloped curds to drain in a tea towel or old pillowcase, and serve them as fresh, non-pressed cheese. Consider them an experiment, not a failure.

You could hang overdeveloped curds to drain in a tea towel or old pillowcase, and serve them as fresh, non-pressed cheese. Consider them an experiment, not a failure.

A closer view of the very fragile, pock-marked curds.

A closer view of the very fragile, pock-marked curds.

Here is the bottom of a cake of overdeveloped curds.

Here is the bottom of a cake of overdeveloped curds.

I salvaged this batch by hanging them to drain like a simpler queso blanco variety.

I salvaged this batch by hanging them to drain like a simpler queso blanco variety.

My Cheese Press

The components of my cheese press are something any do-it-yourselfer and someone with welding experience can make. (For the curious, that's a “granny oven” on a wood burning stove behind the press.)

The components of my cheese press are something any do-it-yourselfer and someone with welding experience can make. (For the curious, that's a “granny oven” on a wood burning stove behind the press.)

A top view of the parts of the press which touch the cheese. See below for components.

A top view of the parts of the press which touch the cheese. See below for components.

This is how the tube looks when I am about to fill it with curds, with the towel tucked and draped into position.

This is how the tube looks when I am about to fill it with curds, with the towel tucked and draped into position.

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.

© 2019 Joilene Rasmussen