Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fromage Blanc

OK – so you may be asking yourself “what the heck is Fromage Blanc??”

It is cheese – a soft and simple to make white cheese that is akin to a very mild cream cheese. I should take a step backwards and tell you where this is coming from…

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a cheese making course – over the space of four or so hours we learned how to make three different kinds of cheese, in practical terms, we actually MADE two kinds (Asiago and Gruyere) and had a meal that was, well, DAMN wonderful!

Not really knowing what to expect, I arrived to find that I wasn’t the first to arrive (I usually am – I’m a total keener) and the cheese lady (Paula  - the cheese lady from Gabriola Island) was there and two of the other attendees had beat me to the house. The milk was already in pots on the stove, the kitchen table was BEAUTIFULLY decorated and there were information sheets, small envelopes holding mysterious packets and tablets, and little tiny plastic bottles at each place setting.

Paula started us off with some history of where and how cheese came to be and then also provided us with some of her background and history in making cheese as well as some of the other things she grows, makes and does.  She is a VERY interesting person and if you are looking to take a class for some sort of personal development, I HIGHLY recommend looking into her cheese making courses! I will be doing a little research up my way to see if I can’t put together a group of interested persons for a class!

In any case, the process itself AND the ingredients are basically the same no matter what kind of cheese you are going to make – the differences lie in temperature and time. I am really quite fascinated by the chemistry of it all but will have to research more on that later.

Lunch was a gastronomic delight of salad (and OMFG the salad dressing was to DIE for) cheeses, crackers, smoked salmon and a salami, and, of course, some wine.

Once lunch was over, we got back to it, and before we knew it, the course was done, clean-up was complete and we were all on our way home…

This week I ordered some stuff from Lee Valley Tools (you KNOW how much I love their stuff) and when it comes in I will make up some hard cheese (not certain which kind – maybe Asiago? I LOVE Asiago and use it on or in a lot of my cooking) but this weekend I wanted to make something – so tried my hand at a Fromage Blanc.

The process was really simple – heat the milk, sprinkle some dried culture on it & let it hydrate for a few minutes, stir it in and then just, well, leave it alone for twelve hours. Once it had been left alone I scooped it into a colander lined with cheese wrap (this sheet of plastic stuff with perforations in it) and let it drain overnight.

Let it drain. 
Heating the milk

A little bit of culture

How it looked at midnight last night - ready to drain

Colander in a bowl with cheese wrap

Curds... and whey!

Holy crap - that's a LOT of curds and whey!

I am just going to explore this for a moment – when you make cheese the by-product you are left with is whey – sort of a yellowish liquid – roughly 2/3 of a gallon of it when a full gallon of milk is used to make cheese. Whey powder is something that can be used in protein shakes – and so whey – true whey – can also be used to make protein shakes. It can be used to augment compost heaps, amend soil for tomato plants and blueberry bushes (more research to be done there), and also added to pet food to encourage finicky eaters. I did a little research today and learned that among other things, it also could be used instead of milk or water when baking.

Cool!  Hold that thought.

This morning I got up and, lo and behold, it was well drained!  I stirred it around (you are supposed to turn it completely, but on no coffee and still in my robe, stirring is what I was capable of ha ha ha) and then tied the cheese wrap up and hung it from one of my cupboard doorknobs.  Note to self – when I replace the cupboards I MUST be certain that I install strong and durable knobs or handles so that I can still hang stuff from them.
Wow - there was a LOT of whey in there!

Some whey

Bagged, hung and draining

Just some of the whey

Look - actual cheese!

Scooping it into containers to freeze

Turns out that Tree Island Gourmet Yoghurt containers
are PERFECT to reuse for cheese!

While the cheese was draining, I made up a batch of seedy bread that will be cooled, sliced thinly and then dehydrated to make artisan crackers. Go me!  Oh – by this time I had had some coffee and was dressed. Just thought I would clear that up. Fresh from my research into uses for whey (are you still holding the thought from above?) I decided to take a risk on a totally new recipe, and substitute whey for the milk.

The batter looked good but was REALLY runny – it reminded me of a couple of other recipes I have – a chocolate cake, and gingerbread – both of which are really runny but bake into the most moist and delicious cakes possible.  An hour later, my house smelling amazing, I pulled the loaves out of the oven and set them to cool.

Now TECHNICALLY I baked them so that I could then dehydrate them and have amazing home-made artisan crackers.  So here’s the thing. They smelled SO FREAKING DELICIOUS that I HAD to slice off a heel and have it with some of my home made Fromage Blanc on it.


The rest of it will be cooled, sliced and dried, but I am feeling pretty happy with the fruits (OK, really, the bread and cheese) of my labours.

With love across the waters…