Curds & whey

My latest blog for Borough Market explores how aging food in different ways can transform ingredients into new and delicious foods. One of the joys of undertaking such projects is that it leads me into learning new skills, such as making curd cheese. 

For further information on my Borough blogs see:

Essential knowledge:

To make curd cheese at home the milk must be unpasteurised otherwise it will turn bad.  Unpasteurised or raw milk contains fast working lactic acid producing bacteria.  If left to their own devices they will quickly convert the milks lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, which make it hard for other bacteria to thrive in, which in turn prolongs the life of the soured milk.

The flavour of the resulting curds can also vary greatly depending on the animals’ diet and your own environment.  I prefer raw cow’s milk from late spring to late autumn, when they are out to grass.  In the winter, most British cows are fed silage – pickled grass. Although this can yield wonderful cheese, it can also imbue fresh milk with a strong, almost urine-like aroma.

Makes 170g curd cheese and 330ml whey

500ml raw (unpasteurised) milk

1  Pour the raw milk into a clean bowl.  Cover with a clean cloth and leave at room temperature, somewhere where it won’t be disturbed, such as a quiet corner in the kitchen.  Do not shake or move the bowl.

2  The milk will slowly ferment and curdle or ‘clabber’.  The time taken will vary according to the ambient temperature. Mine took 48 hours but on a hot day, it might take 24 hours. 

3  Test the curdled milk by very gently moving the bowl.  If the top looks thick and set, the milk curds (fat and solids) have clumped together and risen to the top and the mixture is ready to strain.  Presumably, Miss Muffat ate her curds and whey as soon as they were set in the bowl, but I prefer to strain mine. 

4  Line a sieve with a double layer of clean muslin.  Set over a deep bowl and gently tip in the mixture.  It looks like a blobby mixture with extra thick creamy bits.  Place in the fridge and leave to drip for 12 hours. 

5 However, if like me, you don’t have a really deep bowl, keep an eye on the level of whey and if it gets too high, transfer it to a clean sealed container.  This will keep well in the fridge. 

6  After 12 hours or so, tip the drained curds into a mixing bowl and lightly beat with a wooden spoon.  It has a consistency similar to ricotta.  Transfer to a clean sealed container and store in the fridge.  Add the remaining whey to the first that you decanted. 

Final thoughts:

The whey can be used in scones, soda breads and puffy pancakes.  The curd cheese can be left as it is, or flavoured according to your needs.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term clabber in this context of curdling is mainly used in America. In Gaelic clabber or rather clabar refers to mud or wet clay. 





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