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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cotija Cheese

Here's one from the "Go Big or Stay Home" files:  I wanted to make "authentic" Huevos Rancheros from scratch.  I made the tortillas, sprouted and cooked the beans from dried.  I even made the Cotija cheese, which I read was the best one for the job.  I'd never made it before - heck, I'd never eaten it before.  But I had some preliminary cheese-making experience, so I thought I was up to the task.
The expert I had sample it said it came pretty close to what he was used to.  I even used fresh, unpasteurized milk from the farmer down the road.  Major props to my husband for going out in the rain for that.

Finished Product

Cotija Cheese

1 Gallon                Milk
1/2 ml                   Calcium Chloride
1 Tablet                Thermophilic Bacteria Culture
<1 cup="" nbsp="" o:p="" salt="">
1 Tbsp                   Rennet dissolved in 1 Quart Cool Water

Brine Solution (next day)
1 Cup                     Salt dissolved in 1 Quart Warm Water

In a large stock pot, warm the milk to 100ºF.
Stir the bacteria culture tablet and calcium chloride into the milk.
Keep the milk at a constant temperature of 100 degrees until milk has thickened.
Using a hand mixture or immersion blender, stir on low for about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt.
Slowly stir in rennet water and blend for another 5-10 minutes.
Remove from heat and rest at room temperature for about 45-90 minutes.
During that time, the batter will transform into small curds.
Remove the curds from the liquid and cut them into 1-inch cubes.
Return the cheese to the liquid (whey) and rest for another 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth.
 Discard the whey.
Place the drained cheese into a cheese press, and press for 30 minutes.
Flip the cheese in the press, and press for another 12 hours.
Prepare the brine solution and allow to cool to room temperature.
Carefully remove the cheese from the press and place in a large container with a lid.
The cheese will still be quite soft.
Pour the brine over top of the cheese.
Sprinkle the top with salt as the cheese will float and the top will not be saturated.
Soak the cheese in the brine for 30 hours, flipping the cheese every 10 hours to encourage rind development.
Remove the cheese from the brine.
Drain and air dry 1 day, turning occasionally.
Ripen, uncovered, in refrigerator 2 weeks.
Check regularly for mold. If mold grows on the rind simply wipe it away with a paper towel or cloth.
Once ripe, store cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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