Homemade cheese is easy with this simple method. Adding seasonal tomatoes and basil makes it a summer staple.
The cherry tomato plants are taking over.
Deciding that their carefully placed cages are too confining, they’ve reached out their limbs in every direction, trying to make their move out of the garden box. Tomatoes, it seems, don’t realize they’re meant to be eaten.
After a few years of frustration, we now only grow cherry tomatoes in our garden. Thanks to birds and squirrels that are far more industrious than I and the years-long drought, larger tomatoes are best left to those who are experts — or at least have drip tape installed.
This year, I happily pluck tomatoes from our plants nearly daily, and my only worry is how to tether the ever-lengthening branches.
We do get more tomatoes than we tend to eat in on any given day, but luckily summer is the time for tomatoes and their consort basil to shine. In particular, mixed together in this homemade cheese.
Homemade cheese is remarkably easy, and every time I make it I wonder why I don’t do it more often. This is a basic ricotta-like cheese, and it only needs milk and vinegar, plus salt to taste.
Special tools aren’t really necessary either, except for one: cheesecloth! You’ll need to be able to strain your homemade cheese without losing curds, and I find double- or triple-layering cheesecloth and letting it hang over the sink works best for me.
I like to set a bowl underneath to capture any extra whey, just in case I want to blend some back into the cheese later. I do already save the whey from the main pot, which you can use in all sorts of recipes from pancakes to smoothies.
Once you have the basic method for making cheese down, the sky’s the limit for flavor additions or use in recipes. Or, enjoy it as I do, by simply smearing it on some fresh bread.
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 gallon whole milk, preferably raw or low-temperature pasteurized
- 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Halve tomatoes and toss with basil and olive oil. Spread onto a lipped baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Pour milk in a large nonreactive pot. Heat to 175°F, using a candy or instant-read thermometer to verify.
- Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. The milk should start to separate into curds and whey.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and set over a large bowl or pot. (You will collect approximately 3 quarts of whey.)
- Carefully pour curds and whey into colander. Allow to drain 5 minutes, or longer for firmer cheese.
- Combine cheese and roasted tomatoes together in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm spread on bread, use in lasagna, or as a pasta topping. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 123mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 8g