cress · Glenisk · Glenisk greek style yogurt · self-sufficiency

Milk comes from a cow (or goat or sheep), and then? – A Lesson in Cheese-Making

Last Wednesday, as the end of the Easter holidays loomed, we spent a perfect morning in the garden clearing out, trimming back and planting seeds. We try to be a little self-sufficient and grow some of our own food, partly for the flavour and partly to give the children a sense of where food comes from. I find it important that they know how it grows, plus it encourages healthy eating. We’re lucky to have a garden, but a lot of what we plant could be grown on a balcony or even a decent-sized windowsill. I always make sure to include cress among the herbs and plants that we grow from seed. It sprouts so quickly and it is ready to eat within four days if left in a sunny spot indoors. The children look every morning to see how it is coming along and by the time it is ready for eating, some of the other seedlings that are slower to germinate (radishes, rocket, peppers) will be beginning to show signs of life. 

This time round all the chat about watering and seeds bursting into life had me wondering how much the children understood where dairy produce comes from. They know that milk comes from cows, sheep and goats. We’ve been on a few farm holidays and that much has sunk in. But I wasn’t quite sure how far their knowledge extended from there. And so our project Cheesemaking began. 

Now this may sound like a bit of an ordeal to go through with a six year old and a four year old, but I promise you, it is quite simple. We chose an easy method I’d used a few years ago after seeing a recipe for soft cheese made from yogurt. Remembering what I’d learnt from my original attempt, I chose to use a really good quality yogurt, Glenisk Greek Style Yogurt. The boys were really excited about it, even my not-so-cheese-friendly older son. He adores Glenisk yogurt since his baby days when he had a cow milk allery. Glenisk goats milk yogurt saved the day. Thankfully he grew out of the allergy, but his taste for thick and creamy Glenisk has remained.

Here’s how it goes: 
500g Glenisk Greek Style Yogurt
1 1/2 tsp salt
Approx. 500ml olive oil
2-3 dsps chopped fresh herbs
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
A large glass jar (a Kilner jar is ideal)

Spoon 500g Glenisk Greek Style 
Yogurt into a bowl and give it a mix.

Add 1 tsp salt and stir well to distribute the salt in the yogurt.

Sterilise a muslin cloth. A baby muslin works perfectly for this. A clean one, obviously. You may not want to let on to the kids that you have simply washed and sterilised the cloth you usually have draped over your shoulder when burping baby. 

Place the muslin over a bowl or saucepan and then pour the salted yogurt mixture into the centre of the cloth.

Give it a little wobble to centre the yogurt into one big blob on the muslin.
Bring the edges together and use a string to tie the muslin. 
You will notice that immediately the moisture begins to drip from the yogurt mixture. This is the point where you show off your expert dairy knowledge to your children and explain that the lump in the muslin is the curds and the yellowish water dripping out is the whey. Cue singing ‘Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet….’!

Here comes the best bit of this recipe – place the whole lot in the fridge and ignore for 2-3 days. In order to hang the cheese high enough I removed the middle shelf from the fridge and used a s-hook to hang the cheese from the top shelf. I placed a small bowl underneath to catch the whey. Then I slotted the middle shelf back into the fridge.

Speaking of fridges, if you are anything like me you may want to take this chance to de-clutter the fridge and give it a quick wipe down. It’d be a shame to let your cheese get tainted by the smell of the half a banana that your baby didn’t finish and that has been lurking menacingly at the back of the fridge for a couple of days. (Please say it is not just my fridge that is like this!).

We left our curds and whey in the fridge from the afternoon of the day we made it and the whole of the following day. The afternoon of the next day we took it out and proceeded with the next steps.
Have your sterilised jar, oil, garlic, herbs and spices ready. Then take the curd from the fridge and remove the muslin. The consistency should be a little firmer and dryer than cream cheese.

Add the chopped herbs, spices and garlic to the jar. 

We used thyme, rosemary and chives along with some chili flakes.

Add the oil until it comes about half-way up the jar. Remember the level of the oil will rise as the cheese is added.

Using a teaspoon, break off even-sized lumps from the block of cheese and get the kids to roll these between the palms of their (washed!) hands to form balls. My meat-loving four year old got creative and made some sausage-shaped ones too. Just let them pretend it is plasticine / play dough.

When all the cheese has been shaped, drop it gently, piece by piece into the oil. This will prevent the balls sticking together.

Top the jar up with oil until the cheese is completely covered. Stored in the fridge, the cheese should keep for at least a week, if it survives that long. 

The kids were thrilled to have made their very own food and I was delighted that we now have Glenisk taste and quality in the form of cheese. It got eaten pretty quickly and was especially popular topped with our windowsill cress, which was ripe for harvesting just one day after we made the cheese. 

The Freerange Family

13 thoughts on “Milk comes from a cow (or goat or sheep), and then? – A Lesson in Cheese-Making

  1. Fionnuala! I am so tempted (at almost midnight) to go and make some of this; I was reading your ingredient list and instructions thinking: “yes!, I've got that!!” right down to the s-hook. I LOVE *tasty* cheese like that, fond memories of fresh crusty bread and our own tomatoes 🙂 This year will be total self-sufficiency: my own bread, own tomatoes and own tasty cheese! Thank you!!

  2. I love the idea of making cheese with the kids, we've made butter before. Turns out though that my 5 year old thinks that cows 'wee milk'. Seems I have a bit more work to do there!

  3. Hmm, yes, you may want to correct that. We have a 7 month old who is still breastfed, so my older boys have a reasonable understanding of where milk comes from.
    Making butter – good idea. I might give that a go too.
    Thanks for stopping for a read.

  4. I agree that it's important for children to understand where food comes from. My ex-husband thought that spaghetti grew on bushes!!!!! Unfortunately, I have the blackest of thumbs, but at least I create our food from minimally processed ingredients. My girls have always known that bread doesn't come out of the oven already sliced and bagged!

    This sounds DELICIOUS! I've made cheese exactly like your first few steps for use in Indian savory dishes, but I never thought to eat it raw! Thanks for linking up at #twinklytuesday.

  5. Oh dear! Had he fallen for the BBC April Foos' DAy hoax? I remember seeing it (possibly a re-run) on TV as a child.
    That is interesting about the yogurt cheese for Indian dishes. Good to know.
    Marinated in the herb and garlic oil, this cheese is quite tasty.
    Thanks for stopping by from #TwinklyTuesday!

  6. I doubt it, seeing as he's American! Any place you see “paneer” in an Indian recipe, they're talking about this cheese. And just about anything marinated in herb and garlic oil is yummy!

  7. What a lovely idea to make some cheese! I completely agree that it is important for children to know where food comes from and they learn so much growing/ making things themselves. It makes them so proud too and encourages them to enjoy eating. Love that they had their cress as part of the meal too. Thanks for sharing #kidsinthekitchen

  8. Wow! This is amazing! I had no idea you could make cheese from yogurt! I am definately giving this one a go! I love how you stored the littl eballs to, it would make a great gift for a foodie friend! Thankyou so much for linking up with #kidsinthekitchen again last week, I'm sorry I am late with commenting, the weekend just disappeared! Todays linky is now live (at last!) it would be lovely to have you again x

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