We had lots of jars of left-over kefir lurking in the fridge. I decided that the time had come to try some interesting cheese experiments. My goal was to make a dry “parmesan”-style grating cheese as well as a piece of hard kefir cheese to coat with wax and age in the fridge.
I started off the cheese making process by straining the kefir through a fine cotton cloth. After 24 hours, I put the whey in a jar to use for making lacto-fermented vegetables, soaking grains etc. The remaining curd was nice and thick. I mixed some sea salt into the curd until it had a nice salty savoury taste.
Next, I had to find a way to press the curd. After some deliberation and assessment of equipment options, I ended up wrapping my little pattie of curd in a piece of muslin and putting it in the bottom of a colander. I used an inverted saucer as a chaser to press down on the curd. After trying several different weights, I settled on a plastic bag full of water. This makeshift cheese press didn’t look very pretty, but 24 hours later I was pleased to find that the curd looked pretty well pressed.
Experiment One: Dry Parmesan-Style Grating Cheese
I broke the pressed curd into small pieces (roughly one inch cubes) and set them to dry on a wooden cheese board on the bench. I have to admit that certain two-legged rats in this household (Kevin and I!) found these little cubes of curd quite tasty and had trouble leaving them uneaten on the bench. I turned the pieces each morning to ensure that they would dry on all sides. I also wiped them every couple of days with a cotton cloth dipped in salt water. This was to stop any mold from growing on the surface of the cheese before it could dry completely. After about a week, the pieces of curd had dried all the way through. They were very hard and smelled very cheesy and pungent! I ground them up in the food processor and mixed the resulting powder with beaten eggs to make stracciatella soup. Kevin and I both found this delicious, but if you are looking for a mild cheese experience I advise you to look elsewhere! We have wrapped the leftover bits of cheese in paper lunch wrap, and are storing them in a jar in the fridge.
Experiment Two: Aged Kefir Cheese
For this cheese, I left the pressed curd in a big piece. I dried it on the cheese board for a few days, turning it and wiping it with salt water to keep the surface clean. Once the surface had hardened up a bit, I coated it with cheese wax and transferred it to the fridge to age. We are planning to let this cheese age for at least a few weeks before trying it, so I can’t yet tell you what we think of it! I’ll be sure to report on the outcome when the time comes.
Please note: I have extra kefir grains if anyone would like some. They are free to anyone who can pick them up from Kaitaia. I charge to ship them to other parts of New Zealand.