Will It Sous Vide?: Fresh Homemade Cheese

Welcome to a very cheesy edition of Will It Sous Vide?, the weekly column where I make things with my immersion circulator. This week we're dealing with a subject that is very near and dear to the very centre of my heart and being: Cheese.

Photos by Claire Lower

Will It Sous Vide?: Super Sweet And Creamy Creamed Corn

Welcome to this week's edition of Will It Sous Vide?, the weekly column where I make things with my immersion circulator.

Read more

Fresh cheese isn't exactly a hard thing to make — and people are always super impressed when you make it — but it does require a bit of watching, stirring, and a bit of babying. All sorts of cheeses can be made simply by heating up some dairy, throwing in some acid to create curds, and then straining away the whey (awhey?), but people can be a little skittish about heating, and thus potentially burning, dairy. Making cheese sous vide eliminates those concerns, turning it into a virtually stress-free activity.

The advantages to sous vide cheese are twofold:

  1. You have precise control over the temperature, so your dairy will never reach potentially harmful temperatures.
  2. The milk is never in contact with a hot pan bottom, so there's no need to stir, which means you can do something else.

The procedure changes slightly with each cheese you make, but the basic outline it this:

  1. Fill a bucket or Cambro with room temperature water.
  2. Put your milk and cream (or milk and cream) in a sous vide bag (freezer bags aren't sturdy enough for the temperatures required) and clip the open end of the bag over the side of the tub.
  3. Set your immersion circulator to the target temperature, and let the milk and/or cream heat up with the water.
  4. Once the immersion circulator hits the target temperature, open up the bag a little and check the temperature of the dairy with an instant read thermometer. Because you most likely started with chilled dairy, it will take the milk a little longer (about five or 10 minutes) to come to temp.
  5. Remove the bag from the bath once your dairy reaches whatever temp you were aiming for, and stir in your acid.
  6. Let everything sit for a spell so curds can form (usually 10 minutes) and strain out the curds through a cheese cloth-lined colander. Transfer to some sort of seal-able container and chill in the fridge.

Once I decided to sous vide cheese, the only challenge was choosing which cheese to sous vide. Ricotta seemed like an obvious starting place, but I had a hankering for chevre, and was in possession of a couple of peaches that were just begging for some mascarpone. And so it came to pass that I stayed up quite late on Wednesday evening, making all three cheeses. This, in turn, led to me eating nothing but cheese and cheese delivery systems on Thursday, not that I'm complaining.

Each cheese has different ingredients (obviously) and cooking temperatures and times, so let's give each one the attention it deserves and address one at a time. We'll start by getting some goat.

Tart and Creamy Goat Cheese (Adapted From The Spruce)

To make this grassy, tart little number, you will need the following:

  • 1L full-fat goat milk (All I could find was ultra-pasteurised, and that ended up working out just fine.)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, pulp and seed strained out
  • Salt to taste

Pour the milk in a sous vide bag and place the bag in a bath filled with room temperature water. Clip the open end of the bag over the side. Set the immersion circulator to 82C, let it come to temperature, and begin checking the temperature of the milk with an instant read thermometer. Once the milk reaches 82C, remove the bag from the bath and set it down in something sturdy. I used a big measuring cup.

So you won't have to cry over... you know.

Add the lemon juice, agitate the bag a bit, and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the now-curdled milk into a colander lined with a couple of layers of cheese cloth, let it drain for an hour and a half, then transfer to some sort of seal-able container. Stir in a pinch of salt, and any flavourings you so desire, such as garlic, lemon zest, black pepper or any other herb. Let sit overnight for best flavour development.

The Richest Ricotta (Adapted From Epicurious)

To make fresh and creamy ricotta, you will need:

  • 2L whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, pulp and seeds strained out

Add everything except the lemon juice to a sous vide bag and place the bag in a bath filled with room temperature water. Clip the open end of the bag over the side. Set the immersion circulator to 93C, let it come to temperature, and begin checking the temperature of the milk with an instant read thermometer. Once the milk reaches 93C, remove the bag from the bath and set it down in something sturdy.

Add the lemon juice, agitate the bag a bit, and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the now-curdled milk into a colander lined with a couple of layers of cheese cloth, let it drain for an hour or more, depending on dry you like your ricotta to be. Transfer to some sort of seal-able container and refrigerate.

Thick and Decadent Mascarpone (Adapted from Food52)

I really love your peaches. (And yes, that is peach sugar.)

To make some truly amazing mascarpone, you will need:

  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, pulp and seeds strained out

Add everything except the lemon juice to a sous vide bag and place the bag in a bath filled with room temperature water. Clip the open end of the bag over the side. Set the immersion circulator to 82C, let it come to temperature, and begin checking the temperature of the milk with an instant read thermometer. Once the milk reaches 82C, let it hang out for three minutes. Leaving the bag in the bath, open it up and add the lemon juice. Give it a little stir with a spoon, clip the open end of the bag over the side of the tub again, and let it cook for another three minutes.

Remove the bag from the water, set it in something sturdy, and let it come to room temperature. Carefully pour the now-curdled milk into a colander lined with a couple of layers of cheese cloth over a bowl and set the whole thing in the fridge overnight. Transfer it to a container enjoy.

Now, I'm pretty sure the question doesn't need to be asked, but I'm going to ask it anyway: Will cheese sous vide?

The answer: You bet your rind it does. The goat cheese was grassy, and slightly crumbly, with a nice lemony flavour; the ricotta was some of the creamiest I've ever tasted, and had a nice sweetness; and the mascarpone was thick and rich — perfect for pairing with ripe fruit for a simple dessert.

Best of all, there was no burning, no scorching, and no stirring. It was real easy cheese, my friends. Really tasty, easy cheese.


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