Thursday, May 5, 2011

RECIPE - Rennet Cheese (Queijo Coalho)

Although huge amounts of Brazil's favorite cheese, queijo coalho, are produced industrially in large production facilities throughout the country, many people continue to make their own cheese at home, just as their ancestors have done for three or four centuries. Especially in its fresh form, which can be eaten within a few days of production, queijo coalho is relatively simple to make and doesn't require cheesemaker skills or industrial-level techniques or quantities. And the resulting cheese is uncomplicatedly delicious, with flavors that echo back through the culinary history of Brazil - it's instant nostalgia for most Brazilians, and instant passion for those foreigners who are lucky enough to taste homemade queijo coalho when in Brazil.

The recipe which follows is traditional and comes from a website called Nordeste Rural (Rural Northeast). On the site it's entitled Queijo Coalho Nordestino (Northeastern-style Queijo Coalho) but the recipe really doesn't vary much from region to region in Brazil.

Making cheese is something that very few of us imagine undertaking at home, but for adventurous cooks queijo coalho is a perfect home introduction to the art of cheese making. And once you have the recipe under your belt, you'll be able to begin to elaborate it, adding flavors such as herbs, aging it in the refrigerator, or even cellar-aging it if you have the proper conditions.

Note: This recipe calls for liquid animal rennet, which is NOT the same thing as junket rennet sometimes sold in the pudding/Jello section of supermarkets. It is available from cheese maker supply houses, and can be purchased online if it's not available in your area. A good online source in the USA is New England  Cheesemaking Supply Co. and a link to liquid animal rennet on their site is here.
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RECIPE - Rennet Cheese (Queijo Coalho)
10 quarts (10 liters) whole cow's milk, pasteurized
1 Tbsp. liquid animal rennet (see note above)
1/4 lb (100 gr) non-iodized or Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the milk slowly to a boil, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Once fully boiling, remove immediately from the heat and let cool completely.

Add the liquid animal rennet to the cooled milk and mix completely. Let stand for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the milk has entirely coagulated. Using your hands, scoop out the curds of milk and put them in a large cheesecloth-lined sieve placed over a large bowl. Using your hands, mix and move the curds around in the sieve, pressing down lightly to extract additional whey. Continue the mixing process for 10 to 15 minutes, increasing pressure slightly toward the end of the process in order to drain off more whey. Let the curds rest in the sieve for half an hour for the last of the whey to drain off.

Lift the cheesecloth from the sieve, and squeeze it into a ball to complete the draining process. Place the curds on a large cookie sheet, or on a clean granite or marble counter-top. Meanwhile, bring 1 quart of the reserved whey to a boil, then let it cool slightly so that it's only warm. Sprinkle it over the curds, then using your hands mix it in until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Sprinkle the salt over the mass of curds, and mix in thoroughly with your hands.

If you have cheese forms (available at cheese supply houses) you can proceed to pack the curds into the forms, pressing down to extract all liquid. If you don't have cheese forms, simply gather the curds into a new or totally clean tea towel, twist the towel into a ball shape and squeeze it dry. Then secure the towel tight around the ball of cheese and set it in a large sieve over a plate.

Place the pressed cheese in the refrigerator. After 24 hours, you will have very fresh, light cheese similar in texture to fresh mozzarella. You can leave the cheese to mature for up to 3 or 4 days, and it will become firmer each day. The flavor will continue to develop as well. Within 3 or 4 days, the cheese will be ready for slicing. Eat within one week.

11 comments:

  1. Man... I'm brasilian, living in Fortaleza as well, and by December there will be another foreigner living here, and loving my city and my culture: My soon-to-be wife! An asian who is leaning about brasilian way of cooking by reading what you have written so far... and, by the way, she loves your blog. Thanks for the recipies!!!

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Carlos. Let me be one of the first to welcome your bride-to-be to Fortaleza. I'm sure she'll love it here. And I'm happy that she's finding Flavors of Brazil useful in adjusting to Brazilian culture.

    JAMES

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  3. Hi.

    I followed your recipe above for the Queijo Coalho cheese. It came out very very salty. Is it supposed to be that way? I think 100g of salt is probably too much. I'll probably use half that amount if I try this again.

    I was also confused why it was necessary to drain the whey, then add 1 qt back again. Usually with cheesemaking you want to get as much whey as possible out. I expected it to run right out again during pressing and hopefully remove some of the salt in the process, but it seems to mostly be incorporated into the cheese. I'll know more in a couple days after I continue to press and let it ripen some more.

    Thanks for posting the recipe.

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  4. In my previous comment, I said I thought the cheese was too salty. After pressing it and letting it age for several days, it became very flavorful. Still salty, but not in a bad way. Thanks for the recipe.

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  5. Hi - Thanks for the comments and thanks for returning to tell us about the final result in terms of salt. When I've eaten queijo coalho here in Brazil I've noticed that sometimes it's saltier than other times, but it always has a fair quantity of salt - a bit like the situation with feta cheese.
    JAMES

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  6. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.
    cheese making supplies

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  7. is there any reason you dont use a cheese culture for the this cheese

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  8. Reviving old post, just wanted to say thank you, I'm BR living in US, can't find Queijo Coalho here and I didn't try to do this recipe yet, but I'll definitely will give it a try, so, thanks!

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  9. Can you half the ingredients without issue to create a smaller quantity of cheese? (I would assume so, but know nothing about this!)

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  10. I have been following the recipe, but after adding the rennet, the milk didn't coagulate. Any thought?
    Thank you!

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