George R.R. Martin, author of the popular “A Game of Thrones” series, quipped, “Give me a good sharp knife and a good sharp cheese and I’m a happy man.” We are inclined to agree with Mr. Martin but let us not forget about the fresh, delectable non-fermented cheeses.
As many varieties of farmer’s cheese exist as there are regions of the world. Farmer’s cheeses are made in two ways: Bacterial coagulation with rennet or acidification with consumable acids. Whey is then drained from the curds for different lengths depending on the type of cheese being produced.
Cottage cheese is curd which has not been fully pressed. Cream and salt is usually added in the final steps to increase the flavor. The texture is dry and crumbly and the cheese is white and buttery in flavor.
Queso blanco is the Iberian peninsula’s variety of farmer’s cheese. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk. This cheese is easily produced, simply heat milk with vinegar until the curds can be drained from the whey.
Paneer, a cheese familiar to South Asia, is made by acidifying milk with lemon juice or vinegar. The cheese is used in a myriad of recipes and it has a variety of flavors. Fresh paneer is fantastic covered in dough and deep-fried.
Most non-fermented cheeses are incredibly easy to make in the home. Both processing methods only require a few tools and the proper ingredients. Mozzarella, perhaps the most famous non-fermented cheese, is uniquely handled after creation.
Those smooth, strands of white mozzarella are produced through pasta filata which is the Italian process of stretching and kneading until the correct consistency is achieved. Afterwards, the fresh mozzarella is rolled into a ball or braided. Cheese making kits contain the tools and ingredients needed to make great mozzarella at home.
Mozzarella produced from the milk of water buffalo is called mozzarella di bufala. This variety has a richer and more complex flavor than the cow’s milk used when making mozzarella fior di latte. Cow’s milk is cheaper to find but still produces a very flavorful cheese.
Both varieties of mozzarella are excellent in salads, pizzas and inside calzones. Another great taste combination is fresh mozzarella rolled in basil and served with fresh tomatoes.
The non-fermented cheeses can provide just as much flavor as their cousins and offer unique textures. Producing them at home is entirely worthwhile and relatively easy. Enjoy!