Eating my curds and whey: making yogurt cheese

curds-and-whey

Just a quick post to say that this week, I took my homemade yogurt one step further. At the suggestion of several readers, I made yogurt cheese. It is the simplest cheese imaginable, requiring only a few steps, and no cooking, no rennet, no enzymes. Just some cheese cloth that will help separate the solid parts of yogurt from the liquid.

Yet it took me a long time to attempt yogurt cheese. Here’s why: it always seemed to involve hanging cheese cloth from something, and that is where I got stuck, always. Where, oh where would I hang cheese cloth in my house? How would I keep it safe from wandering, counter-leaping dogs, or friendly, fiesty field mice? Where do these people who hang cheese cloth live?

So this week, I simply put a few layers of cheese cloth in a strainer, plopped the whole strainer over a bowl, and put a big dollop of yogurt right in the middle. The whole contraption looked like this:

yogurt-cheese

(this shot reminds me of our bed when we lived in west Africa, the gauzy mosquito net under which we slept every night. Which sounds romantic, but the truth is, when I look back on that bed, with the lizards that leapt down upon us from the ceiling, the roaches that lived beneath our mattresses, the buzzing, malaria-ridden mosquitos that invariably found their way in, leaving us with 106-degree fevers and night sweats, romance is not exactly what leaps to mind).

Then I put the whole thing in the fridge, and left if for twelve hours.

“It won’t work,” I said to myself, as I walked away from the fridge. “It’s impossible. The yogurt will drip right through, intact. I’m going to wind up with a bowl of yogurt, and a messy cheese cloth.”

But would you believe? It worked. After a while, I was left with this:

yogurt-cheese-top-down

These are the curds. The watery liquid, the whey, drained away from the curds into the bowl.

Now I’m told that the whey can be used in place of liquid when making bread or muffins. I’m also told it can make fantastic lacto-fermented foods. But I did the simplest thing: I just drank it. I just couldn’t let all the good nutrition go to waste. It wasn’t terrible; it tasted like concentrated yogurt. One small cup was enough.

As for the curds? Holy healthy alternative to cream cheese, Batman! It makes a lovely spread for bagels or toast. I ate it plain, but next time, I’m going to add chives and dill, and maybe a touch o’ garlic.

Here, by the way, is the rainbow that appeared outside my kitchen window on the evening I made the yogurt cheese:

double-rainbow

And I’m pretty sure if you make yogurt cheese, you too will have a rainbow appear outside your window. No, really. I’m almost certain of it. Happy Friday, all.

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23 Responses to “Eating my curds and whey: making yogurt cheese”


  1. 1 Miranda April 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I still haven’t found the time/energy to make yogurt, but when I do I’ll definitely be making this cheese as well. Yum.

    And thank you for reminding me of nights under the mosquito net in Mali smelling the mosquito coil and squishing their bloody bodies on the wall. Malaria was no fun, but the rest of the adventure was certainly worth it.

  2. 2 Mir April 10, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    But but but I want your suggestions on recipes that use whey — I made mozzarella from raw milk today (heaven! we’ll have it on pizza tonight) and have half a gallon of whey in the fridge. It’s a different color than I’m used to, too, though I think that’s because raw milk is more yellow than pasteurized/homogenized.

    Help a girl out, Ali! :)

  3. 3 Ali April 11, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Mir! Yay for your mozzarella! I hope that Anna (regular commenter and very food-wise) weighs in here. Or maybe I mean wheys in here (sorry, couldn’t help it). But in the meantime:

    One very out-of-the box thing that you could do would be to lacto-ferment some foods. It’s basically like pickling, but you’re doing it with whey instead of vinegar. It’s apparently crazy-nutritious, and it is easy as pie (but better for you) – just take your veggies, pound ‘em a little to get their juices out, pour whey over them, finish with water, and let sit in the jar for a week or so. You can have pickles! Pickled beets! Salsa! You name it!

    Sally Fallon is the goddess of lacto-fermentation. You can read her here: http://westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/lacto.html

    But. You can also make ricotta, which is made from whey (not milk). Decent instructions here: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/Ricotta/RICOTTA_00.HTM

    As for the whey that’s leftover from THAT? Your options include: (1) biscuits (use whey instead of water – here’s one recipe). (2) beauty treatment (wash your face with it. I know, it’s crazy, but it’s supposed to work). (3) blend with fruit into a smoothie. (4) Add as liquid to some soup.

    But whatever you do? Let me know, will you?

  4. 5 Allison April 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve done this before. When you add herbs and garlic, just remember that a little goes a long way! I am a garlic fan, but I got carried away once and rendered my little cheese inedible. I didn’t realize that the flavor gets stronger as it sits.

  5. 6 mamazakka April 13, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Hi! lovely blog!
    I just wanted to add that you can tie the 4 corners of the cheese cloth together and then hang it from a wooden spoon that is lying across the rim of a deep-ish bowl in your fridge.
    You don’t want it to rest on the bottom, or by morning it will be somewhat submerged in the whey, but with about 2-3 inches of clearance, you’ll get a nice puddle underneath and you’ll sleep easy with no fear of any critters getting to your lovely cheese.

  6. 7 Vikki April 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I want the rainbow but, geez, I don’t think I’m up for making yogurt cheese. I haven’t even made yogurt yet. Is there a way for me to order a rainbow on a yogurt cheese layaway plan?

  7. 8 Ali April 15, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Allison and mamazakka – I really appreciate the tips. I will be doing this again. (a wooden spoon! Why didn’t I think of that?).

    Vikki – hmm. But with the layaway plan, it means the next rainbow you see means you owe the universe some yogurt cheese. Just sayin’.

  8. 9 Brandis April 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    For those of you who haven’t made yogurt yet because you don’t feel you have the time- DO IT! It requires no time, almost negative time. Try the crock pot way (via the crock pot lady- I’m not smart enough to know how to link, so just search the crock pot lady and you should find it on her blog). It is soooo easy and works fabulously. And I always strain my yogurt a little (because the kind I used for starter doesn’t get super firm) so today I just let it strain longer and, tada, yogurt cheese. I don’t use cheese cloth, though, I use old (and clean) pieces of t-shirt (I’m sure that if you use too much detergent and/or don’t get the t-shirt clean enough this could leave some interesting flavors, but I haven’t had any problems) inside a strainer on top of a deep and wide bowl. The last time I strained I used it in some muffins, but I want to branch out (which is how I found this post). But now I’m going to flavor my yogurt cheese to spread on toast- sounds yum!

    Anyone know if you could use yogurt cheese in place of cream cheese in cooked recipes? like, say, cheesecake?

    • 10 Marita Miller August 4, 2009 at 3:40 am

      I use yogurt cheese in cheesecakes all the time and we love it! The final result is a bit tangy but my family and everyone I serve them too is hooked. “Normal” cheesecakes taste a bit bland now. Sometimes I compensate the sourness by adding a bit more sugar to the recipe, but I usually leave it as it is.

  9. 11 Andrea April 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Now you need to take it one step further…add some maple syrup to the yogurt cheese, spread it in a graham cracker crust and top it with fresh (or if you’re in New England in April, frozen) fruit/berries and voila! Yogurt cheese pie!

  10. 12 slimva42 May 27, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    You can use a strainer and a coffee filter. That’s what I use with the strainer placed over a Pyrex measuring cup that allows good drain space.

  11. 13 Sunnyone May 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I just found this blog…how lovely! My 5 year-old wanted me to buy some commercial brand yogurt spread, but when I read the label, I said “No way!” Since I’m my family’s queen of DIY, I figured I could find a way to DIM and make it actually good for her. Then voila – I found your blog. Thanks so much – I’ll be in heaven for a few days reading everything. I can’t wait to try it with the fresh strawberries from my garden. Can anyone tell me what’s the best way to sweeten the cheese and not lose the texture or consistency?

  12. 14 George June 8, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Hi
    Can someone tell me why when I make yogurt sometimes it is very thin and watery and other times it is much thicker?
    Another question … I strain the yogurt through a cloth strainer and collect the liquid. The yogurt is very thick and nice but what can I do with the liquid?

  13. 15 Gillis' June 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    How do you make your own yogurt so that it turns out thick? We get raw milk from a local farm and I have tried 3 times now to make my own yogurt and it is way too thin…basically just liquid. I put 1/2 cup of Stonyfield Farms whole milk yogurt plus enough raw milk to make a quart in the yogurt maker and let it go for 8 hours. Any suggestions? Then I thought that maybe I would make whey with the yogurt that didn’t turn out so I poured it over 4 layers of cheesecloth + colander into a bowl and it was liquidy that nearly all of it ran right through in a matter of minutes. I am frustrated and would love some suggestions. Thanks!

    • 16 Andrea March 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      I just did my second batch of yogurt from nonfat milk and it came out perfect. The first batch was made with 2 quarts nonfat milk, 1 cup dried nonfat milk (no gelatin – not recommended for greek yogurt), and I left it in the yogurt maker for 6 hours. What I had was thick milk. It thickened slightly after putting it in the fridge for several hours (about buttermilk consistency), but then all drained out when I put it in the cheesecloth.

      This second batch I used the same ingredients, but left it in for 12 hours and it is perfect for greek yogurt. The yogurt holds it’s shape when I scooped some out. I put 3 or 4 tablespoons full into a small rubbermaid container as a starter for my next batch, and then 1 quart in the strainer lined with cheese cloth to make yogurt cheese.

      Good luck!

  14. 17 stephenpage June 12, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Just made my first batch of homemade yogurt in an electric heated yogurt maker.

    I was a bit sceptical at first and gave it a gentle shimmy now and then and it looked pretty much like milk until about six hours in, when it appeared to start setting.

    After the 8 hours I was told to leave it. I could wait not longer and popped open the lid and there is was, yogurt and whey.

    I drained off the whey as I wanted thicker yogurt and it was as thick as store bought which surprised me. Pleasantly.

    It’s cooling in the fridge but the sneaky spoonful I took before I put it in there certainly does taste exactly the way I hoped it would.

    I am so happy!

    Yogurt is part of my new lifestyle and I hope it will help me to loose some weight. Thankfully I love low fat yogurt and I made mine with skimmed or 1% low fat milk. I bought the prepackaged UHT milk so I didn’t have to waste time heating it up, etc. Just pour it in and add the starter.

    A whole new world has just opened up and i’m so excited.

    Next on my list is yogurt ice-cream as I have an ice-cream maker and after that I have to try the yogurt cheese!

    Wish me luck!

    • 18 Andrea March 16, 2010 at 9:40 pm

      That was my thought as well – making frozen yogurt. Please let me know once you find a recipe that works well!

      Thanks,

      Andrea

  15. 19 Cat October 13, 2009 at 12:10 am

    I made yogurt using a crock pot for the first time and it was great!!! and oh my so easy….here are some links to using a crockpot

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

    http://www.nourishingdays.com/?p=912

    http://eatingetc.blogspot.com/2009/03/homemade-yogurt-in-crockpot.html

    I used the second link…all of them are basically the same…I am done buying yogurt…Now my next goal is making cheese…but the yogurt is so good we finished it right away…but i want my rainbow

  16. 20 lol October 21, 2009 at 2:06 am

    thats greek yogurt…

  17. 21 Jennifer February 24, 2010 at 4:38 am

    I have just stumbled upon this fabulous blog in my search for a yoghurt cheese recipe. I am having friends for dinner tonight with a last minute request for a lamb salad with roast pumpkin, baby spinach, pinenuts and “whatever cheese they use in the salads at The Sheaf (our local pub).” Well I spent nearly an hour this morning wandering around looking for yoghurt cheese, finally to be found at a huge $9.60 for a very small tub – not a happy outcome for a poor uni student – and while I did buy it so as not to disappoint my guests I became adamant that I could make my own. And here you are! And not only have I discovered the art of making yoghurt cheese, but also this beautiful site :-) Thanks so much!

  18. 22 Dragonlady March 7, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    You can also use a reuseable wire mesh coffee filter as a strainer for yogurt cheese. It fits nicely over a 2 cup pyrex glass measure. You can get a recipe book for using yogurt cheese, they call it “yochee”. There are some good recipes and some that are not so good, you just have to trial and error it. The whey is good for animals, too, and my cats seem to really like it. Apparently it can make “gassy” dogs not so noxious, lol. I use whey in my smoothies, I’ve used it instead of some of the buttermilk in my bran muffins, instead I use fresh milk and half a cup or so of whey. I have tried making Kvass with it, and today I’m going to try to make some fermented carrots and cauliflower. It’s also ssupposed to be good for plants.

    One of my favorite recipes using the yogurt cheese is a spinach/feta pie. Chop about 6 cups of spinach, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt, wait about 15 min. Squeeze out the excess moisture. You should be left with about 1 cup. Mix together 2 eggs, 1 cup yogurt cheese, 2 tsp dill, 1 tsp parsley, 1/2 cup crumbled feta. Stir it all together and put in a casserole dish greased with olive oil, drizzle 1 tbsp. olive oil over it (I often omit) and bake for 40 min at 350. Let rest for about 20 min before eating, it’s best not served piping hot.

    I also love it mixed with homemade lemon butter. I make mine with xylitol instead of sugar because we don’t like to use refined sugar. My husband makes a blueberry sauce with cooked blueberries and xylitol and keeps it in a jar in the fridge and mixes it in whenever he wants some. I’ve also made different fruit jams and keep them in the fridge for a variety when we want yogurt or yogurt cheese. Homemade tzaziki is also delicious with yogurt cheese, it’s much thicker and doesn’t drip off whatever you’re dipping in it. I like to add a bit of crumbled feta in that, too.

  19. 23 Pablito March 14, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I’ve just had a go at making yoghurt cheese. It’s in a double layer of cheesecloth, hanging from an ax handle which i across the bathtub, and with a boiler underneath. It should work fine, I hope.
    My yoghurt method is pretty rough-and-ready, but has never failed me yet. I put 2 litres of full-cream milk in a screw top jar, add about 100-150 mls of Greek-style yoghurt, screw the lid on very loosely, heat a boiler of water to about 50-55 deg C, sit the jar of milk/yoghurt in the boiler. I reheat the mix after it cools down – three or four times over two days, then refrigerate. It comes out as thick as, very sharp, and loverly.


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