Do I ever love to learn something new, and cheese-making has been on the list for at least 10 years! Today, I finally got to go to a course in a neighbouring town, taught by the very knowledgeable Bee. The focus on today's course was soft cheeses and we made a yogurt cheese, chevre, paneer, and cotija (a delicious Mexican taco cheese). Bee not only taught us the methods, but the science behind the methods, which I really appreciated.
In the picture below are two types of coagulated milk. The pot to the right has been coagulated using an acid (vinegar) and the action is instantaneous and dramatic. Those curds became paneer. The pot on the left has been coagulated with rennet, an enzyme which produces a different kind of coagulation that is slower and gentler. These curds became chevre, a goat cheese.
And this is what it looked like finished.
It was amazing how much the curds shrunk up.
For cotija, the curds are left in the pot and the whey is ladled out. When most of it is out, the curds are transferred into a cheese cloth. The curds are weighed and then we added 5% of their weight in salt and stirred it in. The curds are then transferred to a cheesecloth lined cheese mold and more whey is pressed out.
Because we ran out of time, we had to do a much shorter pressing time, but the cotija still tasted delicious! Very salty and I can imagine that it would taste delicious sprinkled over refried beans.