I actually found this recipe in a book I borrowed from a friend: Home Cheese Making
. I had been curious about making cheese, and since it didn't call for any specialized ingredients, this seemed like the perfect place to start.
I made it for an SCA event called Beggar's Rebellion.
The instructions weren't terribly clear -- calling for the juice of six lemons and six oranges -- so I measured them for future reference. It came out to be 1 3/4 cups of orange juice and about one cup of lemon juice.
I heated a gallon of whole milk over medium heat. I didn't want to scorch it over a higher heat, and our ancient stovetop is notoriously hot anyway.
I stirred the milk only occasionally in the early phase of heating, just to make sure it didn't burn too badly. During the last several minutes of cooking, after the milk reached about 190 degrees, I had to stir it constantly to prevent scorching and
boiling. It did make a really lovely foam, though.
After the milk reached its required temperature of 205 F, I added the orange and lemon juices, stirred them in a bit, and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
I then poured the mixture into a length of cheesecloth draped over a colander. I gathered up the cheesecloth and hung the bag to drain more fully. This was my first batch of three, so I didn't think about saving the whey. More on that later.
For the first batch, I drained the curds for an hour, then I squeezed out as much excess whey as I could. I didn't know any better. The result was a very dry cheese.
The second batch I made by the same method, only I drained it for about 20 minutes and didn't squeeze it out. After I mixed the two together, it was a bit better, but it was still too dry for my liking.
With the third batch, I was a little smarter -- I saved the whey. After seeing how much drained off, I wish I'd saved the whey from all three batches:
I mixed the third batch of cheese -- which had only drained for 15 minutes -- into the other two. I then gradually blended in some of the whey. I used about a cup total, or what would have been 1/3 cup per batch of cheese. The result was much nicer:
I probably could have added a little more; it seemed to dry out a little as the cheese was stored in the refrigerator. it was still nice, though. The flavor was lovely, too.
Many people at the event seemed to like it, but the citrus flavor was a bit odd for some. I had a good bit of the cheese left over, and I refused to let it go to waste.
About a week later, I looked up a recipe for a Roman cheesecake of sorts in A Taste of Ancient Rome
. The redaction in the book recommended farmer's cheese (I think), but orange lemon cheese made a wonderful substitution. The citrusy undertones were a terrific accompaniment to the poppy seeds and honey. it wasn't sweet like modern cheesecakes, but it was a fine use of the cheese.
Just for the sake of my own fussiness, I'll probably mix the majority of the poppy seeds into the batter next time; they came off too easily when they were on top like that.
And I had still more of the cheese left. I admit: I fretted a bit. It was perfectly good cheese (I hate wasting food anyway, and wasting cheese is just a sin). Also, honestly, after investing the money for three gallons of milk and 18 oranges and 18 lemons, it wasn't cheap.
That was when I really felt inspiration hit me. I dug up a recipe for a ricotta cake. The cheese was a perfect substitute for ricotta. I also threw in some blueberries I had frozen earlier in the year.
Wow, what a cake. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of it. . . but it was a fine piece of nosh, lemme tell ya! I'll have to make the cheese again just so I can make the cake.