Farmer’s cheese, homemade (Jeben baladi)

This is a good, plain, white cheese that can be easily made without any special equipment in one leisurely afternoon. It is close to the Mexican queso fresco. Its taste improves the day after, as it gets more compact. Eat it plain with some bread; or serve it  with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs.

INGREDIENTS and supplies: The quantity will yield about 6 balls of cheese.

Recipe is adapted from Linda Dalal Sawaya’s Alice’s kitchen

  • 1 Large gallon-size bowl
  • 1 large colander or sieve
  • 1 cheesecloth or cotton muslin and several small ones (8in squares approximately) to squeeze the cheese (about a dozen)
  • 1 8-quart stainless steel or enamel-lined pot to cook the milk in
  • 1 small ramequin to crush the rennet tablet in
  • 1 Gallon of whole organic milk (if possible)
  • 1 rennet tablet
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of extra milk (for mixing with the rennet)
  • 1 tray to place the formed cheese balls
  • 1 glass bowl with a cover or plastic wrap to store the cheese

METHOD:

  1. Let the milk sit at room temperature for at least one hour; (it needs to be at room temperature)
  2. Crush the rennet tablet in small ramequin with 2 tablespoons of milk and set aside.
  3. Heat the gallon of  milk till warm in the pot. Add the rennet dissolved in milk and stir with a large spoon or whisk. Remove the milk from heat, cover the pot and let the milk mixture stand for 2 hours undisturbed.
  4. Heat the milk again until the mixture curdles; stir the mixture frequently and keep heating it until the whey appears (the clear liquid when the milk separates). At this point, you will pour the milk carefully into the colander that is draped with a cheesecloth. Keep the whey that collects underneath if you wish to make areesh, a ricotta-type cheese later on.
  5. Scoop out a generous amount of curds (careful, it is HOT) and place on a smaller piece of cheesecloth; enclose the cheese curds and squeeze the ball to press out as much liquid as possible. Place the ball of cheese on a glass tray. Continue with the remaining curds until all have been formed into cheese balls.
  6. Sprinkle salt on the cheese balls and let them sit at room temperature for one hour till cool; press them some more to squeeze even more water out and store them in the fridge in a glass bowl covered in plastic wrap or a cover. The cheese can be served right away, but it will taste better the next day.

NOTE: The cheese will keep for 7 days refrigerated.

You can use goat milk instead.


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18 Comments

  1. Posted August 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m so making this. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. Posted August 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh this is marvelous – I will make this when I have company over next. You think I can serve this with some chipotle cranberry relish that I had made previously? I am just wondering if it will be too strong.

    The thought of pot cheese is wonderful. THANKS for sharing Joumana :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  3. Linda
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Would love to press them into a mold, the second squeezing ;) Also – can I add herbs (zataar??) at the end?

  4. Joumana
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    @Linda: Adding zaatar is a great idea, it is actually done with a different type of cheese in Lebanon called shankleesh.

    @Devaki: I love the idea of the chipotle cranberry relish with it.

  5. Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    That is awesome! Lovely fresh cheese.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Have to try this – if I can find the rennet tablets.

  7. Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    That’s fantastic…homemade cheese. I haven’t even heard of rennet. Don’t think I have seen it while shopping. Must be so fun to make. I need to go and look for rennet. I think I just didn’t look more carefully :P Thanks very much for sharing, Hope you have a great week.

  8. Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I have not seen rennet tablets in years, maybe if I ask……… Diane

  9. Posted August 3, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I have never been very successful in my cheese making attempts so far, but this sounds really easy. Thank you for the recipe!

  10. Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Now that I’ve perfected my labneh cheese (uh, that is draining yogurt in a cheese cloth), I shall perhaps need to move on this lovely and more complex cheese option. Thanks!

  11. Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Very cool! I keep telling myself I’ll make cheese one day… I love this kind of fresh cheese eaten just with a drizzle of olive oil and a grinding of pepper. Delicious!

  12. Ausra
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I used to make this all the time when we were spending our summers on the farm; and without any rennet tablets – I was just letting the milk sit at room temperature for a day or so in a big open container (a big mixing bowl, or a 10 L enamel bucket in my case!), covered loosely with a towel; whole milk will get sour at room temperature and will curd into cheese when heated up; adding a generous amount of buttermilk to whole milk would greatly speed up the process.

  13. Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Will have to look for rennet tablets. Cheese is crazy stuff. We take it for granted. But a rep from Murray Cheese (out of New York) did a great spiel on Science Friday a few years back:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120890754

    and

    http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200908146

  14. Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Il ne me reste qu’à acheter de la présure. Une recette géniale comme d’hab.
    A très bientôt.

  15. Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    A lovely cheese, Joumana! My favorite way to eat fresh white cheese is with a drizzle of olive oil and za’atar.

  16. Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Excellent. btw, I do it without animal rennent, shown on my blog with homemade Ricotta, you can also by veggie rennent at Earthfare.

  17. Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t ventured into the world of cheese-making yet but this sounds like a delicious recipe that I’ll save for when the mood strikes!

  18. Posted December 2, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Incredible. I don’t think I would have the courage to make this without more precise instructions – temperature and time. I would love to give it ago – so next time you make it, if you can write those down, let me know! I am head over heels in love with cheese making. Every country has beautiful fresh cheeses – and with my love for Lebanese food can be sure I would love it!
    :)
    V

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