What goes with Latvian saki?

  • 2014-06-04
  • By Mike Parr

SAY CHEESE: Parr can now enjoy an evening of homemade wine and cheese.

ALUKSNE - It would be a shame to waste the twelve liters of milk my goats give every day. But there’s only so much my dogs - Ellie, Jeb - and I can drink. I’ve discovered that the answer to the excess milk issue is to make cheese and yogurt.
Despite what cookbooks or instructional videos might tell you, making cheese is a very simple. You need: milk (not skimmed or low fat, otherwise the milk won’t separate into curds and whey), a little salt, something acid to curdle the milk (I use vinegar, but lemon juice is great, too) and finally, a heat source.

Add the salt to four liters of milk (about a teaspoon of salt should be enough, you can always add more later if you want a saltier taste) and gently heat the milk to 80 degrees centigrade. Add the acid. Stir once; if you stir too much then the curds break up and become too dry in the final product. Keep the milk at 80 degrees for 5 minutes, then put aside to settle.
My golden rule is: you can look, but don’t touch. Give the milk a chance to curdle. That is, it separates into milk solids (the curd), and liquid (the whey). After fifteen minutes or so, gently spoon the curds that will have set on the top of the liquid into a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a tea towel, or even a coffee filter. This allows the final draining of the curds.
Leave the curds to drain for half an hour or so. The longer you leave it the crumblier the resulting cheese will be; feel free to experiment, that’s what I do, and why not? It’s your cheese, you decide!

After the cheese has drained, and, if you haven’t already, pull a piece off and taste it. Does it need more salt? Maybe you want to add some fresh chives, or small chunks of pineapple? Now is the time to do it. Simply throw in your extra ingredients and give it all a little stir.

The final step is to wrap the curds up in a cloth, tighten the cloth to make the curds form a ball (or put them in a small dish, ready for serving), place it in the fridge for an hour or so and there you have your very own homemade, fresh creamy cheese! Great for spreading on crackers or crusty bread.

But, I haven’t finished yet! Don’t throw away the whey. Put it back in the pan and quickly heat it to just over 90 degrees centigrade for five minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool until it’s warm to touch, then pour it through a coffee filter. Scrape out any remaining curds that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and leave it to drain.
Now, not only do you have your fresh cheese, but a beautiful creamy, rich, slightly sweet Ricotta. The final whey that is left after all these processes can be used to water your houseplants, used to bake with, or chilled and drunk as a refreshing afternoon tipple. (although personally, I think that it is an acquired taste.)

I bet you never thought you could get so much out of a humble bottle of milk!
A nice glass of wine is an excellent accompaniment to go with your fresh cheese. I make a simple rice wine, Chinese style.

Steam some rice until soft. Pour into a bowl, add some yeast (I use baking yeast if I haven’t got any brewing yeast lying around) and then make a well in the middle of the rice. Cover with a cloth and leave somewhere warm for four or five days. The liquid that forms in the well is my rice wine. It may not be as pretty as the bottle of wine you buy from the shops, but it has the alcoholic content, so it does the job. The rice can still be used as a condiment after the wine-making.
Have a go at making your own cheese! I would be interested to know how you get on. I am now experimenting with blue cheese, Camembert, feta and pressing some of my cheeses to try to make a harder cheese that will store for the winter.