One of the greatest pleasures that can be had in your kitchen is cheesemaking. I know. I know. It seems complex. It doesn't have to be.
Cheesemaking, as with lactic acid fermentation, arose out of practicality: it provided a way for people to preserve milk for times when the cows naturally went dry. Today, we don't think of dairy products as a seasonal food, but they are, or, rather, they ought to be.
You see, cream and milk is at its freshest and most nutrient-dense in the early spring when young green grasses proliferate and grow. What a cow consumes, not only flavors her milk but also provides its nutrients. When grass, a cow's natural diet, is at its best and richest point, so, then, is the milk the cow produces. For this reason, dairying peoples across the globe valued the cream and butter produced during spring more greatly than the milk produced during the rest of the milking season.
In our home, when the cows from our cow share go dry, we don't rely on grocery store milks; but, rather, we rely on homemade cheeses and yogurts.
Doubtlessly some cheeses are difficult to make, requiring years of practice and exotic starter cultures, but, it can also be made simply and well with little more than a cheesecloth and a good quality homemade yogurt.
Today's assignment is to make your own cheese. If you're new to cheesemaking, begin by making labneh - a soft, spreadable yogurt cheese similar in consistency and flavor to cream cheese or neufchatel. If labneh doesn't strike your fancy, try making homemade mozzarella or ricotta, both of which are quite easy to prepare at home.