SPICY FRESH QUESO BLANCO

SPICY FRESH QUESO BLANCO
Reprinted with permission from Hay Fever: How Chasing a Dream on a Vermont Farm Changed My Life by Angela Miller with Ralph Gardner, Jr. (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Angela Miller and Ralph Gardner, Jr.

Makes approximately one 8-ounce cup

My first attempt at making cheese at home was this simple Mexican-style queso blanco, which is similar in texture to farmers' cheese. I leave the more sophisticated cheeses to our professional cheese makers and still make this one on my own.

There are no tricks to making this cheese. All you do is bring the milk just to its boiling point, then add acid in the form of vinegar or citrus juice. Use a thermometer to make sure the milk reaches the correct temperature.

You can flavor the cheese in innumerable ways. I like to give it some kick with chiles or dried red pepper flakes, which I always seem to have in the house, and sun-dried tomatoes for richness.
The mild, soft cheese absorbs flavor easily while marinating and becomes delicious.

Serve crumbled on salad greens — just add vinegar or a light, tart dressing.

2 quarts raw goat's milk (or any milk, including store-bought cow's milk)
1/4 cup acid (white vinegar or citrus juice such as lemon or lime)
Salt to taste
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons slivered sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon seeded, chopped jalapeños or red pepper flakes (optional)

1. In a medium pot, heat the milk over medium heat to just below boiling — about 185 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the acid slowly, stirring constantly. The curds and whey will start to separate right away.

2. Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth. When the curds are fully separated, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in the strainer.

3. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang it to drain over the sink faucet for at least two hours or overnight. (You can also tie the cheesecloth around a heavy wooden spoon, then hang the spoon over the edges of a pot to allow the cheese to drain into the pot.) Make sure that it is no longer dripping whey.

4. When the cheese is dry, cut it into cubes.

5. Put the cheese into a small bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Add the olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and jalapeño or red pepper flakes and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Cheese will keep in the refrigerator in a covered container about four