November 20, 2009

Check Out My Cheese

Usually I try to come up with a somewhat intriguing title. But this time, the subject was so exciting that I had to rush past the presentation and skip to the good stuff.

I made cheese. No seriously, I did. All by myself. Most amazingly, it was really easy. And most surprisingly, people who usually eat salt, lots of it, liked it.

So the scenario goes like this: like I said in my last post, I signed up to attend the Jam It session at 18 reasons on Thursday night at which jamming, pickling, and DIY-fooding enthusiasts and professionals gathered to share their recipes and their home-made goods. I figured that this was a perfect testing ground to see how normal, everyday sodium freaks would respond to my no sodium food.

At this point, I feel pretty confident in my pickling ability. But to kick this conquest up a notch and give myself an extra special challenge, I decided to roll the dice, make cheese, and feed it to the masses.

Two friends sent me paneer and buttermilk cheese recipes which use milk, lemons, and salt to create the desired final product. For my first attempt, I decided to use hemp milk. I mean, I couldn’t look more like a crazy northern Californian if I tried. Hemp milk has virtually no sodium in it (5mg per serving), but it also has virtually no ability to curd and whey . So I threw the tie-dyed cartoon in the recycling bin and decided to use the real deal. Soy milk.

It has 85mg of sodium per serving and I knew, from an unfortunate previous experiences, that it indeed will curdle unlike its free-loving, hemp substitute. I bought a quart of unsweetened soy milk and used half of it for my cheese.

The entire cheese-making process lasted about 40 minutes, with endless hours of eating enjoyment to follow. I plan on bringing this winning recipe to the east coast for Thanksgiving Day appetizers along with some curry carrot pickles and dill and fennel green bean pickles. You better believe I’ll impress the pants off of those Pilgrims.


  • 1 quart of soy milk
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh dill
  • Cheesecloth


1. Heat half a quart of soy milk in a heavy saucepan – but let’s be honest, I used a pot.

2. When it begins to boil and starts to rise, immediately take it off the heat. Be sure to watch for this, because the milk will rise quickly and if you don’t have cat-like reflexes, you will end up with one hot, sticky mess on your stove.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the milk and stir for two minutes to help separate the curds from the whey.

4. Let the curdy milk sit for 10 minutes.

5. Pour the milk into a colander that is lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth. When it is cool enough to handle, close the cheese cloth tightly around the curds and squeeze out the extra liquid.

6. At this point, since there was no salt in the cheese, I added 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 2 teaspoons of fresh dill. Mix the spices in with the cheese and close the cheese cloth again to remove the remaining liquid.

7. Place the cheese (still in the cheese cloth) on a plate and flatten to about 1/2 inch thick.

8. Place another plate on top of the cheese and weight it with your heaviest (or two heaviest) cooking books.

9. After 20 minutes of flattening, you can refrigerate overnight or use immediately. If it turns out to be a little more chunky and loose, use it as a spread on some crackers with your fennel relish that you made. If it is harder, try preparing it like traditional paneer and fry it in some hot oil.

And just for fun, here is a shot early into the 18 Reasons event. A special shout to Karen Solomon for eating my cheese, liking my pickled fennel relish, and writing a kick ass book that I can’t wait to plow through. Chow on everyone.

sharyn hughes May 15, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I like the idea of making the cheese but did you use only half a container of soy milk?
I ingredients say 1 quart the and recipe half a quart, then the pot looks like it has a decent amount of soy milk in it???
Please clarify soy milk quantity.
Thank you, Sharyn Hughes

Ron R Allen October 19, 2016 at 7:02 pm

I tried to do this today. I ended up with, quite literally, about a tablespoon of cheese at the end, and I used a full quart of unsweetened unflavored soy milk. I tried very hard to follow the recipe and instructions exactly. I have no idea what I did wrong here. What would cause me to have such a low yield? What is the expected yield on this recipe? I’m a cheese lover who hasn’t been able to have any for about a year because of the salt. I was really hoping this would work. I’m perfectly willing to try again, but without having a clue what I did wrong, well… I don’t know where to go from here. I stood over the milk, caught it exactly as you said to do when it started to boil and rise — I didn’t know what you meant by “rise” until I saw it happen today in my own kitchen — I measured everything carefully… I’m a little flummoxed. Advice please? Thank you. Ron

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