When Claudia Lucero reflects on the first time she ever made homemade paneer, an affordable and high-protein cheese popular in India, she calls it a “gateway” moment: an experience that resulted in a long journey of making homemade cheese and eventually creating her own DIY cheese kits (now sold on Etsy and in local shops). This month, the Portland-based cheese connoisseur takes another step deeper into the fun-filled world of fromage with the launch of her new book, One Hour Cheese (Workman, 258 pages, $14.95).
In the curd-filled cookbook, Lucero passes on the art of making simple cheeses—ricotta, mozzarella, chèvre, paneer, and burrata—all in less than an hour. She describes the cookbook, and her initial interest in cheese making, as a way of returning to a centuries-old craft whose popularity has declined in recent decades.
One Hour Cheese is filled with simple cheese recipes as well as tips for stocking your kitchen and keeping things neat and tidy throughout the cooking process. Lucero also offers recipes for using the cheeses in homemade meals—think ricotta cheese tartlets topped with fresh berries or chivo fresco in a Mexican Báhn Mí. Even better? All of the cheese recipes come with easy-to-follow, step-by-step photos, taking the guesswork out of the making of curds and whey.
I love the recipes, and the mission, of Lucero’s new book about as much as the photos and quippy writing. But I also wanted to try my hand at one of the recipes to see just how easy this whole cheese-making thing really is. The verdict? I'm convinced…and am looking forward to a summer filled with fresh cheeses.
If you’re still skeptical, however, don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself with this easy homemade ricotta from Lucero’s book.
Ricotta...in less than an hour!
- ¼ cup of Meyer lemon juice
- 1 quart (4 cups) of whole cow’s milk
- 1 pint (2 cups) of cream
- ¼ teaspoon of flake salt
- Pour milk and cream into a 2-quart stockpot
- Add lemon juice to the pot and set to medium heat. Stir every few minutes to prevent skin from accumulating on the milk’s surface.
- Check the temperature regularly and stir (gently, so that you don’t break the curds that are forming!). Turn off the heat when it reaches 190 degrees F.
- Remove the pot from the burner and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, place a cheesecloth into a colander and, once the 10 minutes has passed, pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth. Allow to rest from 10 more minutes, then pick up and give a gentle squeeze. Set back down and sprinkle with salt, stirring to incorporate salt into cheese.