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Bert Greene's Kitchen

Reborn Cheese Recipe From Food Quarterly

August 20, 1987|Bert Greene | Greene is a New-York based food writer

Tell me I am being churlish (or biting the hand that figuratively feeds me) but I believe far too many cookbooks are being published in the United States. Particularly in light of a recent consumer report stating that more Americans are cooking less.

The exact number of cookbooks produced annually is hard to ascertain, but R. R. Bowker's "Books in Print" recently hazarded a guess that there are more than 6,000 currently in print and on the market this summer, with at least 100 others waiting in the wings for early fall launching and double the number to be released in time for Christmas sales.

Obviously, I have nothing against cookbooks--they are my way of life--or cookbook authors in general. But it seems to me that too many of the published offerings of late fit a familiarly dreary mold covering the same culinary territory and logging highly similar recipes as books that came earlier.

Dearth of Ideas?

It may be the dearth of fresh cookbook ideas or perhaps a return to more homey kitchen roots that has occasioned the renaissance of several choice quarterlies about food being produced in outlying areas of the country at the moment. The first to come to mind, John Thorne's Simple Cooking Series, recently moved from Boston to rural Maine. Now, from equally bucolic territory, Peacham, Vt., comes a new and beguiling culinary paper: The Art of Eating by Edward Behr.

Recently, under Behr's influence, I made a recipe for fresh white cheese from whole milk and cream in my totally inappropriate urban kitchen. It was, as promised, a wholly exciting operation. The Art of Eating is available by subscription only, $14 a year for four (eight-page) issues. Write to The Art of Eating, HCR 30, Box 3, Peacham, Vt. 05862.

SWEET FRESH MILK-CREAM CHEESE

1/2 gallon whole milk

1 cup whipping cream

1/8 tablet rennet dissolved in 2 tablespoons water or 10 drops liquid rennet dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Place milk and cream in large saucepan. Place saucepan in larger pan half-filled with water. Warm over medium heat until milk mixture reaches 80 degrees or until mixture feels lukewarm when finger is dipped in pan.

Remove warm milk from heat. Stir in rennet. Cover saucepan and keep in warm place about 3 hours. Mixture is ready when you can see curds separating from side of pan.

Rinse 18-inch-square cotton cheesecloth in cold water. Wring out. (If cheesecloth is loosely woven, use double thickness). Line colander with cheesecloth. Place colander over large bowl. Gently stir tender curd to break into 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch pieces to free whey. Ladle curds, which resemble yogurt, into cheesecloth-lined colander and allow to drain 1 hour.

Gather together corners of cheesecloth. Tie well with string and hang bag from hook. Keep large bowl underneath.

Let curds drain about another hour, then dump forming cheese into empty bowl, scraping cheesecloth clean of any curd clinging to it. Mix firm outside layer into soft center and place cheese back in cheesecloth. Retie and hang up to drain again 4 to 5 hours or overnight.

When bag of curds no longer releases liquid, cheese is ready to be eaten. Scrape into crock or small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Fresh cheese has limited shelf life in refrigerator, about 4 to 5 days. Makes about 3/4 pound cheese.

Note: I like this cheese straight, but Behr suggests seasoning variations: Season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, sluice with fresh or sour cream, sprinkle with sugar on top with dressing of raisins and chopped candied orange peel marinated in Cognac overnight.

Liquid rennet, a vegetable base concentrate, is available at most health food stores.

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