The Yogurt Cheesed It
October 9, 2021 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I was making yogurt and accidentally made cheese. Given the sequence of events, what happened and what exactly did I end up making?

I took my non-homogenized milk and heated it to 180F, then let it cool to 110F. During this cooling phase, I accidentally got a little bit of tap water in the milk. Not more than 1/2c, probably less than 1/4c. I inoculated it with the remnants of my previous batch of yogurt and split it into two 2-quart jars and set them in a 110F water bath for the night. A couple of hours later I moved the water bath and must've turned off the immersion circulator because when I checked it in the morning everything had cooled to the ambient 75F, so I just turned the circulator back on to 110F. The yogurt had not begun to set to any significant degree. Maybe an hour later, I checked again, and both jars had curdled completely and they whey had separated out. It smelled like yogurt, so I strained out the whey and salted and pressed the curds overnight. It's fresh cheese. It tastes good.

So first, what happened? Why did it curdle, exactly?
Second, what kind of cheese is this? I'm certain that humans have intentionally performed the process I bumbled into, so what would these smart humans doing this on purpose call my accidental cheese?
posted by cmoj to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and can I age it?
posted by cmoj at 2:12 PM on October 9, 2021

180°F is like 85° of our international science Celsius and 83°C is scalding, bugs killed and protiens denatured. This squeezed thing is a cottage cheese or paneer, but didn't have the lengthened protein strings of halloumi or mozzarella.
posted by k3ninho at 3:06 PM on October 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

It's close to cottage cheese, but according to wiki true cottage cheese gets 'dressed' which is a step you didn't do. It probably overlaps some recipes for queso blanco or bag cheese, but those are broad categories so kind of a cheat. Maybe just 'curds' is the best fit?

I wouldn't try aging it; most of the cheeses I mentioned have short shelf lives. Though I'm sure there are extra steps (like pressing it and adding salt) to make it more viable if you wanted to go down that root.
posted by mark k at 3:09 PM on October 9, 2021

When I make ricotta I heat the milk to 180 or 185 F before turning off the heat and adding lemon juice to curdle it. I wonder if somehow the tap water caused it to curdle? I can't really comment on the cooling down of your water bath because ricotta is a once and done heating process. When I used to make it I'd put the yogurt into a warm water bath set in the gas oven with the pilot light on for the barest amount of heat. Pilot lights are a thing of the past, I think. They were wasteful of gas and dangerous if the pilot blew out. But it worked to make yogurt.

180 seems to be the magic number when making fresh cheese or yogurt, what recipes call "scalding" the milk while not allowing it to boil - it begins to smell the slightest bit nutty and some very tiny bubbles may form around the edges of the milk surface.
posted by citygirl at 3:34 PM on October 9, 2021

Trace bacteria may have come in with tap water. I would not age it; it has been contaminated. Enjoy it as is.
posted by theora55 at 3:47 PM on October 9, 2021

Response by poster: I want to emphasize that it actually is cultured like yogurt. I guess it's close to labneh in that it's yogurty, but with a curdling instead of straight up straining?

Any word on the mechanics of why it curdled under these circumstances?
posted by cmoj at 4:21 PM on October 9, 2021

Oh my yogurt tends to get a little chunky if I culture it at too high of a temperature. I’m not sure exactly why that happens, though. I would not recommend using this batch to inoculate another batch, though.
posted by mskyle at 4:32 PM on October 9, 2021

I believe all it takes is a different bacterial / enzymatic environment to make it curdle--if it's making more lactic acid it will be acidic enough. In between the tap water and the (IMO more likely) big change in the heating regime it's a plausible explanation for what happened.

Alternatively, you had a different mix of proteins after the room temperature period. (I'm assuming total bacteria time was longer than your normal prep approach?). Then heating when you did denatured them, giving you the curd-like substance.
posted by mark k at 4:58 PM on October 9, 2021

Best answer: Aged cheeses are made by acidifying the milk and then adding rennet, enzymes that allow firm curds to form, allowing a good separation of curds from whey. This allows a relatively dry cheese to be formed, which then can be aged without spoiling.

In contrast, ricotta, cottage cheese, paneer and similar cheeses use only acidification to make softer curds that still have more moisture in them. They will spoil instead of aging properly because they will be too wet (or if you try to press the moisture out of them, you'll just end up pressing all the cheese out too).

It sounds like your long, relatively lower temperature fermentation resulted in high acidity from the lactic acid bacteria, so you ended up with yogurt that separated from it's whey or a fresh cheese (this is a continuum rather than two strictly separate categories). Any yogurt will release whey as it becomes more acidic. You can see this in yogurt that you keep in the fridge for a while that forms a little bit of water on top as it keeps fermenting slowly in the fridge and becoming more acidic. What you did is the same thing, just more advanced as your milk became more acidic.

Strain it and enjoy as labneh!

I usually find I make the best yogurt with about four hours of fermentation time — though you may prefer yours with more acidity.
posted by ssg at 6:14 PM on October 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

According to Kenji Lopez-Alt you can make ricotta (no, not true ricotta) by merely heating up buttermilk until it separates. I would guess you formed an incomplete yogurt gel and when you turned the heat back up it caused curdling. I am not an expert on casein, so this is an educated guess
posted by O9scar at 9:35 PM on October 9, 2021

Best answer: You made tvorog, also called quark or farmer's cheese! It's quite nice in quiches as well as in sweet dishes like blinis. Please don't age it, you will get a gross mess.
posted by Grim Fridge at 2:04 AM on October 10, 2021

My guess is that Grim Fridge meant “blintzes” rather than “blini” (which is already plural). Though you certainly can eat blini with tvorog it’s not an automatic association the way it is for blintzes.
posted by sesquipedalia at 7:56 AM on October 10, 2021

I would guess you formed an incomplete yogurt gel and when you turned the heat back up it caused curdling.

The temperature you need to make ricotta is significantly higher than 110F. Curds won't cook at all at 110F.
posted by ssg at 10:26 AM on October 10, 2021

« Older DIY vinyl floor installation: easy?   |   Reasonably priced office chair with cervical... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments