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Melca
(Fresh Cheese Curds)
by
Arwen Southernwood


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Original Recipe

Melca

Bassus, Country Matters
The best method for making what are known as curds is to pour sharp vinegar into new earthenware pots and then to put these pots on a slow fire.  When the vinegar begins to boil, take it off the flame so it does not bubble over and pour milk into the pots.  Place the pots in a store or some other place where they will not be disturbed.  The next day you will have curds that are much better than those made with a great deal of fuss. 


Redaction

Ingredients:

1 quart whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 pinches salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Preparation Steps

In a saucepan over low heat, mix milk and cream and heat to just over body temperature (105-110 degrees F).  Set aside.  In a heavy saucepan, heat vinegar to boiling.  Remove vinegar from heat and pour the milk into the vinegar pan.  Let stand just until curds form (this should happen almost right away Ė if not, try stirring gently).  Line a colander with heavy cheesecloth  and strain the mixture through this.  Tie up the four corners of the cloth and let hang for 2-4 hours to drain off the whey.  Transfer cheese to serving dish and stir in salt.  The cheese may also be mixed with herbs and spices (see Moretum).  Serve with bread or crackers.  Makes 1 1/4 cup. 

Redaction Notes

This recipe also works well with goat milk, but the curds formed will be very fine (about the size of grains of salt), so you will need very fine cloth to strain the cheese.  I used a linen napkin.  You may also need to add another 1-2 teaspoons vinegar.

Note that in an emergency, you can use the cheap cheesecloth from the grocery store; however, you will need to use several layers or the curd will just strain through.  I usually count on using an entire package of cheesecloth for a single batch of cheese.

Balsamic vinegar is too strongly flavored for this recipe.  It will make an extremely sour cheese.

If possible, use a ceramic- or enamel-coated pan to make the cheese.  Otherwise, the acid will leach metal into the cheese and spoil the flavor.  If you donít have a ceramic- or enamel-coated pan, then remove the cheese from the pan as quickly as possible.

References

  • Grant, Mark.  Roman Cookery:  Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens.  Serif, London, 2000.  ISBN 1-897959-39-7.


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