We've made fresh cheese before-- paneer, queso fresco, ricotta, mozzarella. This one is about as easy as it gets, and uses buttermilk as the souring agent that initiates the acidification of milk into curds (the fats and proteins that eventually become the cheese itself) and whey (the liquid by-product of cheesemaking).
The resulting cheese has a pleasant, subtle tang, and soft, spongey curds. You can make the cheese soft and spreadable by retaining much fo the whey in the cheese and handling the curds gently. Alternatively, you can squeeze and press on the curds to expel liquid and solidify the cheese, which results in a firmer, denser cheese that could easily fly on a formal cheese board.
The recipe hails from the Lee Bros. new cookbook, Simple Fresh Southern. They suggest variations: Add a teaspoon of lemon zest, dried herbs, or cracked pepper to your pot of milk and buttermilk, or omit the salt and sub in some vanilla and sugar for a sweet cheese.
Take it from this cheesemonger: with a bit of fresh thyme, the lemon version is pretty near perfect crumbled into scrambled eggs, in that so-simple, so-crazy-delicious kind of way.
Get the recipe: Fresh Buttermilk Cheese
Related: Food Science: What is Buttermilk?
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)