The "White Cheese" but it is sometimes called
Fromage Fraise ... the "fresh cheese"
Now when Ricki suggested I do a recipe page for Fromage Blanc, I must say that I was less than excited initially. However, after a month or so of researching and making this wonderful cheese I am seeing this as a great cheese in the kitchen with more flexibility for the cook/cheesemaker than many of the better known cheeses.
It will now be in my fridge on a regular basis.
This is a cheese we should all get to know better !
What is it?
Fromage Blanc is a fresh, easy-to-make cheese. Of French origin, its name simply means "white cheese" and it makes an excellent cheese spread with herbs and spices added to it.
It can also be used by itself as a substitute for cream cheese or ricotta in cooking. It can have the consistency of a cream cheese with a fraction of the calories and cholesterol. It can also be made to have the texture of sour cream or a thick drained yogurt. You can also make this with either whole or skim milk so you can make it as lean or as rich as you care to.
So, it is beginning to look like this is the Chameleon of the cheese world and that IS what we have here. Fromage Blanc can be easily made at home with one of our Fromage Blanc cultures but the best thing is that you can make it the way you prefer.
The beauty of making this at home is the range of consistencies you can create by simply varying the process a little.
I have include details on this at the bottom of the page.
What do you do with it?
It goes with: Nuts, berries, spices, fruit, chutney, herbs, soups, breads, chiles, etc. etc.
It can be spreadable or pourable.
It can be sweet and it can be tart.
Yes, it is quite the versatile cheese!
Fromage Blanc compared to similar cheeses:
Fromage Blanc is prepared in much the same way as Creme Fraiche, but is made with milk instead of cream for a lower fat food. It is also more tart in flavor then Creme Fraiche and can be softer in texture so it can be used as a topping for soups and fruits and in other similar ways.
As mentioned above many folks compare Fromage Blanc to a drained or Greek style yogurt and often it is suggested as a replacement ingredient in recipes.
The fact is that these are very different from one another:
Fromage Blanc is made from bacteria working at low temperatures and with a bit of rennet added (included in our Fromage Blanc cultures). The milk for this never goes above body temperature so it is great for folks wanting to retain the good things from raw milk.
Yogurt on the other hand is made from a bacteria combo working at higher temperatures and no rennet is added. It also needs to be heated well beyond body temperature to 185-190F and thus destroying the natural flora and enzymes from raw milk. This is done to release the whey proteins which can then be used for better texture and food value in the yogurt.
Quark is another cheese quite often compared to Fromage Blanc. It is not so common in the US but in Germany and the rest of Europe it is easily found and quite popular. This is very similar to the Fromage Blanc and made at similar lower temperatures. The bacteria that are used for this are more aromatic and no rennet is used.
Before you Begin:
You will need:
1 gallon of whole or skim milk (Not UltraPasturized)
plus a good stainless pot to hold the milk with a cover
1 packet of our Fromage Blanc culture (this also contains the pre-measured rennet). Many of our German customers also use this with skim milk for making their Quark and love the results
Ricki often substitutes the C31 Fromagina culture which has a bit less rennet for this one.
A good thermometer could be a help
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to transfer the curds with.
Optional herbs, fruit, etc plus a bit of salt to your taste
A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.
Now lets make Fromage Blanc:
Converting the milk
Heat your 1 gallon of milk to 86F while stirring slowly. You can use a thermometer but this is so close to our body temperature that when the milk feels neither cool nor warm it is close enough.
Once it reaches this temperature you will open the packet of our Fromage Blanc culture and sprinkling it on the milk surface waiting 1 minute and then stirring it into the milk for a couple of minutes. This starter culture contains bacteria and rennet.
Next, allow the milk to sit quietly on the counter at room temperature 68-74F for 12-14 hours. The milk will drop in temperature during this time to that of the room. During the winter it would best to keep the pot covered with towels or a blanket to keep from getting cool. The best time to do this is in the evening because the curds will be ready to drain in the morning and can be draining while you are busy doing other things or at work.
During this time the bacteria in the culture converts the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid which gives the cheese its flavor and increases the acidity of the milk.
The rennet coagulates the milk. The milk will coagulate into a gel after a few hours. When this solidified mass shrinks slightly, visibly pulling away from the edges of the container, the coagulation is sufficient. The Fromage Blanc at this point will look like a block of curd floating in clear whey.
Separating the Whey
Our next task will be to separate the solids (Curds soon to become cheese) and liquid called whey.
We will begin by lining our sanitized colander with the cheese cloth in preparation for draining. If you would like to save the whey for cooking or other uses simply drain it all into another pot.
You are now ready to transfer the curds to the draining cloth. Note the firmness of the curd in the photos below. Simply ladle the curds into the cloth and allow the whey to drain off.
Note the clear whey that is forming below as the curds are cut and ladled. This is our next objective to remove enough of this moisture for the cheese we would like.
Once the curd is transferred you can bring the corners of the draining cloth together and tie them off. It should then be hung for several hours to allow the whey to drain off. This can take from 3-12 hours depending on the final moisture desired.
This is usually done at room temperature of 65-74F since lower temperature will slow the draining process and higher temperatures will cause faster draining and a drier cheese.
You may find that you need to open the cloth and scrape the edges to help the draining whey.
The Final Cheese
The final curd that forms is totally in your control. Simply allow it to drain until you have the consistency you like. The photos below will make a drier spreadable cheese when mixed with herbs.
The fresh curds are now ready to use. Add a bit of salt to taste and blend it in well until the texture is consistent.
Since this cheese is fresh and will be consumed within a short time, fresh herbs, spices, chiles, nuts, fruit, etc. can be added at this point.
It is now ready to be eaten directly or packed in a container to be stored in the fridge. It should last for 7-10 days.
You are the Cheese Maker -- Tips and Tricks:
NOTE: in general this is the SECRET to all good cheese making. Controlling the time and temperature.
As you may have noted in this page so far, I keep mentioning that this cheese can be made to your preference. So what does this mean? This means that you decide on the use for the cheese and make it the way you want.
Do you want a tart cheese to contrast another food element or a sweet one that will merge better with fruit or dessert?
Do you want a very moist flowing texture for topping or blending or do you want a dry cheese with a cream cheese like texture?
The choice is yours!
Sweet or Tart?
Your control for this is in the temperature you set the cheese at and how long it ripens for. Higher temperatures and longer times mean that more lactose is changed to acid and the result is a more acid flavor.
6 hours will give you a sweeter cheese and the longer 12 hour plus will produce a much more acid flavor.
I have begun the ripening in this recipe at 86F because this is the best temperature for this culture to ripen at but others have opted to begin the ripening at room temperature and that is fine. It will just take longer to achieve the same acid level. Lower temperatures than indicated room temperatures may lead to a stalling of the cultures activity.
Notice the amount of whey that begins to form on the top of the curd. First a few drops, then small pools, finally the entire surface is covered and the curd begins to pull away from the pot.
Taste the curds at these points and get to know the flavors. Remember good cooks taste often!
Dry or Moist?
You can control this by the draining time and temperatures. For a very moist liquidy cheese, less draining time and lower temperature is best. The longer the curds drain and the higher the temperature, the drier the cheese.
Too high a temperature and excess time may lead to a very dry chalky cheese texture.
Again, watching the process puts you in control. Open the draining cloth and examine the texture/moisture as you go. This is yours to control.
Once you have made a few batches you will know much more about the process and less attention will be needed to achieve the results you are looking for.
Cheese is too firm when the taste is right?
We have developed our culture packs with some very specific intents for each product.
Our Fromage Blanc culture C20 is prepared with more rennet than our Creme Fraiche culture C33 so if you are looking for a less firm curd try replacing the C20 with a pack of the C33.
||Hearing about your wonderful cheese making adventures always brightens up our day. Please feel free to send us stories and maybe even a photo to:|
What are people saying about us? Check it out here.
The Cheese Queen is in Food and Wine and Barbara Kingsolver's
book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!
Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!
Ricki, the cheese queen