I consider myself a decent cook, and I can look at most dishes and recreate them with a moderate amount of success. Two things, however, completely baffle me: yogurt pretzels and cheese. Where do I even begin? No idea.
For my birthday, my friend Jen gave me a super cool book called "The One-Block Feast" by the editors of Sunset magazine. It talks a lot about raising your own food and cooking from local, fresh ingredients. So inspiring, except for the section on raising your own hive of bees. I can only imagine what my homeowner's association would have to say about that.
But there was a section about making cheese, and it looked really easy. I grabbed the nearest lazy spring-break child I could find (this one happened to need a haircut) and got started.
The first thing you do is boil a gallon of pasteurized or raw milk over medium heat in a large stockpot, stirring occasionally so it doesn't scorch. I thought I'd go all the way and get raw milk but it cost about $8 per half gallon so I decided I liked pasteurized better anyway. Just don't use ultra-pasteurized. The book says it won't work and that it tastes weird.
Squeeze 1/2 cup of lemon juice from Grandpa's lemon tree (or the store, if you must).
When the milk starts to boil, turn off the heat and drizzle the juice into the milk, stirring with a rubber spatula until the milk separates into curds and whey. This is cooking magic; it happens in seconds and will make your kid say "whoa!". If your milk separates but the whey looks milky, not clear, put the pot back on the burner and cook at low temp until the whey is clear.
Strain the curds into a cheesecloth-lined strainer (or just a clean dishtowel like I did) and let drain.
Bring the dishtowel up into a ball, give the curds a good squeeze, and let rest, draining still, for about 45 minutes. It'll look like this when it's done.
Knead the cheese with your stand mixer and a dough hook, or by hand, for about 10 minutes. At some point it'll come together and not be loose curds.
I don't know what kind of cheese this is (the book says to add chives during the kneading but of course my little guy opted out of that ingredient). It has a mozzarella taste but a cream cheese-ish consistency. I drizzled a little honey that I had bought at the farmer's market over it, and served it with Wheat Thins. I also used some in pasta for last night's dinner. It's excellent both ways.