Once a month, I purchase a log of Vermont Creamery’s [www.vermontcreamery.com/] fresh goat cheese (priced at a reasonable $7.25 for 10.5 ounces at the Honest Weight Food Co-op [www.hwfc.com]). I enjoy spreading this tangy and creamy cheese on homemade bread or a slice of Berskhire Mountain Bakery’s [www.berkshiremountainbakery.com/] German-style grainy whole meal spelt bread with a dollop of raw honey. This month my log of goat cheese disappeared more quickly than usual, and I decided to address my cheese craving by making some yogurt cheese at the suggestion of a friend, who maintained that it is “simple” to make. He was correct.
To begin, I knew that my local food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, NY, sold Cowbella Yogurt [www.cowbella.com], a wonderful local yogurt, made from a herd of thirty pasture-raised Jersey milk cows in Jefferson (Sullivan County) in the Catskills region of upstate New York. This very reasonably priced yogurt, $3.50 for a 32 ounce container, would be the basis for my creamy yogurt cheese. I used the small dairy’s nonfat plain yogurt with its simple “All Natural Ingredients”: pasteurized skim milk, live active cultures including L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus.
Preparing yogurt cheese, though simple, requires some ingenuity. Rather than utilizing layers of cheesecloth, I searched the kitchen utensils and dry goods aisles of the Honest Weight Food Co-op, for an alternative way to strain the whey out of the yogurt in order to produce a creamy yogurt cheese. I found “the Natural Scrub Cloth” [www.rrtextilemills.com], a “natural [no dyes] and sustainable kitchen cloth used in restaurants for over 20 years.” Although suggested uses included “capturing food particles and safely scrubbing cooking oils from all surfaces. . . wiping down your flat-top grill to cleaning your stainless steel pot,” the “open-stitch, double-knit design” would work well, instead of cheesecloth, to strain the whey out of yogurt. Since the un-dyed cotton cloths could be laundered, they were reusable, and the $6.59 cost of 2 individual cloths was reasonable. One drawback was the small size (especially after laundering before using in the recipe) of the individual cloths, 12 inches by 12 inches, which required the use of two setups of a funnel, lined with a cloth, draining into an empty yogurt container. Nonetheless, this sparks the idea to prepare one small batch of plain creamy yogurt cheese, and a second small batch of yogurt cheese flavored with lemony parsley, the next time I utilize this recipe. My first time around, I combined the two small batches and made one large batch of creamy yogurt cheese flavored with lemon and parsley.
A versatile and easy herb to grow, parsley has significant nutritional benefits. “The most heavily consumed fresh herb in the United States. . . often it is the only thing left on the plate at the end of the meal, when it may actually have been the most nutritious” according to a fascinating description in Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants (National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 2008). Noting that its exact origins are now obscured in history, “parsley’s genus name Petroselinum comes from two Greek words, Petros meaning rock, from its propensity for rocky cliffs and old stonewalls, and selenium, an ancient name for celery- so one can think of it as ‘rock celery’ [at p. 268].” The entry in Edible also notes: “parsley is high in vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Surprisingly, the leaves also contain a significant amount of protein [p.268].” Since it is too early for homegrown parsley, I purchased a large bunch of fresh organic parsley at the Honest Weight for $1.99. I always have lemons in the refrigerator, and the juice of a lemon was added along with chopped parsley to flavor my creamy yogurt cheese.
In addition to utilizing the creamy yogurt cheese flavored with lemony parsley as a spread, I used it as a topping in pasta and grain dishes. An added bonus, I used the whey drained from the yogurt, in lieu of buttermilk, in preparing corn muffins. The whey had too much nutritional value to simply waste this byproduct which resulted from the preparation of the yogurt cheese.
The Joy of Cooking [http://catalog.simonandschuster.com/] by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (New York, NY: Scribner, 1997), a handy and reliable resource for the kitchen, provided a recipe for Northern Corn Bread (at pg. 777), which I varied by using honey instead of sugar, the whey instead of buttermilk, while also omitting any salt. I also used organic, cold-pressed local sunflower oil ($5.99 per lb.) produced by Stolor Organics in Cazenovia (Madison County) [www.stolororganics.com] instead of melted butter. In lieu of sugar, I used Lloyd Spear’s raw honey from nearby Schenectady County [www.eshpa.org]. This wonderful honey, fairly priced at $25.00 for a 5 pound jar at the food co-op (though my most recent purchase was a 5 pound jar at the Troy Farmers Market [www.troymarket.org/] directly from Mr. Spear at only $21.50) is “produced from cappings and comb honey that are drained and from honey straight from the extractor, complete with all the natural enzymes, pollens, vitamins and complex sugars” according to the label on the jar. For the muffins, I uses “high-extraction wheat” flour produced by Farmer Grown [http://farmergroundflour.squarespace.com/] which grows grains in upstate New York near Ithaca (Tompkins County) and locally mills its flour. The Honest Weight Food Co-op was also the source of (1) organic, yellow corn meal from Champlain Valley Milling (85 cents per lb.), (2) non aluminum, double acting Rumford Baking powder (calcium acid, phosphate, bicarbonate of soda, corn starch from non GM (genetically modified) corn), $3.99 per lb.), and (3) baking soda (100% sodium bicarbonate, 82 cents per lb.).
Creamy Yogurt Cheese Flavored With Lemony Parsley
32 Ounce Container of Nonfat Plain Yogurt
3 or 4 twigs of fresh parsley
Juice of one lemon
Line two funnels individually with a “Natural Scrub Cloth” (or several layers of cheesecloth) and rest them on top of empty 32 ounce yogurt containers. Divide a 32 ounce contained of nonfat plain yogurt between the two setups. Let the yogurt drain for approximately two hours. When the yogurt has drained thoroughly, transfer the creamy yogurt cheese to a bowl.
Finely chop 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley and spread over the creamy yogurt cheese. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the homemade yogurt cheese. Refrigerate. Enjoy as a spread or as a topping for pasta and grain dishes or cooked vegetable, such as broccoli or sauteed spinach.
Corn Muffins (makes one dozen)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Line a muffin pan with paper cups.
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 cup flour (Farmer Ground 50-50 bread flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoon of honey
1 and 1/3 cup of whey, as drained from 32 ounce container of yogurt (in lieu of a mixture of milk and buttermilk)
4 tablespoons of sunflower seed oil (in lieu of melted butter or corn oil)
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir in.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 12-13 minutes in a muffin pan.
Serve with a quality jam (Bionaturae’s Organic Sour Cherry Fruit Spread , a delicious option) or with the homemade yogurt cheese spread!
[FW Barrie. 4/16/12]