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Simple child’s poem is perfect entree to cheese-making lesson

Mon., Oct. 8, 2007

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,

Eating her curds and whey,

Along came a spider

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away.

This childhood rhyme can be tough for many kids to understand; really, who has ever heard of a tuffet these days? Curds and whey, on the other hand, will be a mystery no longer if you try making cheese at home with your children.

Hard, aged cheeses such as cheddar require special expertise and more time than most of us can spare.

But a soft cheese, such as yogurt cheese, with a consistency similar to cream cheese, is fast and easy and can be made with things usually on hand in the home kitchen.

Yogurt can be thought of as the first stage of cheese. In the second stage, the liquid (called whey) is drained from the yogurt, forming the curd.

The resulting curd can be eaten as is or mixed gently with herbs or fruit and served as dessert or a snack. Or, use the cheese in some of the recipes below.

To make yogurt cheese, allow one cup of yogurt for each 1/3 cup of cheese.

Use a yogurt that does not contain any gelatin or fruit. Line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, place it over a bowl to catch the whey, and have your child spoon the yogurt into the filter.

Cover it and place in the refrigerator for a day or overnight, until it is the consistency you like. The longer it drains, the firmer the cheese.

If your family does not eat it right away, store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note: The whey that drained from the cheese is very nutritious. Try using it for the liquid in pancakes or mixed into a smoothie.

Vanilla Cream with Raspberry Sauce

All recipes courtesy

2 cups yogurt cheese

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

Gently mix all ingredients. Put in a serving dish or individual molds. Serve with Raspberry Sauce (recipe below).

French vanilla low-fat yogurt can be strained overnight instead.

Raspberry Sauce

1 15-oz package frozen unsweetened raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup orange juice

Thaw berries, puree and strain to remove seeds. Put berry puree, lemon juice and sugar in a sauce pan; bring to a boil.

Simmer 15 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in orange juice and stir into raspberry mixture. Remove from heat and cool, then refrigerate.

Lemon Yogurt Cream

1 cup yogurt cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tbsp lemon juice

In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients until well blended.

Serve over fresh fruit or fruit crumble or use in any dessert recipe calling for sweetened whipped cream or sour cream.

Marinated Yogurt Cheese

1 cup yogurt cheese

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

1 tbsp fresh dill, minced

1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced

1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

2 cloves of finely minced garlic

Note: If fresh herbs are unavailable, substitute 1/3 of the amount of dried herbs.

Divide yogurt cheese into quarters, shaping into flattened rounds.

Combine all remaining ingredients and pour over cheeses in a small shallow container.

Refrigerate for up to one week. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with crusty French bread or crackers.

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