While I was churning butter my daughter asked me suspiciously and with one raised eyebrow, "You're not going to make cheese next, are you?". I said, "No, of course not, it won't be as easy as butter". But then one of my blog visitors lamented that it's not that easy to find mascarpone cheese in Manila. In my reply I linked a website that teaches how to make mascarpone with heavy cream and tartaric acid. That gave me the bright idea of looking for the recipe for making kesong puti online. The ones I remember being peddled by ambulant hawkers were milky white, soft, slightly salty, and wrapped in banana leaves. I haven't had them since we left the Philippines in 1988 and I was craving for it so badly all of a sudden. I found this which is rather vague and of little help with the amount of ingredients. I borrowed a cheese making book from the library and tried the paneer and farmer's cheese which require no special ingredients, you only need milk (not ultra pasteurized), lemon juice or vinegar, a heat-proof spatula, and a large pot. I combined both recipes using whole milk then soaked the sliced cheese in the salt, water & vinegar bath from the Filipino recipe and voila - kesong puti that is so soft and tasty and almost like the real thing. If I had used carabao (water buffalo) milk, the cheese would have been authentic Filipino kesong puti. Buffalo milk is actually available in Vermont, I think, but the milk is being sold exclusively to mozzarella cheese manufacturers here in the US. BTW, in Italy mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk.
Kesong Puti (Fresh White Cheese)
1 gallon whole milk or a combination of whole and reconstituted instant non-fat dry milk
¼ C white or apple cider vinegar
2 C hot water (optional)
4 cups water
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup salt (add more for saltier cheese)
- In a large pot, heat milk to a rolling (gentle) boil, stirring often to avoid burning the bottom.
- Drizzle the vinegar, cook for 15 seconds while stirring.
- Turn off heat and continue stirring until curds form (whey should be clear and not milky). For softer cheese, stir in hot water now.
- Once you obtain clear separation of curds and whey, let set for 10 minutes.
- When the curds have settled below the whey, ladle the curds onto the muslin lined colander. Tie corners into a knot and hold the bag under running lukewarm water to wash off the vinegar. Gently twist the top of the muslin to squeeze out more whey.
- Shape the cheese in the muslin into a 2½-inch thick log, return to the colander and place a bowl of water or a 5-lb weight on top for 20 minutes.
- Unwrap cheese, cut into ½-inch slices and let soak in the salt bath for 15 minutes.
- Store in refrigerator with a little of the salt bath. Will keep for 2 weeks.