Light and fluffy with a mild lemon flavour, lemon cheese is a pretty, delicious cheese made in minutes! Serve lemon cheese warm or chilled, alongside a sliced baguette and drizzled with olive oil (or sweet chilli sauce) and a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Cheese Texture/Type: Soft, Fresh, Acid-Set
Cheese Milk Type: Cow
Cheese Age: N/A
Skill Level: Beginner
YIELD: 300-450g (approximately 2 cups)
8 cups full cream milk (not UHT)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on the milk variety and freshness)
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
Spices (for seasoning, if using)
1. Wash and sterilise cheese-making equipment.
2. Heat the milk in a large pot over direct heat and insert a thermometer. Heat until the milk reaches 90°C (194°F). The milk will have a little foam on the surface but do not boil the milk. Remove the milk from heat as soon as it reaches temperature.
3. Slowly stir in the lemon juice and stir gently for 30-60 seconds. You should see the curds (white solids) splitting from the whey (clear liquid) within a few seconds.
4. Cover the pot and rest the milk mixture for 10-15 minutes to allow the curds to develop. The whey should be transparent and yellow or green in appearance. If the mixture still looks “milky” and hasn’t split, add extra lemon juice and wait a further 5-10 minutes. Some batches may take up to 1/3 cup of lemon juice (especially if the milk isn’t fresh).
5. Collect the cheese (curds) with a slotted spoon, being careful as the cheese will be very soft and hot! Place lemon cheese into a muslin-lined colander (or directly into a ricotta basket). Salt the mixture, adding other ingredients for flavours if desired. Stir gently.  Tie the cloth together and suspend for 10-15 minutes to remove excess whey and to reach the desired consistency (if using a ricotta basket, leave on the sink to drain to your liking). Don’t forget to place a bowl or pot underneath to collect the whey!*
6. Serve fresh lemon cheese immediately, or refrigerate – as it cools down, it will firm slightly, similar to store-bought ricotta cheese.
Always store lemon cheese in an airtight container at or below 4°C (40°F). It is best served fresh and soft, some separation can occur after freezing and thawing.
REFRIGERATOR: lemon cheese 7-10 days, whey < 4 days.
FREEZING: Label and date before freezing in an airtight container for up to 4 months.
o Dried herbs or spices i.e. chilli flakes or garlic and black pepper
o Dried fruit i.e. cranberries
o Fresh herbs i.e. basil, chives, coriander, dill, oregano, parsley or tarragon
o The fresher the milk is, the higher the yield.
o Homogenised or non-homogenised milk? Either will work for this recipe!
o Have a splash of cream to use up? Pop it in with the milk (Step 2) – it will make a creamier lemon cheese (and a higher yield).
o Full cream (full fat) milk will make more lemon cheese than low fat/skim milk.
o You can use any refrigerated or raw milk in this recipe because the heating also pasteurises the milk. Ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) milk will not split into curds and whey, so do not use UHT milk for this recipe.
o This recipe is similar to ricotta (commonly made using citric acid) and queso blanco (made using vinegar).
o Fresh or bottled lemon juice can be used in this recipe – fresh lemon juice varies in acidity, so watch for the milk to split to prevent adding too much!
o If you don’t add enough lemon juice, your cheese yield will be lower, but the lemon cheese will be much softer.
o If you add too much lemon juice, you will get the maximum yield, but the lemon cheese will be firmer, more “rubbery” - it is heavier and often drops to the bottom of the pot, and is not as nice served fresh (chewy instead of soft, and won’t “melt in your mouth”), but squeaky lemon cheese is perfect for baking!
o Sweet lemon cheese (the best textured) is achieved by collecting the curds as they rise to the surface, BEFORE adding more lemon juice and repeating if required (this prevents rubbery/squeaky cheese).
o Light lemon cheese: drain until the whey drops being released slows down after 10-15 minutes) then refrigerate immediately in an airtight container.
o Double and triple batches are easily made – they will take longer to drain though!
o Lemon cheese can be whipped smooth as a dip or spread.
o Lemon cheese can be used to make paneer cheese (pressed Indian-style cheese).
o Lemon cheese can be used to make ricotta salata (pressed, salted and aged Italian-style cheese).
The ricotta basket makes a lovely pattern on the lemon cheese when serving – simply turn out onto a plate and top with your favourite ingredients. Lemon cheese can be served plain, salted, sweet or savoury.
o Toppings: olive oil, salt flakes and freshly ground pepper OR maple syrup and pistachios OR sweet chilli sauce
o Stir lemon cheese into spaghetti.
o Baked ricotta-style cheese.
o Bruschetta with lemon cheese, prosciutto and sliced pear.
o Crumpets with cinnamon lemon cheese, banana, blueberries and honey.
o Lemon cheese & pea burgers.
o Lemon cheese & spinach dip: chop a bunch of fresh spinach (or a small packet of frozen spinach) into small pieces, steam until tender and squeeze to remove excess water. Add 1 cup of lemon cheese, 1/2 cup grated parmesan and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with tortilla chips or crackers.
o Pikelets with lemon cheese and honey.
o Stuff tomatoes with lemon cheese, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast.
o Top scrambled eggs with a spoonful of lemon cheese and a sprinkle of fresh chives.
o Chocolate chip dip: mix 1 cup lemon cheese, 1 cup cream cheese, 1 cup icing (powdered) sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract together until smooth. Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and stir gently. Serve with waffle cone pieces or stuff into cannoli tubes.
o Place warm grilled peaches on top of a spoonful of lemon cheese, sprinkle with granola and drizzle with honey.
o Toast toppings: start off with a base of lemon cheese, then add pesto and fresh tomato, or corn kernels and spring onion, or a fried egg, or sliced strawberries, or even chocolate spread and fresh banana.
o Lemon cheese can also be used as a ricotta alternative when cooking i.e. cakes, cannelloni, cheesecake, gnocchi and savoury tarts
o Serve sourdough (or your favourite bread) with beetroot & caramelised onion relish and add fresh lemon cheese on top. Yummy!
Containing protein, minerals and vitamins, whey can be used in many ways instead of being poured down the sink (which is not recommended).
o Baking bread, muffins or pancakes (instead of milk or water in the baking recipe)
o Boiling pasta in a pot of whey (add extra water if needed)
o Cooking casseroles, stocks and soups (instead of water)
o Fermenting sauerkraut and other fruit/vegetables
o Smoothies (add whey instead of water/milk)
o Feeding to animals i.e. chickens, pigs, etc (soak food in whey first)
o If no other use, pour room temperature whey onto the garden (diluted) or compost!
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