“Age is something that does not matter, unless you are a cheese.” – Billie Burke
While we were on our way back from a much needed break over the long weekend, I was flipping through the pages of The Turkish Cookbook to keep my mind occupied so that I could ignore how hot it was in the car. After a faithful 16 years, our little Honda’s AC had decided to stop working when it was 98 degrees outside!
On one of the pages, the title Ҫӧkelek stopped me in my tracks! This cheese used to be one of the many items in the packages that my dad’s mother (babaanne) sent once a year. I have not seen this particular cheese sold in any store. It was a way to preserve the milk in another form before it goes bad and it is not exactly an aged cheese but curdled milk. She used to mix with big chunks of homemade butter and send it to us that way.
Not only the cheese was familiar…the person who gave the recipe for the book had also same name as my babaanne: Firdevs. It felt like the stars were aligned for this recipe!
I never mentioned Babaanne Firdevs here before. Partly because we were not close and I do not have many memories associated with her. I met her for the first time only in my junior year in college. My father was from Tunceli, which is roughly a 20-hour drive from Istanbul. We never visited her, which seems weird to me now but I assume it was the safety issue in the East during those times. My dad and his brothers always tried to convince her to move to Istanbul. She always refused until she got really old and had no power over her children. She thought if she left her land, she would die!
That was the time she moved in with us. She was right. When you move some people away from what they have known for all their lives, you might as well carve their heart out and hand it to them! She did not last long!
Before I met her, I had only known her with the things she sent once a year. And I will always remember her with this curdled milk cheese.
The recipe calls for white vinegar but I assume you can also substitute lemon juice to get the curdling process started. The cheese does not have a very strong taste and reminds me of very dry ricotta. I assume the reason she mixed with butter was to make it tastier. I have mixed a little bit of it with butter for breakfast and crumbled some over my salads. I have half a cup left waiting to be mixed with some herbs for a sandwich later. I made half of the original recipe and it yielded a bit more than firmly packed 1 cup of cheese.
Before you throw away your almost-expired milk, you can try this and extend its life in another form. Older generations definitely knew how to make things last and get the most out of them!
(From The Turkish Cookbook)
- 1 gallons whole milk (I recommend using the least treated milk possible. For example, stay away from UHT (ultra heat treated) milk as it might make curdling process difficult)
- 2/3 cup white vinegar
- Salt (optional, I did not put any, opted to add flavor later with herbs)
- Place the milk in a stainless steel pot. If you use pots made form other metals, you will likely to have a metallic aftertaste.So go with stainless steel.
- Cover the pot and let it sit at room temperature over 15-18 hours. Do not stir.
- Put the pot over high heat and heat until the milk is hot to touch (I had to test with my finger since the recipe did not give any temperature. The point is to heat it but not boil the milk). Do not stir.
- Take the pot off the heat, add vinegar, cover and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Avoid stirring in all these steps.
- Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the milk to a hard boil.
- Put a colander over a bowl, line it with a cheesecloth.
- Pour the milk into colander carefully. Once it cools, place the colander and the bowl in the fridge, let it drain a total of 12 hours.
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