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What is Cheesecloth?

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cheesecloth1500.jpg

Curds Draining in Cheesecloth

© Image 2012 Jennifer Meier

Question: What is Cheesecloth?

Cheesecloth is a gauzy, lightweight, woven cotton fabric with tiny holes that allow air to flow through the fabric. But is cheesecloth really used to make cheese?

Answer:

Yes - this type of fabric started being referred to as "cheesecloth" because cheesemakers realized that it protected cheese but also allowed it to breathe while it aged. For this reason, cheesecloth is wrapped around some types of wheels of cheese while they age. Most commonly, it is wrapped around Cheddar. Clothbound Cheddar (also called bandage-wrapped Cheddar) is considered to be the most traditional style of Cheddar and is the style of Cheddar that England is known for. Many American cheesemakers also make clothbound Cheddar now. Some types of clothbound Cheddar to try :

Cheesecloth is not just used to protect cheese while it ages. Because this type of fabric (cheesecloth) is so lightweight, liquid flows through it but solids are caught. For this reason, cheesecloth can be used to strain all sorts of liquids and is handy to have around the kitchen. Cheesecloth can be used to strain soup stock, make tofu, strain homemade yogurt, or bundle herbs into a bouquet garni. In terms of cheesemaking, it can be used to drain the liquid (whey) from cheese curds. This is necessary, because if cheese curds hold too much moisture they cannot be shaped and aged into wheels of cheese. If you are attempting to make cheese at home (such as ricotta, farmers cheese, paneer or fresh goat cheese), then cheesecloth is something that you must buy.

Home Cheesemaking Recipes that use Cheesecloth:

Where to Buy Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth can be found in the kitchen supply section of many grocery and department stores. It is also commonly sold in kitchen supply stores and can be bought from many different online retailers.

Cheesecloth is sold in long pieces and is usually fairly inexpensive. Once purchased,you can use scissors to cut the cheesecloth down to whatever size you need. For cheesemaking, look for tightly-woven or ultra-fine cheesecloth. If cheesecloth is loosely woven, it will not catch or hold all of the solids when you try to drain the whey from the cheese curds.

 

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