Indian paneer, Italian ricotta, Russian tvorog and Azerbaijani kesmik. What do they have in common? A lot. These are similar variations of soft cheese made from curdled milk. (In fact, curdled milk translates as kesilmish sud in Azeri. The name kesmik comes from “kesmek” or “kesilmek” which means to curdle.) The common technique in making these cheeses involves combining milk with a small amount of acid and heating it up until the curdles form. The acidity here may be provided by vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream or even citric acid. Azerbaijanis use good old plain yogurt for this purpose.
In Azerbaijan, kesmik is eaten for breakfast, wrapped around lavash flatbread slathered with butter, or it is used as a filling in a variety of pastries. Kesmik is also a popular baby food.
You can make your own kesmik using the following foolproof recipe. Plus you will get extra bonus here - from curd cheese you can also make farmer cheese, Azerbaijani shor!
I often use homemade curd cheese in place of ricotta cheese in recipes that call for the latter. Here are some of the past AZ Cookbook recipes that will help you make good use of your homemade curd cheese. Enjoy!
Home Made Curd Cheese (Kesmik)
Makes 2 to 3 cups cheese
Ingredients you will need:
8 cups whole milk (2 liter / 1/2 US gallon)
2 cups plain yogurt
Equipment you will need:
A clean pot
2-3 layers of cheesecloth or a large piece of muslin cloth
Line the colander with layers of cheesecloth or a muslin. Put the colander in the sink.
Put the milk in a medium non-reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir them milk often to prevent the bottom from burning. As it comes to a boil, stir in the yogurt. Stir occasionally. After a few minutes, the milk will curdle - curds (they will look like clusters of clouds) will separate from the clear liquid called whey. Make sure the curds and the whey are completely separated or you will end up with a small amount of curds and therefor the cheese.
As soon as the separation is complete, remove the pan from the heat. Gently pour the contents of the pot into the colander and let the whey drain. Do not squeeze the curds or press onto them. You can also gather up the ends of the cloth and hang it over the sink or a bowl to allow the remaining moisture to drip. Once most of the moisture is gone, your curd cheese is ready. Remember that kesmik should not be extremely dry. If it is too dry it becomes shor, farmer cheese. (Recipe follows.)
Store the curd cheese in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
How to Turn Curd Cheese into Farmer Cheese:
If you want to obtain farmer cheese (shor), once the curd cheese has been strained, while it is still in the cheesecloth/mulsin, shape it as a disk and wrap the cloth around it. Place something heavy (such as a pan) on top. All the remaining moisture will drain and the curd cheese will turn into farmer cheese. Farmer cheese is drier than curd cheese and has a crumbly texture and can be sliced. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week - the cheese will harden and be be easy to slice once properly chilled.