As its name implies, cheesecloth was originally used in cheese production. Cheesecloth is a gauzy fabric that is now used in a variety of other functions inside the kitchen.
It is made of loosely woven cotton and looks a lot like mesh cloth, with its open weave leaving a lot of small holes. These holes are small enough to prevent solids from passing through but are big enough for draining liquids and allowing whatever is wrapped in the cloth to breathe. Cheesecloth is made from natural cotton. This is essential since you don’t want dyes and other chemicals seeping from the cloth into your food. You also don’t want lint in it.
Despite its thin and flimsy appearance, cheesecloth is very durable. It does not easily stretch or tear, even when soaked in hot liquids or used many times over time. Yes, you can use and re-use cheesecloth for many purposes. You simply have to wash it with mild soap and water and hung it over the line to dry. The first sign you see that tells you you need to use new cheesecloth is when the edges start fraying.
Since ancient times, cheesecloth has been used by cheese makers in the production of a wide variety of cheeses. It was, and still is, used for several purposes, including draining, wrapping, filtering and creating cheese molds. Let’s examine cheesecloth uses in cheese making a little closer.
Cheesecloth for Draining
The gauzy fabric of cheesecloth makes it excellent for removing the liquids out of a mixture and leaving the solids intact. Draining is a common step in making soft cheeses, such as ricotta, a light, versatile cheese that you can use in everything – from appetizers to deserts. You can use lower-grade cheesecloth, or thin cheesecloth with fewer thread count, for draining. The cloth should be clean and dry.
To drain cheese with cheese cloth, you need to transfer single spoonfuls of curd into the cloth. This is better than dumping the entire pot of cheese since less liquid will be transferred. Next, tie a rubber band around the cloth and squeeze it as tightly and carefully as possible. You can also tie the bundle to a wooden ladle and let it hang overnight to cure.
Cheesecloth for Wrapping
Cheese cloth was first used in making cheddar cheese in England. The cheese makers, at that time, needed a wrapper that protected the cheese from outside elements but still allowed it to breathe as it aged. They found that a kind of cotton cloth with loosely woven threads was able to do this. This cloth was then named cheesecloth. Clothbound cheese, sometimes called bandage-wrapped cheese, was the first kind of cheese that was wrapped in cheesecloth. Today, the use of cheesecloth wrappers is widespread.
To wrap a cheese in cheesecloth, use a damp cloth to allow the cheese to retain moisture. Make sure to wrap it tightly around the cheese. Next, cover the cheesecloth-wrapped cheese in foil. This will help seal in moisture a little better. If you’re going to use the cheese for, say, cooking or eating it on its own, and you did not use all of the cheese, use a new piece of damp cheesecloth to wrap the leftover cheese. The old cheesecloth will not reseal properly and can lead to the cheese losing its moisture.
Cheesecloth for Filtering
Cheesecloth is so lightweight that liquid can easily flow through but solids stay in place. This makes it an excellent filter for when you’re making ricotta cheese from whey or other cheeses with a similar texture, such as farmer’s cheese, paneer or goat’s milk cheese. When making these cheeses, it is necessary to completely filter out the liquid because too much moisture means you will not be able to shape the cheeses properly, even if you use a cheese mold.
To filter liquids using a cheesecloth, place the cheese at the center of the cloth and wrap it tightly. Press the bundle against the bowl or sink board to force all the liquid to come out. This will also compact the curds to make firmer cheeses. Once you’re sure all the moisture is removed, hang the bundle overnight to cure.
Cheesecloth for Cheese Molds
Cheesecloth is also used for lining molds. To do this, cut two squares of cheesecloth that are at least two inches taller than your cheese mold. Wrap one piece around one end of the mold, making sure the ends fold over the top of the mold. Smooth out the cloth to make sure it doesn’t bunch up anywhere. To keep the cheesecloth lining in place, secure it with a rubber band. Do the same with the other end. You are now ready to put your cheese inside the cheese mold.
Where to Buy Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth isn’t only used in cheese making. It has a hundred other uses in and out of the kitchen as well, such as steaming, canning and filtering wine. It is also made from cotton, a renewable resource, which makes it an earth-friendly way to prepare different kinds of food.
I recommend Chef’s Choice Cheesecloth sold on Amazon.com, a washable, reusable cheesecloth made from natural, lint-free cotton. Chef’s Choice offers cheesecloth in three grades. They have lighter Grade 50 and Grade 90 cheesecloth as well as very rare Grade 100 cheesecloth. It’s not often you find Grade 100 cheesecloth at a very affordable price and with good quality. Make sure you get your Chef’s Choice Grade 100 cheesecloth today.