Here are some pictures of how a cheese should look. If you look closer at the pictures the preserve is more solid than a jam and is sliceable the traditional way of serving a cheese. Membrillo is a form of cheese but can also be referred to as a paste. Some cheeses are stickier than others though.
Basically a jam product made with the pulp left over from making jellies, with the addition of sugar and long cooking. The "cheese" is then served in slices alongside normal cheese and meats (like you would a chutney to enhance the simple fare) although this is served in slices so it is more solid than a jam or a chutney. It is believed that it is called a "cheese" because it was actually served with cheese. If you look back in the older cookery books there are quite a few recipes for a cheese. However what does become confusing is that Lemon Curd is sometimes sold as Lemon Cheese, which is not quite the same thing.
Anyway whatever the circumstances behind this it is a way of using up a useful commodity that may well have been wasted and that was not allowed in the kitchens of the past. It was traditionally made after jellies had been prepared and after the straining of the fruits through a jelly net the net was often compacted quite tightly with a load of pulp and peels and was a way of getting something for nothing in effect out of ingredients that had already been paid for.
We love a cheeseboard in this household and quite frequently have a different variety of cheeses to hand although I am looking more and more into this as I am keen to have a go at preparing my own in due course.
Because a cheese has to be sliced it needs to be more solid than a normal preserve and needs more high heat cooking. As a result you have to be really careful because the "cheese" will spit ferociously during the cooking process. I know to my cost and boy does it burn so keep some water near the stove to sling on quickly if this does happen as jam keeps on burning if it lands on you.
Once cooked it is decanted into straight-sided pots. I found using a jam jar the first time round I could not get the cheese out when it was cold. I found using up those little glass dishes that Marks and Spencers did for some of their puddings range are ideal and you can sometimes pick these up in the Charity Shops literally for pennies. If you cannot find any of those use ramekins.
The glass dishes need to be sterilised as per normal sterilising practices but be careful with hot water as it could potentially crack the glass dish if there is a flaw in it. However they need to be sterilised and dried. The jars are then coated liberally with some glycerine. I put this on some tissue and then wipe it around the dishes liberally. This together with the straight sided glass dishes helps for an easier release. The hot mixture is then added to the dishes not quite to the top there needs to be a small gap.
The next question is how do I keep the preserve airtight and safe for use. Before I start to use the jars I cut out several card circles from old cereal packets etc. using the top of the jar as a template and running the biro round and then cutting out the card. I then once the preserve is air-tight (and there is another stage yet) Sellotape the card discs on top of the dish. Doing this means you have a top to keep the preserve clean and you can also stack the dishes.
I had read a lot over the years about how they used to preserve foodstuffs for the winter months using stone jars and pig bladders(I don't really want to go there but it was a method that was used) and then ultimately the wax method where I read about what they used to do although there were no pictures and I worked out the following method for myself in which to store the Cheese.
However to make the preserve sterile I use an old fashioned method of sealing the jars, which very much used to be the way of making the preserve airtight before the introduction of cellophane lids and greaseproof inserts. I use paraffin wax which has been melted. First of all I let the cheese cool then I pop a greaseproof paper insert on the top of the preserve making sure it is too big rather than too small as you need the whole surface area covering. I then melt the paraffin wax. I then cut a good length of sewing cotton and double this up several times and lay this across the top of the greaseproof paper in the middle making sure that the cotton overlaps either side of the dish and pour in a little paraffin wax so the whole of the top of the surface area of the pot with the cotton in it and then let it set. The reason the cotton is there is to help break the wax seal when you come to use the cheese. I then add the card circle tops to the pot with some Sellotape to help keep the cheese clean and also so that I can stack the little dishes on top of the other. When ready to use the cheese is then turned out on a plate and cut into slices and served with cheese and meat in slices. It keeps the preserve beautifully. I have even used this method for sealing jams. However it depends on how busy I am. If I do not have much time I just put the waxed seal or greaseproof on.
I hope that this has been useful to you and I will post up the method of making a cheese and recipes in a later post.
Catch you soon.
Catch you soon.