Poutine - Cheese Curds

Poutine is a dish that includes french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. It originated in the Canadian province of Quebec and emerged in the late 1950s in the Centre-du-Québec area. It has long been associated with Quebec cuisine.

To make Poutine you need to make your own cheddar cheese curds at home. They are literally the curds from the traditional cheddar recipe liberal covered with a rich beef gravy. The end result is delicious, in a heart attack kind of way.

Ingredients:

  • 8 litres of milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water
  • Mesophilic hard curd cheese starter culture (see the packet for the amount to add)
  • 1/2 tablet of rennet or 1/2 teaspoon of liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of non-chlorinated water
  • 1 tablespoon cheese salt

Equipment:

  • Stainless steel pot to place your milk in
  • A second, larger pot to place your first pot in, to act as a water jacket, so you can indirectly
  • heat your milk
  • Dairy thermometer
  • Stainless steel perforated spoon
  • Stainless steel curd knife
  • Stainless steel ladle
  • Loose weave cheese making cloth
  • Large stainless steel or enamel colander
  • Large sterilised cutting board

Directions:

  • Place your milk into a large stainless steel pot and then place this pot into your second, larger pot with water in it to act as a water jacket. Add your calcium chloride and mix in well.
  • Using indirect heat, slowly heat your milk to 30°C. Add your starter culture and stirring gently, mix in well.
  • Allow to ripen for 45 minutes, maintaining the temperature at 30°C.
  • Add your rennet solution to the milk and stir in gently, using an up and down motion for one minute, ensuring that the rennet is evenly distributed throughout the milk. Cover and allow to rest undisturbed for 45 minutes, while maintaining the temperature at 30°C.
  • Check for a clean break. If the curd is not firm enough, leave for another five minutes and check again. Be patient and wait for a clean break.
  • Once the curd is firm enough and gives a clean break, cut the curd into one and a half centimetre cubes.
  • Again using indirect heat, gradually increase the temperature to 38°C. This should take about 30 minutes. The curds will shrink and become more firm as the temperature rises. Continue to stir frequently to prevent the curds from clumping together.
  • Once the curds and whey have reached 38°C, continue stirring for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Allow the curds to rest at 38°C for 20 minutes.
  • Gently ladle the curds and whey into a colander lined with your loose weave cheese making cloth and allow them to drain for 15 minutes.
  • Cheddaring: The curds will have formed into a solid mass. Tip this mass of curds out of the colander onto a sterilised cutting board. Cut the block of curd into two-centimetre strips and lay these strips into the bottom of your now-empty pot. Place this pot into warm water and cover it, to keep your slices of curd warm (38°C). Maintain the curds at this temperature and turn them over every 15 minutes for the next two hours. Drain off any excess whey as you go. The strips will reduce in size and become very firm.
  • Gently break the curds up with your fingers into pieces about the size of a five-cent piece and put them back into the pot. Continue to keep the curds warm as before for an additional 30 minutes. Stir the curds often to prevent them from matting together.
  • Sprinkle the cheese salt on top of the curds and then gently mix it in with your fingers, being sure it is evenly distributed throughout the curds.

At this point, if you were going to make cheddar you would pack the curds into a cheese basket, lined with a fresh cloth and continue onto the pressing stage. But, if your goal is cheese curds, you are done. 

You can use them fresh, or you can bag and store them in the fridge and even freeze some for later use. 

Now it is time to make poutine.

For homemade poutine, you will need some crispy fried french fries and some hot brown gravy to pour over the top.

Directions:

  • Fry some potato chips, preferably with skin on, until a nice crispy golden brown.
  • Apply a liberal amount of crumbles cheese curd.
  • Cover with brown beef gravy. Little bits of meat in the gravy is very popular.

Some Canadians will go to great lengths to get their gravy just right. Pan searing small beef pieces before liberally adding beef stock and then simmering it for hours to reduce and cause the meat to fall apart into the gravy.

An Aussie Twist:

For an Aussie flavour boost try making a rich beef and onion gravy. Sprinkle crispy fried bacon bits over the top of the fries and cheese curds before adding the gravy.

Vegetarian Poutine

Try making a nice rich gravy with pieces of portabello mushroom, a vegetable stock with maybe some extra vegetable stock cubes crumbled in.

 


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