What is cheesecloth and how do you use it?
I know when I started out cooking and a recipe called for cheesecloth, I had no idea what it was, so I would just set the recipe aside and never use it. Back then we didn’t have the good old Internet to click on and Google “What is cheesecloth”. Yes, I’ve dated myself…royally! Just pretend I didn’t tell you that they didn’t have the Internet when I was young. Shhhhh.
So if by chance you are Googling “how to use cheesecloth” and you landed on this page, you’ve come to the right place.
What is Cheesecloth?
Cheesecloth is a loosely woven cotton cloth. It closely resembles “gauze” in look and consistency. There are at least seven different grades of cloth and the grade given depends on the number of threads per inch woven in each direction. Some are more closely woven than others.
Uses for Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth was formerly used for…you guessed it…cheese. Wrapping cheese; most commonly Cheddar cheese. Cheese makers found that it helped protect the cheese and allow it to “breathe” as it aged to keep it mold free. Now it’s used in so many other ways. Because it is light weight and very loosely woven, it is often used to strain liquids and capture solids. I use it when I make Almond Milk, syrups, gravies, yogurt, tofu and the like.
You can also wrap herbs, seasonings, or tea leaves into a sachet to be cooked with soups and other liquids to add flavor without releasing debris into the liquid.
Cheesecloth is very versatile. It can be used for arts and crafts, butterfly nets, and even clothes. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the fabric was popular to make shirts, dresses, and even shoes! It has hundreds of uses.
Where to Find Cheesecloth
You can find cheesecloth in many of the grocery stores, kitchen supply stores, fabric stores, and drug stores. It is fairly inexpensive and it comes in a long, rolled-up bundle. You just use your scissors to cut off the size of fabric you need each time.
Can You Wash Cheesecloth?
Yes. You can reuse it many times. Just make sure you wash it before each use. Rinse out any food or debris caught in the fabric and wash it in the washing machine with hot water and a cold rinse using bleach. Hang it up to air dry.
I primarily use cheesecloth for straining to separate the liquid from the solids. To do this, follow this step-by-step pictorial:
Line a strainer with cheese cloth. You may need to line it once or twice or even three times depending on how small of particles you are trying to separate from the liquid.
Then take the liquid with the particles in it (in this case, I am using mashed blueberries that I am making into syrup and I want to separate the blueberries from the liquid) and pour it directly over the cheesecloth. Pour the liquid in slowly and in rounds around the cheesecloth because it allows it to trap more as the liquid runs down to the center of the bottom.
If the straining gets “stuck”, you may need to use a spoon to lift the debris up from the bottom to allow it to keep straining.
See all the solid blueberry mush left behind?
And here is all the luscious liquid syrup to pour on my pancakes!
Easy peazy, no?