Dear Home Ec 101,
I need a good alternative for cheese cloth. I’ve been making a lot of juice lately and I want to strain out the seeds and pulp, but cheese cloth gets expensive quickly. Do you have any suggestions?
Strained in Strasbourg
Cheese cloth certainly has its uses and it can be washed and re-used, but and it’s a big BUT, it is rather delicate, frays, and generally becomes more pain than it is worth rather quickly.
Tea towels made from linen are a more durable alternative, but again washing is something of an issue and they must be kept meticulously clean. (Note, pastry cloth is useful if you are looking for an alternative for baking, this question is about general kitchen use.)
So how does the budget and eco conscious consumer strain all the things without filling landfills or draining the budget? heh
You spend a little extra, one time, on a fine mesh strainer, known to chefs as a chinois.
This one is available on Amazon for about $25 give or take as prices fluctuate. This comes in three different sizes an 8″, 10″, or 12″ strainer. You can also buy a pointed pestle to squash food through the mesh. A spoon mostly works, but as foods get down toward the point it can be a little aggravating.
So, if you’re an Alton Brown fan, how do you decide whether or not this is a tool worthy of taking up your valuable kitchen space?
The chinois is useful for:
- making stock or bouillon -who needs to tie up a bouquet garnis? Not you.
- straining sauces -like caramel
- draining yogurt for recipes like tzatziki (cucumber sauce)
- draining cooked pumpkin for pies and other recipes – oh look Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
- canning and preserving
- straining -duh
- a silly hat for a toddler -the reinforced sides make it more durable than a plain fine mesh strainer.
But Heather, that costs 25 dollars. You’re right, it does. Cheese cloth at the grocery store, because I’m not about to drive all over town to find it generally runs about 4 bucks and I get enough for maybe two recipes, let’s pretend I had the time, energy, and wherewithal to wash and reuse it, maybe I’ll get another one or two uses out of it. So on the generous side let’s pretend I get four uses out of one pack of cheese cloth. That’s in the neighborhood of twelve recipes that I’ll get to make before I’m now playing the I’ve spent more money than I would have on the chinois. This doesn’t take into account the whole, time factor, either.
So, your mileage may vary, if you only do one or two big cooking projects a year, then you’re absolutely right, cheese cloth is the right strategy for your household. If you are getting into scratch cooking, canning and preserving, or like to make sauces, it’s absolutely worth the investment.
What do you think? Would a chinois be a useful addition to your kitchen or simply a waste of space?
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