Cheesecloth is a lightweight cotton cloth used for straining liquids, making spice packets in soups and lining dishes. Versatile for cooking, it was originally used in the 14th century to press cheese. Cheesecloth has seven different grades, according to the openness of the weave, and it was fashionable to wear clothing made from it in the 1960s. Outside of cooking, cheesecloth is used for straining paints, polishing surfaces, and for fly nets. However, alternatives to cheesecloth are available.
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Melitta Bentz, a German housewife, patented the first coffee filter in 1908. She lined a punctured brass pot with blotting paper and brewed the coffee. Her design is still in use today. Unlike regular paper, coffee filters have long fibres, which makes it strong and undissolvable. A coffee filter can be used in place of cheesecloth for soup herb packets and for straining liquids.
Popular in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, tea balls or infusers were made of sterling silver. The mesh ball was attached to a metal string and the tea was packed inside the mesh. Tea balls declined in use when merchant, William Sullivan put his tea in silk bags in 1908. Rather than using cheesecloth to wrap herbs in a packet, herbs and spices can fit in several tea balls and placed in a soup stock pot.
Muslin is a sturdy cotton material used for curtains and as a pattern cloth for fashion designers. Muslin breathes well, and it can be used for straining cheese and making spice packets in place of cheesecloth.
Made of cotton or linen, kitchen string can act like cheesecloth. Rather than making a spice package, large herbs can be bound with kitchen string. The herbs may fall apart in your soup, but the harder stems will remain separated.
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