Cheese! Cheese is hard, right? It takes, like, a zillion steps, right? And you have to have a cow's stomach, right? Right. Keep telling your friends that, and they'll be impressed when you plunk this in front of them.
Step 1: All good cheese comes from France. Make up a French name for yourself.
Step 2: Get a quart of whole milk and four lemons. If you don't want to bother squeezing lemons, get a bottle of lemon juice instead; the label should tell you how much juice equals one lemon.
Step 3: Put the milk in a pot and heat it--gently--to 100ºF. That's the temperature of a baby's bottle; if you splash a little of the milk on the back of your wrist, the milk should feel slightly warm. Keep the milk at 100ºF for 15 minutes to sterilize it. Don't let the milk get any hotter, and for God's sake, don't let it boil. The hotter it gets, the smaller the curd will be. If the curd is too small, it will soak through the cheesecloth, and you'll end up with half a teaspoon of the world's grainiest cheese.
Step 4: While the milk is heating, spread a piece of cheesecloth about the size of a dishrag inside a colander. (Cheesecloth is a loosely-woven cotton cloth used for straining food. You can get it in packets at the supermarket.)
Step 5: The milk is still heating, so ponder your French name again. Is it really who you want to be? Is there some other, sexier name you could have, something more evocative of your inner self?
Step 6: Take the milk off the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Stir. Within seconds, the milk should start to curdle. If the milk doesn't curdle, add a little more lemon juice.
Step 7: When the milk has fully curdled, strain it through the cheesecloth. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together into a bag and hang the bag of curds to drain. The woman who taught me to make lemon cheese told me to hang the curds for one hour; I found that this made a harder, drier cheese. I hang my cheese for half an hour, and it comes out creamy.
Step 8: Gently scrape the curds into a bowl. Salt or sugar it to taste. Be careful if you salt the cheese, since the flavor intensifies rapidly as the salt crystals dissolve--which takes a little while. Salt too much, and you'll end up with a delayed-action cheesy salt lick. If your new French persona has unleashed your culinary imagination, you can mix in nibblies like nuts or cooked spinach.
Step 9: Press the cheese into the bottom of a bowl or a small mold and write your French name on the surface. If you have enough self-control, let the cheese age in the fridge for at least a day. It becomes stronger-tasting, and if you salted it, it becomes distinctly saltier. My homegirl Lacewing adds, "Surprisingly, to sweeten it, just add a drop or two of vinegar. Yeah, sounds weird, but it'll make it sweeter if you let it age. Literally JUST a drop or two. More than that will make it SWEET, or powerbomb vinegar." She says that vinegar can be fun, but she giggled right after she said that, so play at your own risk.
Step 10: Unmold and serve on a small plate garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of whatever, or eat it right out of the bowl like a barbarian. It's rrrrrrrrreally good on crackers. If you don't salt it, it also makes amazing lemon cheesecake.
Cheese is, to put it lightly, not a traditional Japanese food. If you want to give your lemon cheese that Japanese flair, you could, um, I dunno, dye a little ball of it red and stick it in the center of the bowl of cheese for an ever-popular "rising sun" presentation. Or dip pocky in it. Or press it in a "Hello Kitty" rice mold. The world is your limit! ...so long as you stick to, uh, Japan.