As you may have read a few weeks ago, seeing all the cheesemaking projects on Pinterest made me want to try cheese-making on my own. So, I bought a cheesemaking kit from the New England Cheesemaking Company to try my hand at it. Now that I’ve done it a few times, let me tell you what I’ve learned about making cheese and give you the recipe for the process that works best for me.
Note: If you buy the cheesemaking kit I did, it comes with everything you need, along with a booklet of instructions and recipes. That was my starting point. I’ve just perfected the process a little for my own needs (and small kitchen space).
First and foremost, the type of milk you get MATTERS. A lot. If you get milk that has been ultra-pasteurized, the process will not work and your entire kitchen will smell bad. Unfortunately, milk at the store will usually not be labeled ultra-pasteurized. Whether it is ultra or not, the label will just read “pasteurized.” So, unless you go to a dairy and ask, there’s no way to know until you try.
What I’ve found is “My Essentials” brand from Food Lion works well. If you have a Food Lion near you and are on a budget, that’s what I recommend. Walmart’s milk is NO GOOD. If you have a dairy near you, that is the obvious way to go, but you’ll pay more for raw/unpasteurized milk. Not sure where to find a dairy? Head to your local farmer’s market. There’s usually at least one dairy there, or if there’s a local, artisan cheese seller, ask where they get their milk and they can probably direct you to a dairy.
Next, cheesemaking is about patience, which I have in short supply. If you get up in the milk’s business, things will fall apart. Like an angsty teenagers, you gotta give it some space. So in the step where you’re waiting with the cheese covered…WAIT. Don’t peek and poke at it every 10 seconds.
Last, line up your ingredients and bowls before you start. The process goes quick once you start heating the milk and if you overheat or cool too long or otherwise don’t follow the process, the end product will suffer.
Okay, here’s the recipe/process:
- 1 gallon raw or pasteurized (NOT ultra-pasteurized) whole milk
- 1½ teaspoon citric acid
- ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet or ¼ of a rennet tablet
- 1 cup + ¼ cup cool water
- additives (cheese salt, herbs, etc.)
- Cool water for bath + ice
- Mix together 1 cup of water and citric acid. Pour into a large pot. (Note: pot cannot be aluminum or cast iron. Stainless steel is recommended.)
- Mix/dissolve rennet in ¼ cup water. Set aside.
- Pour entire gallon of milk into the pot and stir continuously until it reaches 90 degrees.
- Remove from heat and add rennet mixture, stirring it in slowly. Do not stir for more than 20-30 seconds.
- Cover the pot with a clean dish towel and let it cool for 5 minutes. Check to see if layer of curd has formed. The liquid (whey) should be clear and the curb should look almost like a cheesecake consistency. If it is still milky or curd isn't a firm layer, re-cover and let sit for another 3-5 minutes.
- Use a long knife to cut the curd in the pot. Use a grid pattern to make chunks, but don't disturb too much.
- Place the pot back on the heat and gently stir to separate the curd chunks. Heat to 105 degrees while continuously stirring, then remove from heat.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to a microwave-safe bowl, leaving behind as much of the liquid as possible. Drain whey into another container using a cheesecloth to catch any small piece of curd to add to your pile.
- Microwave for 1 minute. Pour off liquid and gently begin to fold the cheese together (you may need rubber gloves for this, as the cheese gets very hot).
- Microwave for 1 more minute. Drain the liquid and begin to pull and stretch the cheese together. Add cheese salt and other ingredients at this point. If the cheese is not stretching, heat in additional 30 seconds increments.
- Stretch and combine the cheese until it begins to get smooth. More stretching will give you a firmer cheese.
- Form your cheese into logs, balls, braids, etc. and submerge into a bath of cool water. After 5 minutes, add ice to the water to cool to 15 minutes longer.
- Store in your refrigerator or freeze.