The Biggest Cheese Challenge of All


I took my cheese challenge from New England Cheesemaking to an all-new height this month when I started teaching other people to make cheese in classes at the Chickens in the Road Retreat. At one point, one of the attendees asked me if I’d been making cheese for a long time, and I said, “No. I’ve only been making cheese for a couple of years. And here I am teaching you! That’s RIDICULOUS!”

And then she ran away screaming something about a refund. (I’m just kidding!)

I’ve told people many times that learning to make cheese is easy–learning to make it well is the hard part, but if you get the “cheese bug” to pursue it, it won’t take long at all before you, too, could be teaching other people to make cheese, or at least regularly making it in your own home. For many people, taking a class gets them over the hump of trying it for the first time. Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking (the Cheese QUEEN!) has been teaching people to make cheese for 30 years. She’s probably taught more beginning cheesemakers than anyone else on the planet. And she knows what she’s doing.

Me, not so much!

Before the retreat, I had artist Kelly Walker and her student, Linda, at my house painting murals in my downstairs farm stay and workshop space. Immediately upon their arrival at the farm that weekend, I enslaved them in the kitchen as my test teaching subjects.

Kelly and Linda making mozzarella in my kitchen:

My theory on teaching people mozzarella is that, of course, it has to be a hands-on process. You’ve gotta get in there and touch the cheese! Knead it, stretch it, know what it feels like. Mozzarella is not a demonstration cheese to an audience–it’s a hands-on, hands-in blast. How to do that with a whole class at once?

I wanted to call Ricki and ask her how she does it! But she was busy getting married and everything, so I thought I better leave her alone. Besides, it would be embarrassing when she said, “Suzanne who?” I’m pretty sure my process can use some refining, but here’s what I came up with.

After a short overview discussion to the entire class about the mozzarella process and what they would be doing, I put teams of two on one-gallon pots of milk. One person stirs, one holds the thermometer. At the retreat, I had three teams of two going at a time, using portable burners.

I had their citric acid, lipase, and rennet solutions measured in advance and supervised the additions to the milk at the correct temperatures and so on. I loved seeing their amazement as the “magic” happened when their curd started pulling away from the sides of the pot to reveal the whey.

Once the curds were ready, I had a 2-quart bowl ready for each person–and they divided their pot of curds in half. When it was time for kneading, heating, and stretching, they each had their own bowl of curds!

We weren’t working in a kitchen at the retreat–the kitchen was busy with meal preparation and canning classes–so I had buckets on a table at the “whey station” for pouring off whey. I was a little leery of how this was going to work (I had visions of whey all over the floor), but it worked perfectly! Each of the teams had their curds ready at staggered times, just by slight differences in where the burners were set, so there was never too much of a clog waiting at the microwave or the whey station.

Beside the whey station, I had little cups with pre-measured salt–with a table and chairs and boxes of crackers! As soon as people finished their cheeses, they were sitting down to enjoy it as a snack. In some classes, I also shredded some of the cheeses, using my food processor, for later use in meals.

In some of the bread classes, we made pepperoni rolls, using the mozzarella made in the cheese classes.

As I mentioned, I don’t think this process worked perfectly–my main concern was downtime for students waiting their turns at the pots–but it did work better than I was afraid it might! I had planned to have students waiting their turns to be making butter, but it was so warm on retreat weekend, we weren’t able to do that. On the other hand, we kept them hopping so hard at the retreat that they might have just been glad to sit down and do nothing for a few minutes.

Even though I’ve only been making cheese for a few years, I realized during these classes that I had already begun to take for granted the magic that is making cheese. I handle curds on a regular basis. I forgot that it is a little miracle, and that is probably the most rewarding thing, for me, about teaching cheesemaking–experiencing that new cheesemaker excitement all over again through the eyes of the students.

Photo courtesy of Blyss.

Blyss was in one of my mozzarella classes at the retreat, and is the epitome of the excited new cheesemaker. Her post-retreat report on the Chickens in the Road forum included this as she recounted her weekend accomplishments: “Not only accomplishing this year’s goal of learning to pressure can, but adding the bonus of MAGICAL Mozzarella! Not being embarrassed to ask a complete stranger (until I met her by asking) to take a picture of me (grinning from ear to ear) holding the above mentioned Magical Mozzarella! The sting of being told said Magical Mozzarella tasted terrible… and then deciding that person didn’t know what she was talking about, or didn’t know magic when she was in its presence!”

Of course, there is nothing that tastes better than fresh, warm, homemade mozzarella, so I have to agree with her there! And hers is the kind of excitement that inspires me to keep teaching people to make cheese. We’ll be holding more big retreats, and mini retreats, in 2012 through Chickens in the Road Events, but you don’t have to wait. Ricki holds classes most months throughout the year. You can find information on her upcoming beginning cheesemaker classes (includes mozzarella-making) here. New England Cheesemaking expert Jim Wallace holds advanced cheesemaking workshops–get the schedule for his classes here.

Fresh mozzarella resting in ice water:

If you’re ready to learn on your own at home, I have a mozzarella-making tutorial here, and New England Cheesemaking has a fantastic tutorial with lots of photos as well as a Mozzarella FAQ page.

See how to make a homemade cheese press here. The spring-loaded press I use now can be found here.

See how I made my cheese cave here.

See all my posts in Cheesemaking here.

I get my supplies here.

This is my cow.

To help you get started making cheese, New England Cheesemaking is providing a Starter Special with DVD, Book & Mozzarella Kit (AGSD). Total value: $50.00. Note: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. (P.S. Or at least a U.S. shipping address. You can have a friend or relative send it on to you if they have a U.S. shipping address.)

For a chance to win: Leave a comment on this post and let me know you want it. ONE winner will be drawn by random comment number to receive the package. Eligible entry cut-off is midnight Eastern (U.S.) time tomorrow night (September 16). This post will be updated with the winner by 9 a.m. Eastern (U.S.) time on Saturday (September 17). Return to this post to claim your prize!

You must be registered to comment. If you’re not registered, you can register here. If you’re already registered but not logged in, go here to log in.

UPDATE 09/17/11: The winning comment number, drawn by, is comment #64, september. Email me at CITRg[email protected] with your full name and address for shipping!



  1. mommafox says:

    Didn’t get to come to the retreat, but maybe if I win this kit, it will help with the disappointment of not being there.

  2. Granny Trace says:

    :snoopy: I would love to win too.
    Looks sooooo good.
    Granny Trace

  3. Butterbean says:

    I couldn’t be there, enter me please!

  4. kellytorrey says:

    please include me !! thank you!

  5. Leah's Mom says:

    So good to see the photos from the retreat! Please enter me – I’d like to give it as a gift!

  6. Blyss says:

    If I win, I can keep the magic going a little easier… not that I am going to allow the magic to end!
    Thank you Suzanne for teaching me! I am still walking on air from that wonderful weekend away from my Michigan Realities!

  7. lizajane says:

    I would love to win this! I am enjoying all of the retreat posts!

  8. slpuckett52 says:

    :sheep: Please pick me…I’d love to win this great giveaway. Thanks for sharing with us.

  9. ejc says:

    I’d love to try it!! Please add my name to the list

  10. J Satterfield says:

    New England Cheese Making is the best! I would love to win.

  11. mafong says:

    Making cheese is on my bucket list. Please enter my name.

  12. Angela P says:

    No thanks on the cheese kit…Im in the cheese making freak mode here. Blossom my doe is up to almost 2 gals a day! I put out on FB that I needed another fridge and I got one!!!! It was so nice to see all of you having so much fun doing this. Now go get yourself a goat. IF you live in the city, just tell the neighbors its a new rare breed of dog….they’ll never know! 😉 Happy cheese making all!

  13. Cheryl LeMay says:

    Please enter me too! I want to learn to make cheese so badly something like this would give me the push I need.

  14. suziQ says:

    I’d love to win a kit, too! :woof:

  15. heathenmom says:

    We are cheese FIENDS at our house! I’d love to be a cheesemaker, but have thus far been too intimidated to try. Can you please enter me in the drawing? :wave:

  16. Landodixy says:

    I’d LOVE to win!

  17. kazinsmom says:

    I made my first cheeses a few weeks ago, and now want to try mozzarella. Please enter me. Thank you!

  18. lilynkillian says:

    I want one sooo badly! We go thruogh cheese in this house at a crazy rate!

  19. langela says:

    Please enter me. I’d love to learn to make cheese! Thanks for the chance.

  20. PrettyCoy says:

    I want to make cheese pretty please!

  21. cruelshoes says:

    I’d love a chance to win this. 🙂

  22. hampgirl says:

    Last Christmas, I got my mother the Basic Cheesemaking kit from New England Cheese. Since then, she’s been dying to make mozzarella! Cheese kit please.

  23. graceface66 says:

    I would love to win!

  24. Darlene says:

    Great post, Suzanne and a big thank you for adding the links! Count me in :fairy:

  25. dgkritch says:

    Yes please!! I AM going to learn to make cheese!

  26. twotravel says:

    Magical Mozerella at home please, include me in the drawing! :cowsleep:

  27. Pete says:

    Oh, YES! Would LOVE to win the kit!!!!

  28. hansbrough says:

    Nice setup! Looks fun. 🙂 Please enter me in the giveaway! 🙂

  29. djbrown says:

    One of these days I am going to make cheese – maybe winning this will kick me in the butt to find milk and give it a try. Thanks for the give-a-way Suzanne!!! :snoopy:

  30. steakandeggs says:

    I have always wanted to learn to make cheese. This would get me started. Thank you Suzanne for all your hard work to make it easier for the rest of us.

  31. DebbieM says:

    I would love to win the “Magical Mozzarella” cheese making kit! Thanks for the chance to experience cheese bliss!

  32. BuckeyeGirl says:

    I’ve been looking over the New England Cheesemaking Supply site, trying to decide what to order for my cheese making adventures… I’ll wait a day or two to order now though so please enter me too!

  33. Cindy H says:

    I would love to have the cheesemaking kit. I’ve been making some, but I could be better, and the kit would certainly help!

  34. hounddoggy says:

    I’d love the cheese kit. I love cheese but have never attempted to make any.

  35. judyh says:

    Please add my name to the cheesemaking kit drawing hat. Thanks!

  36. quietstorm says:

    PLease enter me! I’ve been making the McMinnerela but have been afraid to try the heat and stretch process! The book and DVD would be most helpful!

  37. Em says:

    Please enter me…I would love to make cheese! Thanks!

  38. Miss Nellie says:

    I am like so ready to learn cheese making! Please pick me Mr. Random Number.

  39. Tammy F says:

    Would absolutely love to win this, it would replace the cheesemaking kit I lost. (long story!)

  40. troutbummt says:

    My wife has been wanting to make cheese since she came upon your site. We have been looking for goats so as soon as we put up our fence we can get them. Yes please we would love to have this.

  41. jkubemt1 says:

    Been wanting to make my own cheese. This would be a great start. Yes I want one. Wish I could have been at the retreat.

  42. Cherylls says:

    Oh, I would love to win it. My cheesemaking class was interupted by the heat and I would love the chessemaking kit.

  43. Abby's Mom says:

    :yes: Please enter us for the cheese making kit, we would LOVE :heart: to learn this magical art!

  44. Windy Ridge Farm says:

    Please enter me ~ thanks! 🙂 :cowsleep:

  45. mermonster says:

    Me too! Thanks. 🙂

  46. absinthe says:

    Yes! Cheese, please! I’d love to win that kit!

  47. EightPondFarm says:

    There could not ever be a bad mozz, could there? Like bread, even the mistakes are (usually) good to eat. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

  48. YelloJelloBelly says:

    Please enter me, one day I’m gonna win one of these! I’ve only managed to make 2 cheeses out of 5 attempts :hissyfit: I need to get better at this!

  49. CrystalGB says:

    I would love to have the cheesemaking kit. Awesome giveaway.

  50. sekinkead says:

    I would love to win the giveaway. I can’t wait to start making my own cheese.

  51. CarrieJ says:

    I HAFTA have this!!! I am in the cheesemaking mode. I bought a makisa pan. I am READY (actually, I can make mozerella pretty ok…it’ the hard cheese that’s next). PLUS my birthday is tomorrow the 16th…I’m destined to be picked!!! (please random number drawer..draw my number).

  52. LaChienne says:

    That sounds wonderful! I would love to win! And hopefully one of these times I’ll be able to make it to a retreat ^_^

  53. woadtoad says:

    I’d love to win a mozz kit! Thank you so much for the opportunity!

  54. Jersey Lady says:

    I already make mozzarella but I would use the kit to teach the folks at my church to make it since they keep bugging me to have a class.

  55. KLabmom says:

    I’d love to be entered to win :snoopy:

  56. farmkat says:

    I’d love a cheese kit – please enter my name! and thanks!
    your retreat sounds wonderful

  57. brookdale says:

    Would love to try this…pleeeeease pick me! Thank you!

  58. AutumnK says:

    I would love to win this. Does it help that today is my birthday?

  59. september says:

    Please enter me in the cheese kit giveaway. I followed your recipes and have had great success.

  60. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    Hubby isn’t eating much cheese these days (health issues), so that leaves more for me!!! My name on the list, please!!!!! And thanks to you and New England Cheesemaking!!!

  61. Badgerdance says:

    wow! That is a big cheese challemnge!I would like to win your drawing

  62. sueann37 says:

    I really, really want to learn how to make cheese. :snoopy:

  63. Julia says:

    Add me to the list please. I’d love to win the kit. Thanks!

  64. sparkles2307 says:

    I’d LOVE to win this kit! We’re weaning the calves in the next few weeks so I will be able to start milking my lovely little angus again!

  65. Esor says:

    Yay! Please add me to the list too! Thanks!

  66. cblystone1 says:

    Ever since T stumbled upon this site (while looking for canning recipes) i hae been hooked. I never knew you could make cheese at home. I would love a cheese kit. :shimmy:

  67. AnnieB says:

    Oh yes please, I would SO LOVE to have this cheese kit!!!!

  68. Debbie says:

    I would LOVE to win the cheesemaking starter kit!

  69. Raiquee says:

    Oh! Me Me! I would love to win also 🙂 :sheep:

  70. joykenn says:

    I LOVE mozarrella and your posts make it look easier than I thought it would me–my own string cheese, or my own tomato cheese pizza made with grandmother’s bread, MY cheese and homegrown tomatoes! YUM!! I would love to win this prize.

  71. rustinsmommy says:

    Please enter me into the drawing! I have tried and failed many times to make mozzarella. The curd always get hard and crumbly when i go to knead them. What did i do wrong?

  72. Wildflower_VA says:

    Pick me, please! :happyfeet: I’d love to add cheesemaking to my farmstead skills!

  73. Grouchymama says:

    The cheese class looks like fun. Would love to win the cheese making kit. Thanks.

  74. jnelsimpson says:

    I would love to win a kit, Suzanne you are the best to teach classes and have an online tutorial for those of us unable to go to classes! We eat a lot of cheese at our house and the kids learing with me to make it would be sublime…..a great lesson in doing for ourselves some more!! :snoopy:

  75. KariP says:

    I am eager to start making cheese, and this cheese kit would be a big help. Enter me please!

  76. caroline says:

    Please enter me, too. I would have loved to be at the retreat, the cheesemaking workshop looks like SO much fun.

  77. scrapinlinda says:

    Would love to win this kit. I really enjoyed the retreat, it was awesome!! :purpleflower:

  78. Blaik says:

    I would be thoroughly thrilled to win this cheesemaking kit! Thanks for all that you do!

  79. roosterrun says:

    I really need to win this cheese making kit.

  80. bigbearsmomma says:

    Would love to start making cheese!


  81. MadMary says:

    Enter me please, I want to make cheese.

    Not really MAD, just MadMary

  82. theresea says:

    Hi I would love to win this!!!Please !! Tell Clover hi for me please.

  83. Vicki in So. CA says:

    I would love to win this cheese making kit! Enter me please. Thanks so much! :wave:

  84. marymac says:

    I would like to win the cheese kit, thanks!

  85. Aggiemom says:

    :snoopy: :snoopy: :snoopy: :snoopy: :snoopy: :snoopy: :snoopy: I know you can see me jumping up and down. Please, machine, pick me for the cheese making kit.

    Thank you for ALL that you do Suzanne. You are my hero!!

    :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave: :wave:

  86. debg says:

    Sure do wish I could have been at the retreat. Maybe next year. Anyway, please pick me for the cheese making kit.


  87. ranchelmarie says:

    I would love a cheese making kit!
    I also would absolutely love to go to one of your retreats!

  88. Jiller says:

    I so wanted to go to the retreat! Please I would love to win the starter kit! California is so far away from you that I will have to save for the next retreat!


    Long time reader…just the quiet type!

  89. mmilton says:

    Wish I lived closer to you! Would LOVE to come to a class. Please enter me also for a free kit. AWESOME!

  90. paty_duncan says:

    I would love to learn to make cheese. I would love a goat, or a cow, definitely chickens, … and I’m dreaming. But learning to make cheese would be reality! :chicken:

  91. laurie hamar says:

    Would love to win this one, thanks for the chance.

  92. Almost Heaven, WV says:

    Would love this! :woof:

  93. CindyP says:

    Would love the cheese kit :happyflower:

  94. barefeet3kids says:

    Been making chevre for a few months would love to try moz as well. Please enter me for the kit.

  95. capittsley says:

    I would love to win a free kit! I made my first batch of ricotta last weekend and I’m hooked! Can’t wait to try making all sorts of other yummy cheeses!

  96. Chickenlady62 says:

    would love to win the cheese package :snoopy: ! woo hoo …thanks for the chance .


  97. hatpin2 says:

    I would love to REALLY learn how to make cheese! This kit would be a great start.

  98. LisaAJB says:

    Pick me! I’d looove some magic motz!

  99. tea4too0 says:

    Please enter me in the contest, thank you. T

  100. Turtle Mom says:

    I would love to win the cheese making kit! I can’t wait to make cheese!

  101. sedgefield says:

    Tomorrow, the 16th is my birthday!! A cheesemaking kit would make a gret birthday present!!!

  102. Rosemeri says:

    I would love to have this kit. Please enter me. Thanks for all your wonderful posts.

  103. Old WV Broad says:

    Would like to have it. I want it. I really really want it. I neeeeeeeeeed it, says my inner teenager! (grin)

  104. Wendy says:

    I would love to have one and make cheese, what a new adventure!

  105. TeresaJM says:

    Love cheese and would love to win this!

  106. lavenderblue says:

    How cool is it to learn a skill well enough to feel confident (or at least reasonably confident) enough to pass it on to others. Sort of like what the ladies in the extended families of days past used to do for each other. Sounds like you did a great job, Suzanne.

    I would love, of course, to win a kit. :yes:

  107. Willamette Valley Girl says:

    My family and I LUVVVVVVVVVV cheese! It would be very special to win this gift. Thanks so much! :woof:

  108. Darlene in North GA says:

    ooohhh, I’d like a cheese kit!
    I’ve made soft cheeses before, but it’s been a few years.

  109. TRUDY says:

    I would SO love to make my own cheese and would put this kit to good use IMMEDIATELY!! Thanks for the offer!

  110. VaGirl2 says:

    I’d love a cheese kit!

  111. mammaleigh says:

    I would love to have a chance to win this and learn and new trade! Mabe one day m dream of becoming some what more self sufficiant will come!
    :clover: :clover: :clover:
    (I need all the luck I can get!)

  112. wbender says:

    Please, I would love a kit. I’ve tried making mozzerella (goats milk) with mixed success. Would love to try it again. 🙂

  113. dlynthomas says:

    Awesome! Would love to win this!

  114. naomibeth3 says:

    BBB please :sheep:

  115. CarrieSpins says:

    I love cheese! Please enter me!

  116. Shelly says:

    Please entry me!!

  117. HobbyHillFarm says:

    Please pick me – I need some more supplies. Love cheese and did not get a chance to make it to the retreat. We really love chese!!! :snoopy:

  118. TinaBell says:

    Boy howdy would I love to win that cheese-makin’ kit! I WANT CHEESE!!! :shimmy:

  119. jan n tn says:

    please, please…oh random picker…i need it!

  120. Cassie says:

    I would love to win this. I want to learn to make cheese (that’s actually how I came across this website). I want to make it with my children. I think that they would love that! Thanks for the giveaway!

  121. Kathi says:

    Count me in for the drawing.

    Thank you for the post!

  122. Hugh says:

    I sure would have loved to been there, but making it in my home with your instructions will have to be a substitute.

  123. jamitysmom says:

    Me too! Would have loved to come to the retreat – I’m planning on being there NEXT YEAR! Please sign me up for this Cheese Making Kit! Love your site and I’m really looking forward to meeting you Suzanne :wave:

  124. ritzywife says:

    I would love a cheese kit. I love cheese, reading about cheese and trying to learn how to make it myself. thanks for the “cheesy” post. :happyflower:

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