Cheesemaking Without Benefit of Mail Order

Post by community member:


Now that I have tasted success in my early cheesemaking adventures, I have been trying to assemble useful or at least interesting information on the processes involved.

One of the more “back-to basics” set of instructions I have come across is an excerpt from an out-of-print cheesemaking book that was sent to me by a long-time goat person. I don’t know the title or author, but I thought I’d share in this post a bit of information on how my grandmother might have made cheese (had she been so inclined). I have paraphrased much of the info for the sake of brevity.

If I had to name this book, I would call it something like “Cheesemaking Without Benefit of Mail Order”.

  • Milk:
  • Raw whole milk from goats or cows makes the richest cheese but partially skimmed milk may be used. Preservatives are often added to milk that is labeled “pasteurized” so only raw milk can be used, otherwise the milk may not form curds.

    The book goes on to stress the importance of antibiotic-free milk so that the bacterial action that acidifies the milk will proceed unhindered.

    Milk must be warmed, and held at room temperature until it has ripened, in other words, until the lactic acid begins to develop and the milk tastes slightly acidic. They suggest it is best to use a mixture of evening and morning milk. The book instructs the cheese maker to warm the evening milk to 60 degrees and hold it there overnight then to cool the morning milk to 60 degrees and mix with the evening milk. If you use only morning milk it suggests to cool the milk to 60 or 70 degrees and let it ripen for 3 or 4 hours to develop the acid.

    They stress only using your very best milk because poor milk makes poor cheese.

    Plan to use 4 quarts of milk per pound of cheese.

  • Starter:
  • (excerpted directly from the book)

    “Some type of starter is necessary to develop the proper amount of acid for good cheese flavor.

    You can buy buttermilk, yogurt or a commercial powdered cheese starter or you can make a tart homemade starter by holding 2 cups of fresh milk at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours until it curdles or clabbers.

    A more complicated, but much more mellow starter may be made by adding 1/8 cake of yeast to 1 cup of warm milk and letting it stand for 24 hours. Then pour out half and add 1 cup of warm milk. Every day for 7 days pour off half the mixture and add 1 cup of warm milk. Keep it in a warm place. After a week, add the mixture to 2 cups of warm milk and let it stand for 24 hours. This is a cultured starter and is now ready to use.”

    I think this starter will store in the fridge for a week and is reusable by saving some clabbered milk made at the start of each cheesemaking session but the instructions seem a bit vague.

  • Rennet:
  • We are all familiar with “store bought” rennet, but you can make cheese without any rennet as described in the first step of making hard cheese below.

    Step 1. Ripen the milk: (excerpted directly from the book)

    “Warm milk to 86 degrees and add two cups of homemade starter and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes to be sure it is well incorporated into the milk. Cover and let sit in a warm place, perhaps overnight.

    In the morning, taste the milk. If it has a slightly acid taste it is ready.

    If you are not using rennet, let the milk set for 18 to 24 hours more or until the curds have formed and the whey is separating.”

The remaining basic hard cheese-making steps in the book are similar to those in other books, so I won’t cover those.

The book does, however, have some interesting recipes that I can’t wait to try using the homemade starter once fresh milk on our farm is more plentiful come spring. Some of the more interesting sounding recipes include Teleme, Sweet Cheese, Krautt Cheese, Schmierkase, and Gaiskasli.

Shelley blogs at Twiggity Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats.

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