Jan 11, 2013

Learn to Make Cheese: Why & How

For a couple of years now, I've wanted to learn to make cheese. This year, I'm actually going to do it - so you can expect to see more posts on cheese making.

Why would you want to make your own cheese?

* To save money
* To serve your family more wholesome, healthy food
* To just know how

To Save Money
Dairy is expensive! And prices just seem to go up and up and up. It's true cheese making requires a few store bought supplies (like rennet - an important ingredient, and one most people can't or won't make at home). You will even need to buy milk, unless you are lucky enough to have a goat or cow for fresh milk. But from what I've read over the past few years, even after buying these supplies, you will save money. (I'll examine how much money I've saved as I make various cheese and dairy products, being sure to share my findings here.)

To Serve Healthier Food
Have you looked at the ingredient list of the average cheese or dairy product? Here's the ingredient list from some cottage cheese I just bought:


I guarantee you home made cottage cheese contains only milk, calcium, a starter, and rennet. No carbon dioxide, no guar, locust bean, or xanthan gum, no potassium sorbate preservative, no polysorbate 80...

To Just Know How
Let's face it; it's just plain smart to know how to make foods the old fashioned way. It doesn't mean you have to make it from scratch all the time, but it opens up your options when grocery store food gets too expensive.

Cheese Making: Where to Start
Mozzarella, from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
The first step toward becoming a cheesemaker is to find a really good book on the topic. I've read a lot of these books and believe Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making is by far the best. It's in it's third edition (originally published in 1982), is written clearly, and is organized well. In it, you'll learn not only how to make soft and hard cheeses, but other dairy products, including yogurt (which is so easy to make!), butter, and buttermilk.

For beginners, mozzerella is generally considered the easiest cheese to make. Carroll also recommends other soft cheeses like ricotta, Frommage Blanc, and Queso Blanco before moving on to hard cheeses like Cheddar.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get the supplies you need. You will probably have to order most of them from a cheesemaking supply site like New England Cheesemaking (owned by Carroll) or The Grape and Grainery. To get what I needed for my first simple projects of mozzerella and cottage cheese, I am spending about $50 - and remember, these supplies will last many projects.

Assuming you're making mozzerella, for example, you'd need:

Milk
Citric acid
Lipase powder
Rennet
Cheese salt (optional)
Dairy themometer 
Butter muslin

A curd scoop and curd knife are handy, but not absolutely essential.

Home Cheese Making explains exactly what these ingredients are and how to use them. I highly recommend you get your hands on the book before you purchase any supplies, or you may end up purchasing something you don't need.

Finally, I should note you'll probably run across cheese making kits that have "everything needed" to make a certain kind of cheese. For example, New England Cheesemaking's Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit says it will make 30 batches of mozzarella; the kit is under $25. This is a savings of about $2.30 over purchasing the items in the kit separately. The kit also contains an instruction booklet.

What kind of cheese or dairy product would you like to learn to make?

3 comments:

  1. I'm excited to follow your progress. I received that book a few years ago as a gift, but I'm not really at a place to be able to try it yet. I will someday though!

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  2. hey Kristina, this is so great!! I am one that have been looking to learn how to make my own cheese. We love cheese but I am trying to decrease the amount we eat because of all the preservatives and things that are added to store bought cheese. I have not been able to find raw cheese where we live. I have a friend who has goats and we are seriously thinking of getting some so we can have fresh and raw milk and cheese. I will for sure follow your posts on cheese making. How exciting!

    Our next plan for this year is getting chickens. Last year with your help (from your posts and your start up seed ebook) we began our first garden. This year we want to get chickens. Any suggestions on which posts to read on that??

    happy new year!!!

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  3. Tereza, if you look over to the right, there is a cloud list of topics here at Proverbs 31 Woman. Click on "Chickens 101" for all the basics about getting and keeping chickens.

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