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Homemade Cheeses for Beginners

I have found a new hobby in cheese making. It is an enjoyable craft that has a rewarding and edible outcome. You, too, can make some delicious, beautiful cheeses.

As far as ingredients go, the milk used in these recipes can be store bought, farm fresh (cream removed), or goat milk. However, ultra-pasteurized milk products do not work well when making cheese.

I will share recipes for some small batch cheeses. You can double (or triple) the small batches, but don’t increase the salt. I have and the cheese was much too salty.

Other than necessary equipment and ingredients for cheese, the most important thing is sanitation. A clean work area will prevent unwelcome bacteria from growing in your cheeses along with your starter cultures. Wash cooking area well and sterilize equipment (all but the thermometer). Do this by washing all equipment in hot, soapy water and rinsing well. Fill a kettle 1/3 full with water and bring to boil. Place whisk, measuring cups, and spoons into the kettle, cover, and boil for ten minutes. Allow all your tools to air dry before proceeding.

Equipment

  • A heavy, covered stainless steel or enamel pot – Acidifying milk can dissolve aluminum. A heavy bottom is key, as it disperses heat evenly and helps prevent scorching. Scorching milk adversely affects the flavor of cheese. The size of you pot is also important. It needs to be large enough to have an inch of headspace above the milk. A cover is necessary when milk must sit for periods of time. If you plan to make large batches, you may want to purchase a five-gallon stainless steel kettle. It’s a bit expensive, but worth the price if you plan to make cheese regularly.
  • Measuring cups – You will need sizes ranging from ¼ cup to a quart as well as standard measuring spoons. Accurate measurements improve success rates.
  • Thermometer – An accurate thermometer that reads from 32-225° F [0-100° C] is very important. A meat or candy thermometer will work. Achieving a temperature to within one degree of that specified is necessary to the texture of the cheese.
  • Whisk – The tool for thoroughly mixing in starter and rennet.
  • Cheesecloth- For draining whey from curds, I have used actual cheesecloth (several layers thick), scraps of linen left over from sewing projects, and white “flour sack” dishtowels. Linen and flour sack towels work best. Between uses rinse linen/flour sack towels well and wash in hot water with bleach. “Real” cheesecloth doesn’t re-use well.
  • 8-inch strainer or colander – A strainer allows whey to drain faster than a colander.
  • Cheese press This is for hard and semi-soft cheeses. You can make one cheaply and easily.
  • Cheese wax This is important so the cheese doesn’t dry out during aging and keeps mold from growing on its surface (mold needs air to grow).

Swiss Style Cream Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 ounces buttermilk
  • 1 drop liquid rennet, diluted in 2 tablespoons of cool distilled water
  • 2 teaspoons cheese salt

Directions

  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with the hottest tap water possible. Place the boiler on top and pour in the cream.
  2. Warm cream to 65° F. Once heated, add the buttermilk—mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the diluted rennet. Stir gently with an up-and-down motion.
  4. Cover and let cream set for twenty-four hours.
  5. Pour half of the curdled cream into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Sprinkle with half the cheese salt.
  6. Pour the remaining curdled cream into the colander and sprinkle with the remaining cheese salt. (The salt helps the whey drain off faster.)
  7. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth in a knot to form a bag.
  8. Hang the bag to drain for twelve hours.
  9. Line your cheese mold with clean cheesecloth and pour in the drained curds. Press with ten pounds of pressure for four to six hours.
  10. Remove the cheese from the mold and place into small containers. Refrigerate. Eat within six to eight days or freeze immediately for later use.

Yield: About 8 ounces

Queso Blanco

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat milk to 200° F, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
  2. Slowly add vinegar, a little at a time, until the curds separate from whey. Start with three tablespoons of vinegar, and if the whey still looks milky, add the remaining vinegar. (Don’t boil the milk— boiling will impart a “cooked” flavor.)
  3. Ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth to form a bag.
  4. Hang the bag to drain for several hours—until the cheese has reached the desired consistency.
  5. Remove cheese from cheesecloth and store in a covered container for one to two weeks.

Yield: 1½ – 2 pounds

Panir (Also Paneer – an Indian Cheese)

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 cups hot distilled water (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat the milk to a gentle, rolling boil, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Drizzle in lemon juice before the foam subsides. Cook for ten to fifteen seconds.
  3. Remove from heat. Continue stirring gently until large curds form. If whey is milky instead of clear, return to heat to increase temperature a little or add an additional tablespoon of lemon juice.
  4. Once you have a clear separation of curds and whey, remove from heat and let it sit for ten minutes.
  5. If you desire a very soft cheese, add the hot water now.
  6. When the curds have settled below the level of whey, they are ready to be drained. Ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth.
  7. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot to form a bag. Hold the bag under a gentle stream of lukewarm water for a minute to rinse off the lemon juice.
  8. Gently twist the top of the bag to squeeze out the whey.
  9. Hang your bag of curds for two to three hours. You can also return the bag to the colander, place a plate with a five-pound weight on top, and press for two hours.
  10. Unwrap the cheese and store it in a small container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Yield: 1 ¾ – 2 pounds.

Chenna

Ingredients (seasonings are all to your taste)

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 cups hot distilled water (optional)
  • Salt
  • Chilies/peppers
  • Herbs

Directions

  1. Follow the panir recipe through step 6.
  2. Place a plate with a five-pound weight on top of the cheese and press for forty-five minutes.
  3. Unwrap the lukewarm cheese, place it on a clean work surface, and knead it like bread dough. Gather up with spatula as necessary. Continue kneading ten minutes—until cheese is light, velvety, and smooth, without a grainy texture.
  4. Add salt, chilies, peppers, and/or herbs.
  5. Shape into patties and shallow fry just before serving.
  6. Store in covered dishes in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.

Yield: 1½ pounds

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17 comments

  1. What is… and how do I make liquid rennet?
    How do I make distilled water?
    Apple cider vinegar?
    How do I turn goats milk into heavy cream?

    Thanks, keep up the great information!

  2. Victory Dog- you can make rennet, but most people don’t. It would require you to have a milk fed calf or goat kid to butcher and take their stomach, dry and salt that.
    If you let goats milk sit in the fridge the cream will rise.
    ACV you need a vinegar starter (mother) to make apple juice into apple cider vinegar.
    not sure about distilled water, I usually don’t worry about it when I’m making fresh cheese. Don’t use chlorinated water

  3. What is rennet…can it be purchased in the grocery store? If not, where? Also, is “cheese salt” different from regular salt? Is it found in grocery store? Thanks!

    • Can’t answer your question about cheese salt (I was wondering myself) but it would be best to not use what is called table salt for anything but cleaning. Ancient sea salts, mined in Utah, Bolivia, the Himalayas, and many other places are far superior, taste better, have dozens of minerals lacking from so-called table salt, which is always white and heated many hundreds of degrees (I’ve read even a thouand degrees) and has no nutritional value. Every cell in your body needs salt so why not give it the best? Ordinary sea salt is not always the best either because it is made from salt from the ocean along the shores and often has traces of things that are best not digested (polution). You can buy small size containers of a few Ancient Sea Salts
      at a reasonable price from http://www.vitacost.com but there are those places that specialize in just various salts from around the world.

    • You can use canning salt for cheese salt. That is what I use. You want a salt that doesn’t have iodine in it. I use canning salt and sometimes I use a natural sea salt that I found at Big Lots. It came from France.

    • Cheese salt is salt that has not been iodized as it effects the cheese making process

  4. I’m wondering about the possible scenario of no access to fresh milk from stores and no cow handy. Is there any kind of cheese that could be made from stored milk products(canned or powdered)?

    • There are cheese making books that do talk about making cheese from powdered milk.

      Personally, I find store bought milk unfit for consumption. I prefer RAW real milk (I have goats).

  5. You can make cheese with milk from the grocery store, you can even make it with powdered milk (reconstituted with water of course)… I’ve made it with powdered milk and vinegar.

    Wretha

  6. Thanks for the article. My problem is with the cheese once it is wrapped in cheese cloth and either waxed or not, my cheese blocks are splitting open.

    Any ideas?

    • I haven’t tried the recipes above yet, but I found that rennet cheese splits when it is too dry. Even for hard cheeses, I use the drip-style and squeeze it periodically.

      For anyone looking for rennet and other cheese making tools, I found http://www.cheesemaking.com where they have 100 tablets for $40.

    • If you’re making fresh cheese and the blocks are still splitting, either there’s still too much “water” in the cheese, or your cheese is fermenting and splitting the casing. Try pressing the cheese after hanging if you’re not, make sure your pan is sterile (so as not to introduce bacteria), or as they do in many places, age your cheese prior to waxing (think the limestone caves of France), in your case placing the cheese in the refrigerator for a day prior to waxing–the excess whey will seep out and can be separated, and/or the cheese will “work” letting you know you have active bacteria present. This may not be a bad thing, especially if you are using a natural, whole milk of some kind, but it means you’ll have to age/dry your cheese quite a bit if you intend to wax the curd.

  7. Rennet is also found in some grocery stores sold as Junket (12 rennet tablets for less than $2). There are two forms: plain Junket tablets and Junket custard mix. You want the plain tablets for cheesemaking. I have found it either with the puddings and gelatins, or with the ice cream toppings. It can be used to make custards, cottage cheese, ice cream, and the soft cheeses mentioned in this post.

  8. I don’t use any products that come from the factory farming industry. Is there a source for rennet that somes from grass-fed free roaming animals?

  9. http://www.hambydairysupplies.com

    Should be able to get most ‘stuff’ there. They have a good buy on yogurt making supplies, too. And he is a really good guy–have worked with him of some things.

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