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Eats & Drinks | How to Make Cheese: A Beginners Guide

By Mike James

If you love cheese, then why not have a go at making your own? It’s really not that difficult. Some would say its ‘cheesy peasy.’ Once you’ve invested in a few basic pieces of equipment, the process of making cheese is actually very straightforward, and once you’ve tasted the result, you’ll never look back. It’ll be homemade cheese all the way. From a greedily grabbed hunk of cheese as a snack to sophisticated cheese adorned suppers, making your own cheese will bring more than a good ingredient to your menus. It’s a very satisfying hobby indeed.

As a beginner, the biggest hurdle is deciding what type of cheese to make first! We’d recommend sticking to the cheeses that are most forgiving when it comes to temperature and time discrepancies. Cultured soft cheeses, such as fromage blanc, or acid cheeses, such as ricotta or Queso blanco are the easiest types of cheese to start with. We’ll get you started with our guide to making a simple, delicious fromage blanc cheese.

Facts you need to know:

Milk is the main ingredient of cheese (obviously). There are some important facts you need to know about milk to give you a better understanding of the cheesemaking process. There are four different types of milk you can use to make cheese and each one differs slightly so you’ll need to use cheesemaking recipes appropriate to each type of milk. The four types of milk are cow, goat, sheep and buffalo.

 

Casein is the important ingredient in milk for the cheesemaking process. It’s one of many proteins in milk, but is particular to cheesemaking. It’s the protein in milk that clots, or becomes solid, as milk becomes more acidic. The clots trap a little water and most importantly, fats. The clots (also known as curds) are made up of protein, water and fat. It’s this clotting process that is essentially the art of cheesemaking. Now you can understand why full fat milk is better for cheesemaking, as it will yield more of the clots or curds.

Equipment you’ll need before you get started:

  • An instant read thermometer (you can use it for jam-making too)
  • Butter muslin (a fine-weave cheesecloth)
  • A large pot with a lid (if metal, be sure it’s non-reactive such as stainless steel)
  • A colander
  • A wooden spoon

You’ll need to scrub your hands and make sure all of your equipment is scrupulously clean before you get started. You’ll need extra equipment for more complicated, serious cheesemaking, but the above will do for starters. It’s that simple.

Ingredients you’ll need:

Milk (non-homogenized) – the greater the quality of the milk, the tastier your cheese will be. It’s worth bearing in mind, the higher the fat content, the better the yield, so even though technically you can use semi-skimmed milk, your yield won’t be as great as if you use full fat milk.

Raw, organic milk is best, but can be difficult to get hold of, unless you live close to a dairy farm or a good farm shop. Farmers markets are a good bet for picking up some raw milk too. Full fat milk will yield the best, and it’s fine to use pasteurized. Don’t use homogenized or UHT milks. Neither work for cheesemaking, because they have been through a process affecting the fat content of the end product. The best milk options available in most supermarkets are:

  • Gold Top Jersey and Guernsey milk (check it’s not been homogenized).
  • Organic full fat milk (also non-homogenized).

Starter culture  – you can buy this from cheesemaking suppliers.

Rennet – either animal rennet or vegetarian rennet. You’ll need to adjust quantities for each. You can also experiment with lemon juice or citric acid instead of rennet once you’re comfortable with the process. You can buy rennet in most health food shops and some supermarkets.

How to make a soft white spreadable French cheese (fromage blanc)

Ingredients:

  • 8 pints organic full fat milk
  • ⅛ teaspoon starter culture (Mesilophilic or Chevre)
  • 4 drops liquid rennet or 2 drops vegetarian liquid rennet dissolved in ⅓ cup cool water

Directions: 

  1. Heat milk to 75°F.
  2. Remove milk from heat and allow culture to dissolve on the surface of the milk for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add rennet (dissolved in the water). Do not stir, but combine with the heated milk using the wooden spoon in up and down strokes to incorporate the rennet into the milk. Do not over-mix.
  4. Cover the pot and leave to set at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
  5. The cheese is ready to strain when it is the consistency of yogurt. Pour into a cheesecloth lined colander set over a pan. Scald the cheesecloth first to ensure it’s scrupulously clean.
  6. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together and hang to drain for 6-8 hours.
  7. The cheese is ready when it has reached the consistency of cream cheese.
  8. You can add some chopped herbs and crushed garlic if you like.
  9. Store in a food grade storage box and use cheese within 7 days or freeze.

This spreadable cheese is delicious with crackers or toasted bagels.

If you’re not quite ready to go it alone, you can always book yourself and a friend onto a cheesemaking course with Into The Blue. It’s a great way to spend quality time together and it’s a quirky treat. A cheesemaking course makes a great birthday surprise for budding cooks.

Mike James is a UK-based independent writer, aspiring chef and a big fan of home made recipes. Published in numerous online and print publications, Mike specializes in business technologies for work… and tasty food for fun. Particularly, cheese. Loves the cheese.

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