Imagine being able to serve your guests a cheese platter made from cheese you made yourself in your own kitchen. That is exactly what we do on our farm and it is time to get started because for really tasty Christmas cheese it needs to be aging by the end of September.
The lack of your own farm-fresh milk doesn’t have to stop you because with the addition of calcium chloride, store-bought milk can be used. The desired concentration of CaCl2 is usually specified as 0.02 per cent. This would mean adding 3.6 g CaCl2 to 5 gal. of pasteurized milk. You should completely dissolve the CaCl2 in about 1/4 c. water before adding it to the milk. Add it slowly with thorough stirring. It can be purchased in a liquid form that is more user friendly than the crystals. This procedure will firm up the curd and allow pasteurized milk to make a tasty homemade treat.
To make cheese you will need a large stainless steel pot, a large colander, a seamless stainless steel spoon, a long-bladed knife, a thermometer, a mould, cheesecloth (butter muslin), cultures, rennet, Celtic sea salt and milk. I purchase most of my supplies from http://glengarrycheesemaking.on.ca/recipes.htm 1-888-816-0903. My favourite website for learning beginner techniques is http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/CHEESE.HTML.
The first cheese I made was cottage cheese from cow’s milk. It is a far superior product than what can be purchased at the store and I was blessed to be able to learn from a lady with years of experience.
Batch size: 1 gallon Expected yield: 4 cups
Milk source: Skimmed cow milk (if you don’t use a cream separator just skim the cream off with a ladle), or skim pasteurized with calcium chloride added.
Production time: Not sure
Warm the milk to 72 F (22.2 C). Add 2 ozs. cultured buttermilk or commercial unflavoured yogurt and let it ripen on the counter with the lid on till it is thick. It will resemble yogurt. (Once you have a batch you can freeze some ice cube trays of this before it is cooked and use those instead of the buttermilk or yogurt). The curd is then cut into 1/4-inch curds and the temperature slowly raised to 112 F (44.4 C). This should take about 20 minutes. Cover the pot and let rest for 30 minutes. Pour the curds and whey through a colander then let the curds drain till they are firm enough to stir. Salt the curd and let it drain till desired dryness. This cottage cheese can be used for eating fresh or cooking.
Batch size: 2 gallons Expected yield: 2 pounds
Milk source: Whole milk, raw or pasteurized (goat or cow)
Production time: Approx 3.5 hours till pressing starts
Warm the milk to 86 F (30 C) in a large stainless steel pot. Add 1/4 cup mesophillic culture (cultured commercial buttermilk can be used). Let the milk ripen with the lid on maintaining the 86 F (30 C) temperature for 45 minutes. In the mean time prepare your rennet by diluting 1/4 tsp. in 1/4 cup of cool water. At the end of the 45 minutes stir in the rennet mixture with an up-and-down motion allowing the cream to be stirred back into the milk and the rennet to be thoroughly mixed. Place the lid back on your pot and maintain the temp. at 86 F (30 C) by placing the pot into a sinkful of 86 F (30 C) water. The milk should set for 45 to 60 minutes. Test the curd for a clean break by running a sharp knife through it. If it leaves a clean line it is set. Proceed to cut the curd with a long-handled knife into 1/4-inch square curds, while still in the pot. Let the curd rest, still maintaining 86 F (30 C) temp. for another 10 minutes. This allows the whey to start to be released from the curd. Slowly raise the temp. (should take about 20 minutes) to 100 F (37.8 C), stirring often to keep the curds from matting. Hold the temperature at 100 F (37.8 C) for a half-hour, stirring frequently to avoid matting. Strain off the whey till you can see the curds. Maintaining the 100 F (37.8 C) temperature let rest another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. The curds will have shrunk significantly by the end of the second 30 minutes and be ready to strain. Working quickly so the curds don’t chill finish straining the curd through the colander. Salt them with 2 tbsp. Celtic sea salt. Then pour the curd into the awaiting cheesecloth-lined mould. Wrap securely and press. We do not have a cheese press — we use my son’s weightlifting plates balanced in a corner of my kitchen counter. Flip the cheese between weight changes.
15 pounds for 10 minutes.
30 pounds for 10 minutes.
40 pounds for 2 hours.
50 pounds for 24 hours.
At this point the cheese is removed from the mould, placed on a clean plate and covered with a clean dishcloth. I then place it in my fridge [cheese should age at 50 F (10 C) so this is a bit cold] and hide it from my family for three months. During the three months it must be flipped daily so it dries on all sides. If it develops mould we dampen a cloth with vinegar and rub it off.
Since we started making cheeses the hardest part has been to keep them hidden till they are old enough to eat. This hobby has made it very possible to keep our oversupply of milk in the summer (which is highest in vitamins and minerals from pasture) through the winter. A little taste of summer every day!
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