BASIC CHEESEMAKING RECIPE - Make your own cheese at home
Cheese had been a dietary staple for thousands of years. Although drawings of what appears to be cheese
were found on stone tablets dated to 4000 BC. Legend
attributes its discovery to an early traveler who put some
milk into a leather pouch made from the stomach of a calf
before setting off on a journey across the desert When at
last the traveler stopped for a meal, he found that the milk
has become cheese. Apparently rennet, an enzyme in the
pouch (found in a sheep's stomach), when heated by the
sun, caused the milk to separate into whey and soft white
curds of cheese. Milk had made its leap to mortality.
The story of the cheese runs like a thread throughout
the records of mankind. A Greek historian named
Xenophon, born in 349 BC, wrote about a goat cheese
that had been known for centuries in Peloponnesus. From
the fuzzy shadows of antiquity, Homer speaks of it, and
David was carrying cheeses among his possessions when
he first heard of Goliath.
As the center of civilization
moved westward to Rome, the art of cheesemaking was
carried along. Early cheese factories had a fire pit in the
corner, with a copper kettle hanging over it on a crane,
so they could swing the kettle over and away from the
From these early beginnings, the production of
cheese has grown to big business. People have many
questions about cheese, but the biggest question is
probably whether or not it can really be made in the
kitchen. Remember, that until recently cheeses were
made on farms.
Modern cheese factories have spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most advanced
scientific equipment so that they can faithfully copy the
cheeses turned out in the primitive farm kitchens of
Utensils and Equipment
As a cheesemaker, before you begin making your
first batch of cheese, some basic equipment will be necessary.
You will probably be pleasantly surprised to find
out that you already have almost everything needed in
your kitchen right now!
Thermometer: There arc special diary thermometersbut a bulb type that registers 50 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit
is fine. Remember that mercury is poisonous, so if you use
a mercury thermometer, don't break it.
Pan: Stainless steel or enamel pan. Steel oraluminum pans will affect the cheese adversely. We use
our canning pan.
Long-bladed Knife: The knife should be sharp and
have a blade long enough to cut through the curd on the
Colander: You will need it to strain the curds fromthe whey.
Cheese Mold: A cheese mold can be easily made from
a clean tin can having smooth sides. The bottom and sides
will have to be perforated with holes to allow the whey to
drain from the curds. Punch the holes from the inside or else
the sharp, pointed metal edges of the holes will catch on
the cheese or cheesecloth preventing its removal.
Cheesecloth: Enough to line the colander and/or
The Basics of Cheesemaking
The cheesemaking process is not complicated, as
evidenced by the fact that cheese has often been produced
by accident. A good quality should be used. Remember,
although there is no set amount of milk to use, the bigger
the cheese, up to a point, the better the cheese. The
amount of cheese derived from a gallon of milk varies,
but this is usually around a pound.
Starter: The first step in the process of cheese
making is adding a starter to the milk to sour or ripen it
This will add flavor to your cheese The basic cheese
recipe uses active buttermilk culture for this purpose. Be
sure to rummage around in the back of the display case
at your grocers to get one from the very back. The fresher
the buttermilk, the better!
Coloring: Color has nothing to do with the quality
of the cheese and its use is entirely optional. It is added
for eye appeal. It should be added before the rennet is
added to the milk. Use cheese coloring dye only.
Rennet:Rennet (available in liquid or tablet form,at your grocery store) is added to the ripened milk,
causing it to coagulate. The tablet should be crushed in a
spoon, stirred into cool water before added to the milk
(follow the instructions in the Basic Cheese Recipe).
Follow the steps in the Basic Cheese Recipe carefully
and don't be discouraged by a few setbacks, especially
when trying to make your own cheese for the first time.
There are those of us who remember our first attempts at
breadmaking and look back smiling a the defiant dough
that we finally beat into submission. The art of breadmaking
left the factories of our own homes. Now it is time to bring the art of cheesemaking back home in your kitchen too.
Just as there is a trick to handling bread dough, there are tricks
to turning milk into cheese. If you follow the directions
carefully (especially the ones about cleanliness), we can
almost promise you smooth sailing, and the undeniable
thrill of watching your family and friends smacking their
lips over a slice of your very own cheese, and saying to
them, smugly, "I made it myself!"