How to Make Cheese
Cheese is one of those foods a lot of people would have a very hard time living without, and it may not always be as simple as walking into a grocery store and buying any kind of cheese you want. Can you imagine a world without cheese? A lot of people can’t, making it an extremely valuable commodity in tough times.
Learning to make your own cheese at home is a great idea. Not only will you have your own supply of cheese, but you’ll also be able to make enough for trading with others!
To make cheese, you’ll need the following items. You may also need additional supplies, depending on the type of cheese you want to make.
- Cheesecloth – Cheesecloth is necessary for almost any type of cheese you’d want to make, other than a few simple cheeses, like cottage. It’s used to strain the curds from the whey.
- Rennet – Rennet is the ingredient that is typically used to cause milk to curdle–or to turn into curds. It is typically made from the contents of a young animal’s stomach before it is weaned, but there is also vegetable rennet if you’re not comfortable using traditional forms.
- Salt – Almost every cheese recipe requires salt. It acts as both a flavoring agent and a preservative.
- Milk – Although there are vegetarian “cheeses” available, traditional cheese requires some sort of milk from an animal, such as cow, goat, sheep, or buffalo. You can make approximately one pound of firm cheese per gallon of milk, or approximately two pounds of soft cheese per gallon.
- A Large Stock Pot – because it takes a lot of milk to make a relatively small amount of cheese, it’s recommended that you have a stock pot that holds at least two gallons of liquid. Most cheese recipes require the milk to be heated, and it won’t be very efficient to heat a smaller amount of milk.
- Colander – A good colander made of any non-reactive material is important to help you drain the curds from the whey.
- Thermometer – Many cheese recipes require you to heat the milk to a specific temperature, so having a thermometer is important. One that will attach to the side of the pot to constantly monitor temperature is a great idea.
Soft cheeses are typically the easiest to make. Recipes for soft cheeses generally yield about two pounds of cheese per gallon of milk, which is about twice as much as the typical yield from hard cheese recipes.
Cottage Cheese – Cottage cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make. It requires few supplies or ingredients, and it can be made in pretty much any home kitchen with little effort.
Here is a recipe for cottage cheese:
Cream Cheese – Cream cheese is extremely popular due to its use as a spread for bagels, and in making cheesecake. It’s a highly versatile cheese, and it can be used to add a creamy element to many recipes when no fresh milk or cream is available. For example, it can be stirred into soup to turn it into a creamy chowder.
Here is a recipe for making cream cheese:
Ricotta – Ricotta is most widely known for its use in Italian pasta dishes like manicotti and lasagna. It’s a soft, somewhat grainy cheese that is fairly similar to cottage cheese. In fact, some recipes suggest using cottage cheese in place of ricotta when ricotta isn’t available.
Here is a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese:
Feta Cheese – Despite the fact that it’s sold in a relatively solid block, feta cheese is actually typically classified as a soft cheese because it is in the “fresh cheese” category. It can be found in varying hardnesses from soft to semi-hard. It doesn’t have as long a shelf life as hard cheeses.
Here is a recipe for making feta cheese:
Fresh Mozzarella – Fresh mozzarella is considerably different than the cheese most people think of when they hear “mozzarella”. The cheese you find in “mozzarella sticks” and on most pizza is a harder form of mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is much softer, and is used for recipes like caprese salad, which is an Italian dish consisting of slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and other ingredients such as olive oil, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar. It can also be used sliced on pizza, and many gourmet pizza restaurants use it.
Here is a recipe for making fresh mozzarella:
Hard and Semi-Soft Cheeses
Hard cheeses generally have lower yields per gallon of milk than soft cheeses, but because they are lower in moisture, they tend to last a lot longer in storage. While soft cheeses often have a shelf life of anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, many types of hard cheese can last for months, or even years.
Cheddar – Cheddar cheese is available in a wide variety of forms, including various sharpnesses from mild to extra sharp, and in white and yellow varieties.
Here is a basic recipe for making cheddar cheese:
Colby – Colby is similar to cheddar in flavor, though a little milder and softer in texture. It’s a somewhat sharp cheese with a creamy, buttery flavor.
Here is a recipe for Colby:
Parmesan – Parmesan cheese is a hard, dry cheese that is typically grated or shredded for use in Italian recipes, such as a topping for spaghetti or lasagna. The stuff in the green canister is not real parmigiano reggiano cheese, which (to legally be called parmigiano reggiano, must come from a specific region of Italy.)
Here are two recipes for making homemade parmesan:
https://www.cheesemaking.com/Parma1.html (using pasteurized milk)
https://www.cheesemaking.com/Parma2.html (using farm-fresh milk)