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 I'm interested in making cheese. What are the basics?

I'm interested in making cheese. What are the basics?

How is home cheese making different from commercial?

Home cheese making differs from commercial cheese making in scale and in the need to produce exact duplicate products day after day for retail markets. Commercial cheese makers employ the same raw ingredients as home cheese makers, but their knowledge and experience is much higher. Also, they must follow local certifications and regulations. If you wish to sell your cheese, we suggest you start making simple cheeses, do as much reading as you can and visit cheese makers in your area.

How do I start making cheese?

We always encourage people to start with a small investment and proceed from there. For this we have developed several kits for the home cheese maker. The one you choose will depend on what types of cheeses you’d like to make. Most people will start with the Starter Cheese Making Kit to get the hang of how the process works, then move on to the more difficult mozzarella and hard cheeses. We’ll break down the different starter equipment kits to help you choose which one is right for you.

Starter Cheesemaking Kith4>

This cheese making has everything you need to start making cheese at home. It includes all the ingredients and special tools needed for one great price, so you can get started right away. The cheeses you can make with this kit are all soft, which are the easiest cheeses to make, and require no aging.

Advanced Cheese Kit

This equipment kit includes everything in the starter kit, along with some additional ingredients and equipment that will allow you to make more cheeses, such as Gouda, Cottage Cheese or Parmesan. These cheeses are a little more difficult to make, and some require aging.

Hard Cheese Kit

If you’d like to get started right away with hard cheeses, this kit has everything you’ll need. In no time you’ll be enjoying Monterey Jack, Traditional Cheddar or Colby. These hard cheeses are among the most difficult to make, but they are well worth the time and effort.

Mozzarella Kit

Mozzarella is one of the most popular cheeses to make, so we’ve packaged everything you need to make it in one kit. How cool would it be to tell your dinner guests that you made the mozzarella in the caprese salad you served? You can’t imagine how delicious fresh mozzarella is on top of a pizza, try it!

Basic concepts of cheesemaking

Milk

Milk is the most important ingredient in cheesemaking. You can use any commercial pasteurized homogenized or certified raw cow, goat, or sheep milk. All will make cheese, each with its unique flavor. The richness in flavor of the cheese is related to the amount of butterfat in the milk. Whole milk has about four percent butterfat. Hard cheeses made from high-fat milk are generally softer than skim milk varieties but their “mouth feel” is rich and silky. Skim milk contains zero to two percent butterfat. It is fine for making reduced-fat and soft cheeses. One gallon of milk will yield 1 – 1.5 lbs. of cheese.

Cultures

Cultures are added to milk to change lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This process changes the acidity level of the milk and begins the process of turning milk from a liquid into a solid. Cheese cultures are a blend of bacteria that were isolated many years ago from dairies producing great cheese. They are currently maintained as pure strains by our suppliers. If kept frozen, the cultures will last up to two years. At room temperature, they will last up to two months.

Rennet

Rennet is added to further encourage the milk to solidify. It will cause the milk to coagulate when mixed with milk between the temperatures of 95º - 105º. Curds are cut into cubes by using a curd knife. Cutting the curds encourages them to expel liquid, or whey. Generally, the smaller the curds are cut, the harder the resulting cheese will be. Soft cheeses like Camembert or Brie are hardly cut at all. Harder cheeses like Cheddar and Gruyere are cut into a very fine texture.

Cheese Salt

This special salt melts easily and contains no iodine. Iodine will kill the lactic bacteria in the aging process and it is the lactic bacteria that is important to the proper aging of cheese. What we are looking for in “Cheese Salt” is one that will not dissolve too quickly or slowly. If a fine grain salt is used it will dissolve very quickly, creating a very high brine content near the curd surface, and will impede the movement of salt into the cheese. Too coarse a grain will dissolve too slowly and not control the culture bacteria activity. A moderate crystal size is what we have sourced for our cheese salt here. Cheese salt adds flavor and also acts as a preservative so the cheese does not spoil during long months or years of aging. It also helps a natural rind to form on the cheese. There are several ways to use salt. Cheese salt can be added directly into the curd as the cheese is being made. The outside of the wheel of cheese can be rubbed with cheese salt or with a damp cloth that has been soaked in brine. The cheese can also be bathed directly in vat of brine.

Molding

Molding the cheese is the process of putting it into a basket or a mold to form it into a specific shape. During this process, the cheese is also pressed with weights or a machine to expel any remaining liquid. When pressing, simply apply pressure until droplets of clear whey form in the openings and drip onto your runoff plate. Make sure it does not appear too milky, as you’ll squeeze out butterfat. As the run off slows, add more pressure. Keep adjusting this to get a fully consolidated cheese. Finally, look at the finished cheese. If it is not consolidated well, apply more pressure to the next batch.

Ripening

Ripening is the process of aging the cheese until it reaches optimal ripeness. The temperature and humidity of the room is very important and should be monitored closely. For some cheeses, you will need to wax them to prevent unwanted mold growth while retaining moisture in the aging cheese. This wax is pliable and will not become brittle as will pure paraffin wax. For some cheeses, ambient molds in the air give the cheese a distinct flavor. For others, mold is introduced by spraying it on the cheese (brie) or injecting it into the cheese (blue cheese). Some cheeses must be turned, some must be brushed with oil, and some must be washed with brine or alcohol.

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