Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making cheese in my sleep..

Have you ever wanted to learn to make cheese? My first attempts were many years ago, probably about 25 years ago, and I did not then realize the importance of using something to culture my milk and the cheeses almost always went bad. I kept thinking "how did they do it long ago before you could purchase cheese culture?" and was silly and stubborn about it and finally gave up. That was then. This is now. I've been making cheese, on an extremely limited basis for the last year and a half since I got my milk goats. I make whole milk ricotta, which is very easy and requires no special equipment. I make fresh kefir cheese which is also very easy. But I wanted to make "real" cheese - you know, the kind you can slice and melt. I've been making bread for 38 years, and I claim I can nearly make it in my sleep. That is how I want my cheese making to be, and I think in time, it will get that way, but right now, it is a big job because I don't have it memorized and gotten it to the point where I barely have to think about it. Believe it or not, I can nearly make soap in my sleep too. I have hope that if I persist, cheese will get like that. I am not, yet, interested in making all kinds of cheese. I just want some standard cheddar - type cheese, and oh, yes, I would like to learn to make mozzarella also, but I'll do that later. I call my cheese "farmhouse cheddar." And here is how I do it:

Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese

2 gallons raw whole goat milk
1/4 teaspoon mesophyllic cheese starter
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet
2 Tablespoons sea salt

1. Pour milk into large heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot that will give you a little room for stirring.
2. Heat milk gently to 90 degrees F. Remove from heat.
3. Mix the mesophyllic starter into a little bit of cool water and then stir it well into the milk. Put on the lid and let the milk sit for 45 minutes.
4. Mix the rennet into 1/4 cup cool water. Bring the milk back up to 90 degrees F. and remove from heat again. Stir the diluted rennet into the milk for a few minutes. Put the lid back on and let it sit for 45 more minutes, or until when you insert your finger in the milk you get a "clean break" when you pull it out.
5. Cut the curd with a long sharp knife into 1/4 inch cubes. Stir gently with your hand, cutting the larger pieces into smaller pieces for 15 minutes.
6. Heat the curds to 100 degrees F, increasing the temperature no more than two degrees every 5 minutes. This should take about half an hour or so. Stir gently, with your hand, often, to keep the curds from clumping together.
7. Place the pan in a sink full of 100 degree F. water, covered, and let it sit for another 30 minutes, stirring it with your hand several times.
8. Drain off and save the whey. Pour the curds into a large colander lined with some good quality cheese cloth - not the cheap stuff you buy at a fabric store. I buy mine online.
9. Put the curds into a large bowl and gently, but thoroughly stir in the 2 Tablespoons sea salt.
10. Line your cheese press with cheese cloth and put the salted curds in there. Fold the cheese cloth over the top, add the follower and press for 10 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Invert the cheese press container and press from the other end at 30 pounds of pressure for another 10 minutes.
11. Remove from press, "dress" the cheese with fresh cheese cloth cut to fit - which will be two little round pieces for the ends and 1 long strip to go around the cheese. Return to press at 50 pounds of pressure until the next morning.
12. Take the cheese out of the press and carefully remove the cheesecloth dressing. Trim off any bits that are sticking out along an edge at the top or bottom of your cheese wheel.
13. Here is a photo of my cheese drying in the refrigerator. I will let it dry there, on a dish towel, for about 3 days, until it is good and dry. Be sure to turn it over at least a couple of times a day as it dries.
14. Then I will dip it, twice, in melted cheese wax, return it to the fridge to age for 1 to 2 months, turning it occasionally. I do not have a proper cheese aging room, and the fridge seems to work just fine.

Now, what to do with the whey!

Put your whey back into the pot, add 1 pint of milk, and heat gently to 200 degrees, add 1/2 cup white vinegar and stir. Let it sit, off the heat for 15 minutes. Strain and you'll have the loveliest ricotta cheese you've ever tasted! Add some salt and chopped chives, and you'll be in heaven!

I bought my cheese press and cheese cloth here:

And here is a good place to buy cheesemaking supplies as well:

I have this book and it has been very helpful:

When I actually do make it "in my sleep", I'll report back here! Wish me luck!

I must add a safety caution ~ when you melt your cheese wax, be certain to do it in some sort of double boiler set up, because if you melt it directly over heat, it can get too hot, explode and burn you terribly! NEVER take a chance with wax.


  1. Girl, if you make your own soap, why did you buy some from me? I probably make if different but really why did you? Did you just want to ebook? I gotta know.
    Plus I need to look around your site to see if you have posted about making kefir cheese.
    If you dont have it posted, would you?

  2. lol, yes, I just wanted the ebook! But your soap is very nice. Are you interested in the "fresh" kefir cheese, or making hard cheese using kefir as the culture?

  3. I am interested in both. Here is my response to one of your questions on my site.

    We get free natural gas. We have two fireplaces and a wall heater as well as the regular furnace. If the electricity goes out we can still use the fireplaces and the wall heater unless the gas line freezes. We try to maintain it so that doesnt happen, but sometime it does anyway.

    The stove is gas and the oven is electric. If the gas goes out I have a 3 burner butterfly kerosene stove. Its brand new thought and I have not broke it in. I need to do that. I also have a 22 wick stove that is new and not broken in. I have kerosene lanterns as well. I have some kerosene stored and I am now trying out a fuel made from animal tallow I get from a bio tech place. The owner is a chemist and he helps me with my soap questions and trials. I am very lucky to have him for a friend. The fuel he makes is not poison, he said if you drink it it will give you a bad case of the runs, can't spell diaharreah. So dont drink it lol.

  4. I am happy to know you are prepared in case the electricity goes out. A couple of summers ago, we had hurricane force winds here and our power went out from Sunday until Friday. Fortunately, the weather was perfect and I was able to cook over a fire all week. We do have a little kerosene cooking thing, and a camp stove, but the fire was a challenge and ever so much fun! Our oldest daughter and her 3 little girls were visiting at the time and we really enjoyed it. I made lots of different things, including a cherry pie. :) I will post later today, if possible, about the other kefir cheese recipes. Oh, and since that storm, we bought an old propane 4 burner range. Have not installed it in the house yet, but it's still on the "list."

  5. Wow! Cheesemaking AND soapmaking... you might be my hero! :)
    I have been making kefir cheese, and homemade ricotta, but cheddar seems so unattainable. Maybe I'll get there!

  6. Of course you will. It, at the outset, seems to have a rather steep learning curve, however, I think it's kind of like bread. You can read lots of recipes and they all seem so complicated, but once you get enough experience you figure out what is important and what isn't. I am slowly getting there with the cheese.

  7. Hi! Love your blog! I just do the simple cheeses. I don't have a lot of time to experiment. I usually make cherve, ricotta and a sort of feta type cheese. I've never done anything with kefir. Is the cheese any good? Where do you get the kefir culture? Good luck with your blog!

  8. Thank you! I make kefir with live kefir grains. I bought my original grains on eBay and now I sell my extras there, If properly cared for, they will double in weight in about 2 weeks. If you are interested in kefir, do not buy a kefir "culture." The resulting kefir does not have nearly as complex of a probiotic mix as the kefir cultured with the "grains." Look at my "chapters" on kefir and you can find out quite a bit about it.

    1. Hey - I am making my first batch of Farmhouse Cheddar. How do you know when the "rind" is ready? Is that important in the aging process? I've read that you can sit it on a counter to develop the rind? I do not have a "cheese cave" but an extra outdoor frig - will that work? At what temperature? I make lots of mozzarella and love to knit and spin :<). Thanks for help! My first batch is under a 50# weight now - I didn't use as much weight for the first 2 short presses - will that affect the outcome??? thanks again, Jan

    2. Wonderful! I lay my wheel of cheese on a folded cloth in the door of my fridge and turn it over a couple times a day and drape another cloth over it. The way I tell is if it is pretty dry, like in 2 days or so? If I can't get to it right away, then I'll put it in a plastic bag until I'm ready to wax it so it won't dry out too much. If you read over the directions, you'll see that I press like this ~

      15# - 10 minutes
      30# - 10 minutes
      50# - at least overnight, and longer it ok too.

      I store my cheeses in a small extra fridge too, and it works just fine for my needs. I LOVE my cheese!

      Please let me know how it works out!

  9. Thank you so much. I actually got up at 2 a.m.! to take my cheese out of it's final press - so leaving it until morning wouldn't have hurt? I also only did 10# presses first 2 times and will do your weights next time. I seemed to have a lot of whey. It is sitting on counter now but I will put it on a cloth in my frig now. I'm excited and will make more. My freezer is full of excellent mozzarella we made this summer. I love doing this :<). Will keep you up. Thanks again! I have a herd of Purebred Nubians whose milk I am using. Jan


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