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mamma25

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Making cheese
« on: August 12, 2006, 12:14:46 PM »

Like most things I try that I'm not sure about what I'm doing, I find books on the subject.  The book that walked me through cheesemaking is Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll.  The ISBN is 1-58017-464-7.  It gives materials lists and easy-to-follow, step-by-step processes for making cheese.  The recipes are all very good, but they mostly seem to use direct-set cultures.  These are cultures that are used once.  I prefer using cultures that I can keep going indefinitely, because I like to pay for things just once and then use them over and over and over! :)

Another book that was very helpful to me was Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen by Susan Restino -- ISBN number 0-679-76946-3.  This is a fun recipe book with lots of tips for a homesteading kitchen and some wonderful diary-like portions.  Mrs. Restino cooks like I do...LOL...and I knew I would like her cookbook when I read her advice that her recipes are only guidelines and are meant to be changed as we will. :D

The most important thing I learned from Mrs. Restino's book is that buttermilk makes a great mesophilic starter, while yogurt makes a great thermophilic starter.  That's info I can use!  The buttermilk she's talking about, though, isn't what's left after you make butter -- she means the cultured buttermilk (live cultures) that you buy at the store.  It's only necessary to buy it once, though.  You can culture your own buttermilk using raw milk (which is what we have), store milk, or even powdered milk. 

Buttermilk:
Mix together a quart of milk with 1/2 cup of store buttermilk or 1/2 cup of your own previously made buttermilk.  Whisk this together very well.  Pour into clean jars (I usually pour some into a half-pint jar to be used to start the next batch and pour the rest into a quart jar).  Incubate at 75-85F for 5-7 hours or at room temp (65-75F) for 24 hours.  When it's thick, store it in the refrigerator.  Shake before using.

Yogurt:
I can't say enough wonderful things about the reusable yogurt culture I bought through www.lehmans.com.  It makes thick, rich yogurt, and as long as you renew it (make a new batch of yogurt) once a month, it will last forever!!

There are specific yogurt directions everywhere, and I used to follow them to the letter.  I'd bring the milk to 185F, cool it to 115F, stir in the yogurt culture I'd allowed to come to room temp, pour into sterilized jars and incubate at 110-115F until set.  There are many ways to incubate yogurt.  My method of choice is in a small Coleman cooler with warm water surrounding the jars of yogurt.

Once we began to have raw milk, I learned on a family cow board that it's not necessary to heat the milk to 185F.  Now, this is just personal experience, and it's not the recommended method of making yogurt in any of the more official instructions I've ever read.  I just know it works great for me and with our raw milk.  I can stir yogurt starter directly into the fresh, strained milk I bring in the house straight from the cow, and put jars into the Coleman cooler to incubate, and we get wonderful yogurt.  If I'm making yogurt with milk that's been refrigerated, I just bring it to a temp of 110-115F, and then stir in the yogurt. 

When we're drowning in milk, I get in the habit of bringing a gallon of milk to 110-115F each evening, stirring in starter, covering the pot, and leaving on the stovetop to "gel" overnight.  In the morning, I take the big pot of yogurt to the chickens, who go nuts for it.  Now, for our use, I prefer NOT to incubate overnight at room temp.  The yogurt is perfectly good, but it gets a little tart.  We've gotten very spoiled by mild, thick, rich, organic whole milk yogurt!

If you've never made yogurt, I strongly recommend finding some good instructions and following them.  For years I made yogurt following the powdered milk directions in The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and it worked wonderfully.  I only shared my relaxed method of making yogurt so you'd know that yogurt making isn't a fussy, exact science, which is how I treated it for a looooooong time. :)
___________________ ____________

Once you've got buttermilk and yogurt on hand, you can use them to incubate milk to make all kinds of soft and hard cheeses!  It is still fun to use specific mesophilic and thermophilic starters, and I prefer to culture my own of these, too, but it was easiest using the direct-set starters to begin with!

Another thing you'll need -- especially if you don't have access to raw milk -- is rennet.  The Junket rennet you can sometimes still buy at the grocer's is not the best rennet for making cheese.  Lehman's sells wonderful rennet, as does The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (www.cheesemaking.co m).  There are lots of places where you can buy cheesemaking supplies online.  I've had great experiences with both sites I've mentioned.

If you have access to raw milk, you can let the milk ripen and turn to curds on its own and skip the starter and/or the rennet, and get wonderful cheese.  I do prefer using starter and rennet because I get more predictable results, and because I prefer not to have big pots of milk sitting around waiting to become curds!
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mamma25

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2006, 12:31:59 PM »

Materials that I think are "must-haves" for cheesemaking:

~ a pot large enough to accommodate the amount of milk you want to turn into cheese.  I use a 6 quart stock pot if I'm only using a gallon of milk or less, and I use my big pressure canner pot for 2-4 gallons of milk.  You want a non-reactive pot, so I prefer stainless steel, but whatever non-reactive pan you have will work great.

~ a dairy thermometer.  It's nice if it can clip to the side of your pot, but it's not necessary.  The thermometer must be able to read from 0-220F, and it should be marked so you can not degree changes of 2 degrees.

~ a good spoon to stir the curds.  I use metal.

~ a knife to cut the curds.  I just use one of my carving knives, but special curd knives are sold.

~ a colander.  Bigger is better.  I need a bigger one as I'm always struggling to contain the curds when I drain off the whey! :)

~ cheesecloth and butter muslin.  Butter muslin is more tightly weaved, so you loose less curds when you're draining off whey from small-curd cheeses.  I don't have any.  I use floursack dish towels instead! ;)  You need cheesemaking cheesecloth.  The stuff at the grocer's is usually very loosely weaved and not sturdy enough for cheese.  I buy it by the yard and like to have many pieces on hand.

~ hard cheeses require a cheese press.  This can be a fancy, purchased press or a homemade press (I've seen some very impressive HM presses!).  You can also scrabble together a few odd items you already have on hand and get along quite well.  My mom used to use old cake tins for molds (Dad poked some drain holes in the bottom for her), and she used free weights for cheese weights.

~ good measuring equipment:  measuring cups, spoons, and sometimes, a scale is handy.

~ wax pot.  If you're going to wax and store hard cheeses long-term, you're going to want an old pot to melt cheese wax in.  Once you use a pot for wax, you're probably not going to want to use it for other things. :)  You may also want to use a wax brush.  I prefer just dipping the cheese into the wax, but others prefer to brush it on.

~ a perforated ladle/skimmer.  I've found this helpful but not necessary.  It's good for cutting curds, lifting up curds, etc...

This is the basic equipment I use.  There are lots of fancy molds available, but I don't have any (at least not yet! ;) ), and there's a lot of other things you can get to help with cheesemaking, as well. 

OK...that's a start!  I'll get back again to post some specific recipes that I've had success with.
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CountryLady

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2006, 01:52:52 PM »

:clap What a wonderful guide to cheesemaking you've written, Linda. :smrose

A bit of history, a bit of documentation, and a whole lot of good old-fashioned common sense advice. You make it feel DOABLE. :kiss

You know, my mom was a 'by the recipe' cook, and that never did work for me. After reading your post, I feel like MY way of cooking is okay. :blush Recipes have always just been inspiration for me, rather than a set of hard and fast rules. Thank you for sharing that. :smihearts

:)
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GayleAnn

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2006, 02:01:44 PM »

Gosh L, you do such neat things!  I have done yogurt cheese and I love it doctored up with garlic and a little touch of salt.  MMMMM!
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goatgirl

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2006, 11:18:36 PM »

I have a friend that makes yogurt Linda's way..she uses a 6 pack cooler..dry milk she reconstitutes..and fills a 1 qt canning jar with the prepared dry milk that has been heated and cooled to add 3 heaping tablespoons of a yogurt with live cultures..you only have to buy it once then use your own..she fills 2 ..1 qt canning jars with boiling water and puts them on each side of the one filled with the prepared milk/culture ..closes the lid..and in a few hours she has really creamy yogurt..you can wrap a blanket around it and do the same thingif you don't have a cooler....or you can put the pan on a heating pad on the lowest setting and get yogurt..however you do it..it's well worth the very little effort it takes to make it..Linda, I'll bet your fresh milk makes wonderful yogurt!
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mamma25

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Soft cheeses
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2006, 11:51:23 AM »

Soft cheeses aren't a good way to store milk long-term, but they're a great way to get your "feet wet" in cheesemaking and to use excess milk if you have it.  I've found the following recipes to be pretty much fool proof, easy, and delicious.  We cannot wait for one of our cows to freshen later this month, so we can have fresh mozzarella again!

Mozzarella (for 1 gallon of milk -- adjust amounts if using more milk):

1.  Crush 1/4 rennet tablet (not Junket!) in 1/4 cup of cool, chlorine free water and stir until dissolved.

2.  Place large enough non-reactive pot on the stove and pour 1 gallon of milk into it.

3.  Sprinkle 2 level teaspoons of citric acid (found among canning supplies or through cheesemaking suppliers) into the milk and stir gently.  Heat the milk slowly to 88F.  (When making cheeses, it's always better to s-l-o-w-l-y heat the milk.  Being gentle with the milk yields a better tasting and better textured cheese. :) )  The milk will start to curdle.  When it reaches 88f, stir in the rennet solution and continue stirring slowly until milk reaches 105F.  Turn off the heat.  You should have a mass of curds now!  (If you're confident in having a very gentle heat, you can let the curd form without stirring -- you'll then have one big curd in the pot.)  The curd should be clearly seperated from the clear, greenish liquid whey.  If it's not, leave it to set for a few minutes.

4.  Using a slotted spoon/skimmer, scoop out the curd and ladle into a microwave-safe bowl.  Press the curds together to remove as much whey as possible (pour the whey back into the pot with the other whey -- don't dump this out, as you need it for the next recipe!).  You can use your hands (rubber gloves are good as the cheese gets hot!) or a spoon to work the curds.

5.  Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute, drain off excess whey, and work the cheese again with hands or spoon to squeeze out more whey.  I use a spoon to push the cheese against the dish to squeeze out as much whey as I can, periodically dumping the expelled whey back into the pot.  Work the cheese until it starts to cool, and then microwave again for 35 seconds on high and work again.  Do this once or twice more to get out all the whey you possibly can.

(If you don't have a microwave, bring whey in pot to 175F and use this to heat the cheese each tim.  Knead between dippings to squeeze out the excess whey and turn the cheese into a smooth, pliable ball.)

6.  When the whey has been squeezed out and the cheese ball is very hot, knead it in your hands until smooth.  This is the time to add 1/2tsp to 2tsps of salt or various herbs (basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes are all good) to your taste.  You'll want to experiment to get the taste you like. :)

7.  The mozzarella is now ready to eat!! :D  You can also store in the fridge for one week or freeze this cheese (freezing may change the texture).

If you think your final cheese product isn't as firm as you'd like, next time use 1/2 rennet tablet. 

Being married to a husband of Italian descent, I often make Bocconcini.  When you have the cheese to the kneading stage, shape small pieces of cheese into little balls. Toss them with chopped parsley and garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and extra-virgin olive oil.  This is so good!  I made these fresh for my FIL when he came to visit, and it just made his day. :)

Now, for the whey!

You can feed whey to the chickens or pigs (but...this isn't the best option yet! ;) ), use it to replace the liquid in yeast and quick bread recipes, use it in soups and sauces, and we even tried a recipe for using it to make lemonade.  The lemonade wasn't such a hit...LOL! :giggle  The best way to use whey, IMO, is to make ricotta, and I think the ricotta made from mozzarella whey is the best of all.

Ricotta:

You can make ricotta with whole or skim milk, using rennet and a thermophilic starter, but I always make it this way.  I did try the other way, but this ricotta is so good and so easy, that it's the only way I use.  Try it both ways (you can find recipes in the cheesemaking book I listed or online) to see which you like best. :)

1.  Bring the whey leftover from making other cheese to 195-200F, but DO NOT LET IT BOIL!!!  You can bring the whey to the right temp a little more quickly than when heating milk, but don't go beyond medium heat or you'll still scorch it.  Gentle is still best. :)

2.  At 195-200F, you'll see tiny little curds start to seperate.  Remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  This very important!  I learned the hard way that if you don't let it sit, you lose most of the curds.

3.  Carefully ladle or pour the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin or very thickly-woven cheesecloth.  Let it drain gently for 20 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistancy.

4.  Add salt and/or herbs to your taste and refrigerate up to a week.  We've never had it last that long. ;)

Now...you can give the whey leftover after making ricotta to the chickens or pigs. :)

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mamma25

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2006, 12:09:05 PM »

GayleAnn, yogurt cheese is awesome!  For those who haven't made it, ,you can use it to replace cream cheese in most recipes, and it's really easy to make.  Just strain the yogurt for several hours until it reaches the desired constancy.  You can use a colander lined with cheesecloth or coffee filters or buy a special yogurt-making filter.

There are some different cheeses I've tried that don't use rennet to set the cheese.  Here's a couple we've enjoyed from the Rikki Carroll book:

Lemon cheese:

1.  Heat 1/2 gallon of whole milk to 175F.  Add the juice of 2 lemons (approx. 1/4 cup) and stir well.

2.  Cover and let this set for 15 minutes.  If a clear curd has not formed, add more lemon juice and let it set again.

3.  Pour the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin; lift the edges of the muslin and tie into a bag.  Let this drain for 1-2 hours.

4.  Remove the cheese and add salt and/or herbs as desired.

Makes about a pound and can be stored for a week in the fridge.

You can make a wonderful dessert of this by adding honey, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to taste. :)

Queso Blanco:

1.  Heat a gallon (or more) of milk to 185-190F, stirring often so you don't scorch it.

2.  Slowly add 1/4 cup vinegar (your favorite kind -- the author recommends apple cider vinegar, and that's what I've always used).  Add this a little at a time, until the curds separate from the whey.  If you want to use less vinegar, you can bring the temp of the milk up to 200F, but DO NOT BOIL the milk.

3.  Pour the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin.  Tie the corners into a knot and hang the bag to drain for several hours until you reach the desired consistency.  We like it dry enough to slice, but there's no wrong consistency. :)  The author doesn't suggest this, but we enjoy this cheese more if I stir in a little salt before hanging the cheese to drain.  About 1 tsp tastes right to us (per gallon of milk).

This is a fun cheese to add to soups and stir-fries because it doesn't melt!  You can also bread it and fry it, and it's tasty that way.

___________________ _____

I've found the whey left from making cheeses without rennet don't work for ricotta.  I give it to the livestock.

Rikki Carroll's book has dozens of soft cheese recipes that are great for getting started in cheesemaking.  She usually has a few recipes posted at her website (www.cheesemaking.co m).  Try finding the book in the library to check it out before you buy.  For me, this book has been indispensable!
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mamma25

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2006, 12:12:44 PM »

A quick note about salt:  You don't want to use table/iodized salt in cheesemaking.  I don't know why...LOL...but everyone seems to be in agreement about this.  Mostly, flaked salt is recommended.  I use pickling salt and have had good results.  I am going to order some flaked salt to see if there's any noticeable difference between using it and pickling salt.  If I make a discovery, I'll let you know. :)
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CountryLady

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2006, 07:10:36 PM »

:smrose FANTASTIC INFO. :ty
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Kay

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2006, 09:43:09 PM »

A quick note about salt: You don't want to use table/iodized salt in cheesemaking. I don't know why...LOL...but everyone seems to be in agreement about this. Mostly, flaked salt is recommended. I use pickling salt and have had good results. I am going to order some flaked salt to see if there's any noticeable difference between using it and pickling salt. If I make a discovery, I'll let you know. :)

I think Kosher salt is flake style. Check it out at your local market before you go to all the trouble and expense to order some. Thank you for the recipes. I've always wanted to make cheese! Well, make it on purpose, that is. I think every mother has already made cheese accidentally in a glass of milk forgotten on a kid's dresser for a coupla days, right?  :lol
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countrydeb

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2006, 11:28:28 PM »

Making cheese....it IS an experience.  When we had a dairy cow I made cheese and yogurt and ice cream. 

I never had very good luck with the hard cheeses but made a lot of yogurt and soft cheeses and cheese curds.  I think I might've been just too impatient to wait for the hard cheeses to age!

Cheese curds were wonderful and easy.  You basically use the process for making hard cheese but you stop at step before you press it. 

Mamma25, I started out with that same Rikki Carroll book. It's a great reference.  Another good reference is the Fankhauser website which has lots of really clear photos and step by step instructions.  http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/Cheese/Cheese.html

You shouldn't use the salt you buy in the store cause it has iodine added to it.  The flake salt distributes throughout the cheese better too.  I think you can buy table salt that doesn't have iodine added. I always used canning salt. 

Talking about all this ALMOST makes me want to have a dairy cow again. We're going to get some Dexter cows next year and we hear that their milkers give about a gallon of milk a day.  Maybe that won't be so much work to handle. Yeah, right. 

Thanks for all the great info, Mamma25.  I'd love some homemade cheese!
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Peppersgirl

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2006, 12:26:15 PM »

:)

Thank you so much for giving your wealth of information on Cheese making Mamma25.  The books that you mentioned should come in to the library soon. I might just have to buy them from Powell's Books they look like they should be keepers.  :)

You explain it all so well I might just try some soft cheese this week. I have most of the supplies on hand. Not the rennet but, I might be able to find that around here somewhere.

Really, this is just wonderful. Thanks again,
Pepper

PS - I've copied the whole thing to word and printed it. Then I've added this wealth of information to my family preparedness book.
 :love
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RIE811

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2006, 05:17:04 PM »

I wish I had access to raw milk for such things. I have tried to make yogurt but it never thickens correctly...I think I'll try again..
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mamma25

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2006, 11:22:15 AM »

Sorry I haven't posted this week -- it's been hectic around here.  I'm glad you're finding the info useful, and I'll get back with a basic cottage cheese recipe (once you've made that, you've almost made hard cheese!) and my favorite hard cheese recipes.

We just tried the Romano that we've managed to let age the longest ever (5 1/2 months...LOL!), and it was fabulous!  I'm bound and determined to stick some away for a year. 
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cassBme

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2006, 01:16:00 PM »

Geesh Linda, you're making me want a milk cow again and hubby already said no LOL!

Like RIE811, I too would like to have access to raw milk to try out some of these things but there are no dairys around here anymore or even anyone with a milk cow that I'm aware of.
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goatgirl

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2006, 10:05:27 AM »

try your local healthfood stores..alot of times they carry some raw milk..cow or goat
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Peppersgirl

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2006, 10:47:20 AM »

:)  Well, I'm going to try something today. I have 6 or 7 cartins of yogurt that will go bad over the upcoming vacation. So, I'm going to try to make soft yogurt cheese. The yogurt are all fruit varieties. They look like they will mix well. I'm going to put them in a strainer with a cheese cloth liner to drain overnight.

So, will this work Mamma25?
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mamma25

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Re: Making cheese
« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2006, 12:03:32 PM »

I think it should work great, Pepper!  I've only made yogurt cheese with plain yogurt, but the whey will drain just as well with flavored. :)  I bet it'll be great on bagels!!
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