(Makes About ½ Pound)
Ingredients & Supplies:
2-quart saucepan or stockpot
Slotted spoon or small mesh strainer
1 quart (4 cups) cow’s milk, any type
⅛ cup vinegar (basic white, white wine, or apple cider) OR ⅛ cup lemon or lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt to taste (sea salt, flake salt, or any salt you like)
Ground pepper and/or herbs of your choice (dry or fresh will work)
Pour the milk into the saucepan and heat it on medium as you stir. Look for foam around the inside edges of the pot as well as little simmer bubbles coming from the bottom—not a rolling boil, but close.
When you see the bubbles as described, start slowly pouring in the vinegar (you may not need it all) and stir gently to incorporate it until you see the clear separation of curds (white solids) and whey (clearish liquid). The separation you see is called coagulation.
When you see coagulation and the liquid no longer looks like plain milk, turn the heat to low and stir the curds very, very gently as you cook them for 2 more minutes.
Turn off the heat and use the slotted spoon or strainer to scoop the curds into the bowl while leaving behind in the saucepan as much whey as possible. When you have all of the curds, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl.
Add salt and pepper (and herbs, if you like) to taste. Stir them into the curds evenly and . ..
Thus, you have made a directly acidified farmer-style cheese.
It will taste great crumbled onto salads, pizza, tacos, and chili or just eaten simply with crusty bread and ripe tomatoes.
Kitchen Essentials For Making Homemade Cheese
There’s no need to make bleach a kitchen staple. you don’t use it at all. If you use the following tips, you don’t need it, either. Instead, make a solution of half distilled white vinegar and half water and keep it in a spray bottle—use this as a general cleanser for your counter before you begin working. (If you don’t enjoy the smell of pickles, don’t worry, the vinegar smell fades as the solution dries.)
Stainless steel is your friend. Avoid using plastic or wooden utensils that can harbor bacteria in small cracks.
Use fresh kitchen towels. Your towels must be clean when you’re making cheese—no grabbing the week-old dish towel (even if it smells fine, swap it out!).
Use very, very hot water. In combination with plain biodegradable soap, like Castile soap, hot water is best to wash your equipment, utensils, and molds. Avoid any detergents that might leave chemical residues. If you have a dishwasher, the hot water and steam will also get your dishes squeaky clean, but do try to buy a simple, biodegradable dishwasher soap for the same reason as noted above.
Equipment Needed For Making Homemade Cheese:
Many microbatch recipes use a gallon or less of milk makes it a breeze to gather these useful tools in an average kitchen—no need for five-gallon vats here! Though these are fairly common items, it’s important to know why they are the chosen ones.
Tight Mesh Cheesecloth
Cheesecloth is at the top of the list because it’s important to note that the common cheesecloth found at most grocery stores—with huge holes—is going to ruin your (cheesemaking) life! Instead, you recommend getting your hands on what is called “butter muslin” or Grade 90# (90 threads per square inch) cheesecloth. In fact, I’d rather that you use a boiled pillowcase or lint-free tea towel over the grocery-store mummy wrap. Your curds are precious, and you don’t want any slipping away through the “cracks.” You will need an approximately 18-inch square piece of cloth.
It is possible to learn to “read the milk”: Plenty of people make cheese without a thermometer (lots of touching, sniffing, listening, and watching—it’s pretty cool). A thermometer will be invaluable, however, while you’re learning. It doesn’t have to be fancy; a 5-inch metal probe thermometer (like the kind used for meat), a simple digital version, or a food-safe glass milk thermometer (no mercury!) will do. If it is analog (nondigital), look for one that:
Includes 0°F to 220°F (-18°C to 104°C); you will be working in the range of 80°F to 200°F (27°C to 93°C).
Shows increments of no more than 2 degrees at a time.
Those are the bare minimum requirements for a basic thermometer. Of course, you can also go deluxe and get programmable versions with alarms and other sorts of bells and whistles. They will work just fine, too. Just avoid the types with infrared beams, because the milk foam confuses them, and they give incorrect temperatures.
One of the relatively modern tools we use to create some impressive cheeses within an hour is a microwave oven. Any size will do (in other words, the one you have in your kitchen is perfect). We use it primarily for heating curd quickly and consistently. It is not absolutely necessary for many of the recipes—and if you don’t have a microwave, you do offer an alternative hot whey method —but having a microwave is definitely beneficial in making several cheeses in the Melty and Gooey section . Your results will vary slightly without a microwave (the stretch won’t be as apparent, for instance) and it will take a little longer to make your cheese, but the end product will still be delicious.
A good-sized, good quality stockpot is a core item in any kitchen, and especially useful to have when it comes to home cheesemaking. If you’re blessed with a variety of options, or are thinking of investing in one, stainless-steel, glass, or enameled pots are the most ideal when it comes to cheesemaking. Whichever you choose, select a pot with the thickest base you can afford, since the thin bases have the tendency to scorch your milk (and you will have to scrub and scrub—and scrub!—if the pot can be saved at all). Avoid thin or old-fashioned aluminum and cast-iron pots because the acids used in the cheesemaking process can corrode the metals and give your cheese an unpleasant metallic flavor. A cast-iron core or aluminum core on an enamel-coated or nonstick pot is fine because the metals don’t touch the milk and acid. If you have a 2- or 3-quart saucepan as well, for mini batches like Fromage Facile , it will be easier to take a temperature reading.
A large colander, mesh sieve, or strainer that can hold a gallon’s worth of curds is a must: The typical size used for washing veggies is usually adequate. Stainless-steel and enameled versions are ideal, again, because of the ingredients you’ll be working with (the acids in the cheesemaking process can corrode aluminum), but plastic is fine, too.
Large Bowls, Measuring Cups, and Measuring Spoons
Staples of any kitchen, a variety of bowls and measuring equipment is especially handy for the aspiring cheesemaker. For our purposes, measuring cups for liquids and solids can be used interchangeably since the difference between the two are negligible for the ratios we’ll be working with.
Measuring spoons and cups made of any material will do just fine but again, to keep things easy to clean, glass cups and stainless-steel cups and spoons are great.
Sometimes, you call for heating milk or curds in the microwave, and for that use a large, microwave-safe bowl is imperative—although a large, round glass bowl or rectangular glass casserole dish will work equally well. You’ll also need an extra large heat-resistant bowl (stainless steel is fine) for catching your whey. Make sure the bowl is big (deep) enough so that the curds, when placed over the bowl to drain, won’t be sitting in any whey. Lastly, a large bowl, of any kind, will be handy for ice baths.
Spoons (Slotted/Plain) and Whisks
Certain mixing utensils will become your favorites, but it’s nice to have a variety to work with from the get-go. Of all the utensils you see above, Use the small slotted spoon and the whisk most frequently. Ultimately, the determining factors in selecting utensils are 1) the size of your hands and what’s comfortable in them, and 2) the type of cheese you’re making and the actions the recipe calls for (stirring, cutting, or scooping curds). Stainless steel is best, but you can use bamboo, wood, or plastic in a pinch (scrub them well!).
Professional cheese molds (basically, white cups with little holes or slits) are neat—and we’ll get into this in more detail—but once you start making and molding your cheese, you’re going to start looking at the items in your cupboards in a very different way: in terms of cheese shapes. Maybe that yogurt cup you had at breakfast makes a nice onetime mold—you could poke holes into it or leave it as is depending on how much moisture you want to leave in your cheese. What about your cupcake or tart pans? Silicone ice trays? Cookie cutters, sushi rice molds, coffee cups, small bowls, ramekins, loaf pans, and measuring cups all make great molds. Any sort of food-safe container, really, is fair game. Parchment or waxed paper can be part of the process, too, whether you line a mold for easy extraction and added texture; use it to ball, roll, or twist your cheese into shape; or simply use a sheet as a smooth, clean surface to work on. Turn to page 184 for a full tour of cheese molds and shapers.
Though your clean, bare hands work just fine, rubber gloves are also helpful for keeping your cheese pristine while you work. More often, however, gloves may be called upon to protect your hands from hot whey while shaping or straining. The more cheese you make, the more your fingers will get used to it, and the easier it will be to gauge whether or not you feel up to plunging your bare mitts into the hot whey. Tip: Take a permanent marker and write “cheese” on the wrists of your gloves so they don’t inadvertently get used to scrub the tub!
To keep things simple, follow these tips for maintaining your supplies and keeping your equipment in good, working order.
For any equipment that will come in contact with milk (a pot, spoon, and so on), place it in a large bowl of cold water as you finish using it. Then wash it in very hot, soapy water.
The cheesecloth can be reused again and again if you drop it in cold water immediately after use, then rinse the curds off. After you’re done cleaning up, either wash it completely by hand with hot water and soap or rinse it very well, then hang it to dry, and fully wash it with your kitchen laundry in the next load.
If you have some curds sticking at the bottom of a stainless-steel pot, sprinkle in some regular flake salt and scrub at it with a sponge. This has worked better for me than any specialized scrubbers.
Pantry Essentials Needed For Making Homemade Cheese:
The Basic Ingredients
Acids are key to the one-hour cheesemaker’s pantry because they trigger the first step in transforming milk into cheese. It’s helpful to have a variety on hand, but they will also accumulate naturally as you try the recipes that call for each of them.
Vinegars -White wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar (raw or not), and distilled white vinegar are all on your shelf. And you can experiment with others. It’s important to note, however, that every vinegar varies slightly in acidity—and each will subtly contribute to the flavor of your cheese. Some may be more enjoyable to you than others, but if you ever find the flavor too strong, rinse the curds with tepid water while draining them.
Citrus - Fresh and bottled lemon juice and lime juice are the basics, though you may enjoy playing with more unexpected citrus options like kumquats, calamansi, or Meyer lemons (Meyer Lemon Ricotta, page 35). Like vinegar, each citrus fruit varies in acidity and will impart its own flavor to the cheese.
Citric Acid - A weak acid compound and natural preservative found in lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits, citric acid is sold in salt form and appears white and granulated. (It is also sometimes labeled “sour salt” and is, interestingly, what is used to coat sour gummy candies.) Your grocery store may carry it in the bulk or canning section, or turn to the Resources, page 248, for other places to find it.
While salt may seem to be a surprisingly nuanced ingredient, sodium content and other factors (like additives) can range from type to type.
Fine and Flaky Salt First and foremost, use pure salts—kosher-style flake salt or cheese salt—for general flavoring, since they dissolve easily into the curds. Fine pickling salt or standard sea salt can also work, but you must reduce the amount called for in the recipe by about a quarter (and then adjust to taste when your cheese is in the drained curd stage) since equal amounts of finely granulated salts have a much higher ratio of salt to volume.
Read the labels and make sure that there aren’t any anticaking agents included in your salt. You’d be surprised what you can find on an ingredients label!
Textured Salts -Finishing salts that add crunch, color, or special flavor to one of your homemade cheeses can be any texture that you enjoy, since they don’t have to dissolve.
A compound of enzymes that can be derived from animal, vegetable, or microbial sources, rennet is used to help out with cheese’s coagulation process.
Vegetarian Rennet Tablets - They’re easy to portion out, they store well (keep them in the freezer!), and as the name implies, vegetarians can eat the resulting cheese! It’s now very easy to get these online , and maybe even in your local stores (look for cheesemaking supplies). The brands Use are Danisco, Marschall, or Fromase.
Animal Rennet Tablets or Liquid Rennet - You may come across tablets made with animal ingredients, as well as liquid varieties of rennet. Look for and use the recommended vegetarian tablets. Measurements for all rennet options vary, so substitutions will not be obvious. Avoid the animal rennet tablets found in the gelatin section of grocery stores. They are intended for custard and though you can use them to make some cheeses, they are weak and not appropriate for many cheese recipes.
Tip: An inexpensive pill cutter is great for splitting rennet tablets. They’re available at most pharmacies.
Herbs And Spices
Keep a diverse collection of dry herbs and spices on hand to customize the taste of your cheese. Some great core basics are black pepper, chili flakes, smoked paprika, dill, chives, thyme, and mixed Italian herbs. The more you stock, the more you can experiment with the flavor and look of your cheeses. Many spice brands now make additive-free blends so you can create complex flavor more easily (rainbow peppercorns, lemon garlic pepper, and a Mexican chili blend are just a couple of your faves). Buy fresh herbs with the seasons or, better yet, grow your own! Get some starts and some seeds and see if you can grow yourself a cheese herb garden. Before you had a yard, you grew a pot of garlic chives indoors. You just stick a couple of cloves of store-bought garlic in a pot of soil, blunt side down, and keep them moist. They will sprout little green chives from the pointy tip in a few days. You will have flavorful garlic chives to snip in no time—any time of year!
Here are the two most important things to remember when choosing milk to make your cheese:
The less your milk has been altered since the time of milking, the easier your cheesemaking experience will be. (The least altered milk is raw milk.)
The closer the milk was produced to your home, the better, because it has likely not been processed for long travel and storage. Read labels for origin.
Don’t happen to have a cow in the backyard? You can make cheese with plain, store-bought, pasteurized milk (as long as it’s not ultra-pasteurized, you’re set).
Although every brand of milk you have tested has worked, some make the coagulation process easier (sturdy curd, easy stretch, for example) and the final cheeses are closer to the ideal artisanal results the first time you try making them.
Ultra-Pasteurized Milk - This form of milk has been heated at a higher temperature than pasteurized milk—usually under pressure at 280°F for two seconds. In a pinch, it can be used to make a loose, acid-coagulated cheese like Meyer Lemon Ricotta, but it cannot be used to make the cheeses that contain rennet (like Favorite Melty Mozzarella or Pizza Filata). Though regular pasteurization is enough to make “sick” milk safer, ultra-pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk from eighteen days to up to sixty days. In the cheesemaking process, ultra-pasteurization can result in a loose curd because all good bacteria are killed along with the bad, and the milk’s protein and calcium have been weakened. If you find yourself with mozzarella that wants to flop into ricotta, ultra-pasteurized milk is likely the problem. The labeling is not always clear and does not have to appear front and center: Look everywhere on the jug to find UP, UHP, or Ultra-Pasteurized and then steer clear.
Organic Milk - Buying organic is generally the best choice when choosing our food, but don’t assume that all organic milk brands are good for making cheese. Unfortunately, even organic brands practice ultra-heat pasteurization, so that their milk can travel great distances and have a long shelf life, too. As mentioned above, ultra-heat pasteurization alters the structure of the milk and we do need some nature to work with. Look beyond the “Organic” label and do not stop at a “Natural” label, which is not regulated at all.
Pastured Milk - Not to be confused with pasteurized milk, pastured means that the cows providing the milk get to eat grass (as opposed to the soy and corn that a lot of commercial livestock is fed). You’re lucky if you can find this, because aside from independent farms, only one larger dairy is currently marketing “grass milk” among their offerings.
Regarding Raw Milk
Children, infants, and women who are pregnant or nursing are advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics against consuming raw or unpasteurized milk products because they may harbor harmful bacteria. If this describes you, consult a doctor before consuming raw milks or cheeses.
Raw or Unpasteurized Milk - This unprocessed milk transforms into cheese most easily, and is your favorite to work with because the live bacteria, enzymes, and intact proteins and calcium all assist with rennet activity and coagulation, but it’s important to educate yourself about the risks of using raw milk, and to find a reputable source for your raw milk. A farm, for instance, will not necessarily provide better milk than a grocery store if the farm engages in unsanitary milking practices or the milk or animals are kept in unhealthy conditions. You may live in a state where raw milk sales are legal in grocery stores, but if you do not, you can purchase straight from a small farm legally (click your state in the finder on realmilk.com to find milk near you).
Pasteurized, Unhomogenized Milk - In your cheesemaker’s wonderland, safe raw milk is available for everyone, but the other milk you would like to have readily available for all in every grocery store is unhomogenized, or cream line, milk. As with raw milk, the cream separates to the top of the bottle, making a clear line between it and the milk. The only difference between this milk and raw milk is that it has been pasteurized, usually only lightly. Look to see if your grocery store carries this milk!
Pasteurized, Homogenized Milk - This milk is the easiest to find in most grocery stores. Pasteurized milk has generally been heated at 167°F for fifteen seconds. This kills pathogenic bacteria that may have made it into the milk, but unfortunately, it also alters the friendly bacteria and enzymes that make it easier for rennet to cause coagulation in milk. you do give you instructions on how to lightly pasteurize raw milk if you’d like to take care of it yourself. You will not see the cream line mentioned above in homogenized milk because the fat has been mixed evenly into the milk.
Cultured Buttermilk - Commonly found in the dairy section of most grocery stores (right next to the regular milk!), cultured buttermilk is actually low-fat cow’s milk with cultures added. If you’ve tasted it, you know that it is tangy and acidic—a little like sour cream. These qualities are why it’s called for in Fromage Facile , Classic Cottage Cheese , and other recipes. Cultured buttermilk is different than the fresh buttermilk you will create as a byproduct when you make Butter . Fresh buttermilk can be used in bread, biscuit, and pancake recipes as well as simple smoothies. It is delicious and mild in flavor but it is not tangy nor cultured.
Cream - Cream is simply the fat that will separate from fresh, unhomogenized milk (or that is mixed into homogenized milk). It may also bear the label Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream (and, if you can’t find another, even Light Whipping Cream will work, all unsweetened and without gums or other additives). You can find it raw in some states, pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized in all others. Try to find it raw or just plain pasteurized but if you can’t, ultra-pasteurized will still add the richness we’re looking for in recipe like Brown Butter Burrata.
Though you encourage you to buy the best milk you can afford and find, it’s also wise to experiment with a gallon of an easy-to-find milk—because if it makes a good cheese, you know you can grab it at the last minute if needed.
The better the milk, the better the cheese!
The Basic Science of Quick Homemade Cheese
These are the major players and the parts they play in the basic cheesemaking equation.
Functions Of The Key Ingredients
Milk, the anchor of all cheesemaking processes, is made up of water, fats, proteins, bacteria, a sugar called lactose, minerals, and more. If milk has not been pasteurized, it also contains lactase, the enzyme that helps you digest it.
When you add an acid to hot milk, the result can be called curdling, gelling, clotting, separation, and/or coagulation. you most often use the term coagulation. In order to make cheese in one hour, you like to acidify the milk with vinegars and citrus juices. In some cases, you leave it at that because the acid alone will produce the texture you want. In other cases, the acid assists the rennet and they will work together to give a completely different result.
By adding vinegar or citrus juice, we mimic the acidification that occurs spontaneously—to some extent—if you let fresh raw milk sit at room temperature for several hours. The naturally occurring friendly bacteria within the milk eat the sugar (lactose)* and produce lactic acid. It is this acid that also imparts a tart, yogurtlike cultured flavor and causes a separation between curds and whey. It’s almost as if milk cannot help but become cheese. (Of course, somewhere along the line, human beings observed its tendency to acidify and curdle, and figured out several brilliant ways in which to manipulate that process to our delicious advantage.)
* Sugars end in -ose; enzymes end in -ase.
Rennet, whether vegetarian or animal-based, contains enzymes that modify proteins in milk. In the tradition of utilizing every part of a valuable animal used for food, rennet has historically been derived from the stomach of an unweaned ruminant animal—a kid (a goat!) or calf, for example—whose digestive system is equipped with the enzymes necessary to hold and ferment its mother’s milk before assimilating it further.
To explain how the heck this was discovered, there is a legend that starts with a nomad carrying milk in a pouch made of a calf’s stomach lining. With time and the right temperature, the milk fermented. Not wanting to waste precious milk, the nomad tasted the chunky milk, enjoyed it, and lived to tell the tale. Over time, this led us to more experimentation, resulting in a wide array of dairy delicacies that we consume today.
That predigestion that the calf’s stomach enzymes (the most plentiful being chymosin or rennin) provides is what changes the structure of proteins in milk for cheesemaking. Animal rennet comes in liquid form most often (stomach lining tincture, essentially), although some less potent tablets do exist. Much to the delight of vegetarians and squeamish folk, it is also possible to coagulate milk with plant-based enzymes made from thistles (specifically cardoon stamens), a Mexican berry called trompillo, and even fig juice, among others. Since these can give unpredictable results, vegetarian rennet is also manufactured and comes in liquid or tablet form. Use vegetarian rennet tablets most often and all of the fresh cheese recipes call for rennet call for these tablets exclusively . The enzymes (primarily Rhizomucor miehei) in vegetarian rennet are derived from the fungi family.
Vegetarian rennet tablets provide many conveniences that really work for our purposes. Unlike animal rennet, or even liquid vegetarian rennet, vegetarian rennet tablets are very shelf stable—and can last years if kept in the freezer! It is easy to measure and cut and use by the quarter (usually a quarter per gallon of milk) because the tablets are scored—a pill cutter is a great tool, and inexpensive. Some say that aged cheese can taste bitter when made with these tablets, but that’s not a concern with one-hour cheese!
Salting the curds is another important transformative process in the making of cheese. It not only flavors the cheese pleasingly, but draws out moisture, which is important in creating the right texture and density. Salt is also a great preservative and, under the right conditions, can help turn a previously highly perishable substance (milk) into a stable cheese that doesn’t require regular refrigeration. When making one-hour cheese, we only use salt for flavor and to control the amount of whey we leave in the curds for texture.
The following are not complicated processes (no doubt you have used them for other kitchen purposes), but it does help to understand what roles the different actions play in cheesemaking, whether you’re troubleshooting, adjusting textures, or even creating your own cheese recipes.
Heat helps accomplish many important steps when making cheese. It helps the enzymes in the rennet transform the milk proteins for coagulation; it shrinks curds so that they can withstand kneading and stretching (as with Chipotle-Lime Oaxaca, page 161). And it aids in refining the texture of the cheese.
Ice baths and washes help to cool warm curd quickly. In general, this helps the fats seize up so that there is little to no further expansion. An ice bath keeps the cheese ropes rounded (not flattened by their own warmth) when making Pizza Filata string cheese . It also secures that characteristic curd-in-cream look and feel with the Classic Cottage Cheese , which, without the ice bath, would resemble more closely a creamy and uniform ricotta.
Cheeses like Curried Paneer and Chivo Fresco benefit from a little pressing because they are intended to be dense cheeses. The warm, lumpy curds are fused together with the help of some pressure to make the texture more uniform. As the curd cools, the cheeses firm up, making them easier to cut and cook.
Tips and Tricks For Making Homemade Cheese:
Heating Milk: To Double Boil Or Not - To Double Boil?
Heating milk directly in the pot can be challenging when you’re working at high temperatures, but many recipes don’t call for double boiling because you believe that by following these three tips, you can heat milk successfully and save time.
Let the milk get to room temperature. If you know you will be making cheese later, leave the milk out for an hour or two. Those thirty degrees or so will save you time and sticky pots when you’re heating the milk to almost boiling.
Use the heaviest-bottomed pot you have or consider investing in one. The milk sugars will be less likely to burn and stick to the bottom because heat is absorbed and dispersed more evenly. You can also use a nonstick pot.
Start out with medium heat and decrease or increase it as you judge the progress of the milk. When you stir, monitor the bottom of the pot with a spoon to check for any sticking milk. Since milk is full of lactose (a sugar, remember?), it wants to stick and brown (caramelize). Adjust the heat, stir, and don’t walk away. You want to avoid a burned flavor in your milk as well as a scorched mess. You may still see some milk sticking, but if it is white and easily removed when you stir, that is perfectly fine.
DIY Double Boiler
If you do decide that you want to gently heat the milk, here’s how to create a double boiler from items you may already have in your kitchen: Fill a large pot (any kind is okay, because your milk and acid will not come into contact with it) about one third of the way with water, then rest a heat-safe, nonreactive bowl (a stainless-steel or thick glass mixing bowl) or smaller pot containing the milk inside the larger pot, on top of the simmering water. Be careful not to overflow the water pot!
You still have to monitor the heat in order to get the temperature you want, but there is little risk of scorching or overheating now (though it will easily add fifteen to twenty minutes to your process when you heat a gallon of milk). This is a very helpful technique to use when you graduate to more sensitive and complex cheeses that require aging. But, since many homemade cheese recipes are not aged, f you can avoid a double boiler, you will be rewarded with speed!
Here are two methods you like to employ in the kitchen when I’m making cheese. The cloth-lined colander is an old standby, and the hanging cheese bag comes in handy when you’re anxious to speed up the draining process.
Draining Method 1: Cloth-Lined Colander
Unless you are in a huge hurry, this type of draining will be sufficient. If you’re relatively inexperienced in the kitchen, or just charmingly accident-prone, here are two tips to keep in mind when you drain this way:
1. Place a big bowl under your cloth-lined colander even if you don’t plan on reserving the whey. It’s just a little insurance in case you get distracted at some point and can’t remember if you actually added the citric acid, or if you were hoping that the grocery store cheesecloth with huge gaping holes would catch your curds and you find yourself with a “less-than-ideal situation.” The bowl will catch anything that comes through the colander and you will still have a chance to try to adjust things without having lost your curds down the drain.
2. Cheesecloth can shrink a little and end up quite wrinkly after it’s been dried in a clothes dryer.
To make it smooth and flat again, wet it and wring it out thoroughly before lining your colander. This will make your cloth stretch out and cling to the colander so that your flowing curds and whey don’t shift it, causing your precious curds to slide under the cloth and down the drain. It’s messy and sad, and may leave you cursing like a sailor.
This passive colander technique can result in a slower drain if you’re dealing with a small creamy curd like that in Meyer Lemon Ricotta or Chèvre French Kisses. Depending on your curds, cloth, and colander, a seal can occur between the hot saturated cloth and the colander, or the tiny curds can clog the small holes, and either literally stop drainage or slow it to a trickle. you like to keep an eye on the process and help it along by stirring, lifting the cloth every few minutes, or rocking it back and forth if you need to, to unclog the cloth.
Draining Method 2: Hanging Cheese Bag
People hang their curds on bungee cords, over the bathtub, on tripods, and all kinds of other creative contraptions. It is true that sometimes the fastest way to drain whey (out of small curds especially) is to create a cheesecloth bundle and hang it. Which will also have the effect of making your kitchen look like a charming pioneer homestead. It’s very simple to create and hang your “bag” like the pros.
1. Line a colander with cheesecloth, pour or spoon your curds and whey into the cloth, and when you can, safely (careful, hot whey!), grab the corners of the cloth and tie them into a loose knot. Now, you can do a couple of things. . ..
2 a. Put a spoon through the knot’s hole and hang the bag in a tall vessel like the rinsed milk pot or a tall pitcher to catch the whey, as shown.
b. Or tie the bag from a place in your kitchen where it will not be in your way: Most people use their cupboard handles and knobs or the kitchen sink’s faucet. Use cotton string to lengthen the bundle if the cloth ends are not very long. Whey is full of lactose, so your cupboards will get sticky if the wet cheesecloth is resting on them.
Though all of these hanging methods work, you’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you. you always seem to be doing other things in the kitchen while I’m making cheese and you end up needing to use the sink or needing access to that particular cupboard, so you am very happy that you accidentally came upon your own ideal method . Note: All cheesemakers think their method is the best!
DIY Portable Curd Bag Hanger
Any object with a hook.
DIY Press: Make A “Fancy” Press In One Minute
Pressing is needed in aged cheeses to keep a consistent curd that will hold up to the aging process for months. The little pressing for the basic cheese recipes is nothing like the twenty-four-hour-plus processes that require pressing at ten pounds for three hours followed by twenty pounds for eight hours, then thirty-five pounds for twelve hours, and so on. For our purposes, the most convenient fresh cheese press to fashion is a water-filled milk jug. It’s handy, and you can alter the weight by changing the amount of water in the jug or carton. Just be sure to place a flat item (plate or lid) on your cheese wheel first, then put the gallon on top, as shown.
For smaller containers, you can use glass jars and bottles filled with water, decorative marbles, or river pebbles—even a can of beans works in a pinch! Strong rubber bands around the whole deal can create more pressure if you need it. But note, you should only see clear whey drain out of mold holes; no milky stuff or you could be losing precious fat.
Water-filled gallon jug = DIY cheese press!
A jar or bottle works for smaller batches.
Storing, Sharing, Freezing
As fancier and fresher cheeses become more widely available in grocery stores, we are collectively becoming more familiar with delicacies such as fresh mozzarella and feta stored in whey and brine. A glass container with a lid is ideal for storing your cheeses, but you may also use plastic containers, zip-top sandwich bags, and so on.
Most of the cheeses will freeze semisatisfactorily if the alternative is wasting them. (But come on, wouldn’t your coworker or neighbor be delighted to receive the gift of cheese?) The texture of the melty cheeses like mozzarella is best fresh (like, that same evening), but if you need to freeze some you can do so in an airtight container and use it within a month. You will definitely note some difference in texture and creaminess, but the cheeses are still great for cooking, crumbling, or shredding after they’ve been thawed.
How To Dechlorinate Water
Some cheese recipes call for dechlorinated water because chlorine can inhibit rennet activity. If you have it, you can use filtered water from your fridge dispenser, your sink faucet, or a special pitcher. If you don’t have filtered water, leave an open jar of tap water on your counter for eight to twenty-four hours and enough of the chlorine will evaporate for the purposes of common cheese recipes (nicer for drinking, too). As an alternative, blend a cup of water in your blender for a couple of minutes (really!) to let the water breathe a bit. Use straight tap water where you live in Portland, Oregon, so you can also just go for it if you don’t notice a strong swimming pool smell in your tap water. If you don’t get clear coagulation, however, chlorine may be an issue.
How To Lightly Pasteurize Raw Milk
If you just aren’t sure about raw milk yet , you can use this at-home method to lightly pasteurize it yourself. The properties the milk retains will still allow you to get a good curd at cheesemaking time and result in some really great cheese (the milk will be lightly pasteurized, but not homogenized—and that helps).
Pour the raw milk into a pot or double boiler.
Heat the milk to 145°F, stirring every couple of minutes. Stay close to make sure it does not accidentally boil.
Hold the temperature at 145°F for exactly 30 minutes. Closely monitor it: You may need to increase and decrease the heat to stay at this temperature.
Turn off the heat and place the pot in the sink or in a larger pot filled with ice water. Stir constantly until the temperature drops to 40°F.
Congratulations. Your milk has been lightly pasteurized, and now you can use that milk to make some amazing cheese!
Curd Support (aka Troubleshooting Basics)
Try the finished cheese, even if it looks different than you expected. It may be simply delicious, and just waiting to be paired with cracked pepper, olive oil, and bread. But don’t worry, we’ll still get to the bottom of this, so your cheese will be even better next time!
Cheesemaking Problem #1: My Meyer Lemon Ricotta, French Kisses, And Other Creamy Cheeses Are Crumbly And Dry.
This is the most common rookie issue so let’s really dig into it. Look at this checklist:
Did you follow the recipe exactly? Retrace your steps. you know you were excited to eat cheese!
Did you use the recommended milk and acid?
Did you heat the milk for the specified amount of time at the given temperature?
Fat: Not enough fat can make these cheeses crumbly and/or rubbery. The texture and mouthfeel of your cheese is not going to be quite right unless you use the recommended milk (i.e., if the recipe calls for whole milk but you use nonfat milk, the cheese will be dry), but you can leave a bit more moisture in a cheese like Meyer Lemon Ricotta or Fromage Facile by draining it less (leaving more whey in it).
Acid: Too much acid can make cheeses tough. All vinegars vary in acidity, and lemons and limes in particular can vary from one fruit to the next, but it’s easy to learn how to work with them. Next time, try cutting the acid by ½ teaspoon. You will know if you cut it too much if the whey still looks a lot like milk (that’s potential cheese you’re leaving behind!) and you end up with a lot less cheese than the recipe says you will. So reduce the acid just a little. If you suspect you cut too much, you can probably still stir it in.
Temperature: Pay careful attention to the temperatures called for in the cheese recipes. Insert the thermometer into different parts of the pot after stirring (when possible) to avoid hot or cool spots and monitor frequently. Realize that if your milk suddenly jumped up in temperature (did you check your email?) or if you left it to heat for longer than directed, the result will change and your cheese may be crumbly and dry (but don’t throw it out—you can press most crumbly results into a paneerlike cheese).
Is your thermometer accurate?
Thermometers can be “shocked” out of calibration with extreme temperatures or rough handling. If your thermometer is not reading accurately, it is possible that you could overheat your milk, resulting in a tough and dry curd, or that you could underheat it, resulting in a loose curd, one that never coagulates or won’t stretch when it should.
You followed the recipe, and your thermometer is correct; is it possible that the curd was exposed to too much heat and too much air?
Simple things like how long you marveled at your beautiful curds as you stirred in the salt can change the texture of your cheese.
Salt and Air: As you stir the curd, it releases moisture, especially with the aid of salt. You are also exposing the curd to air, which serves as a drying agent, as well. The most tender ricotta, for example, demands very little stirring and minimal exposure to air.
Heat: As mentioned earlier, curd can toughen if it is allowed to sit in hot whey for a longer time than recommended. Heat encourages the curd to release water (in the form of whey), causing the curd to shrink. These are good properties to know, since you can use this knowledge for good should you ever want to adjust your results or create your own recipes. With creamy cheeses, however, we want to drain, stir, and air curds out as little as possible. Stop stirring and draining the curds as soon as you see a cheese texture that you like. If you see the curd change from spreadable to crumbly, well, you went a little too far, but now you know for next time. It should only take one or two times before you get to know how each process can and should go in order to achieve the ideal result you’re after. There may still be some variety in your results, but this is what we call the handmade charm, right?
Check And Recalibrate Your Thermometer
Though the point of having a thermometer is to achieve a certain degree (ha!) of precision, sometimes even the fanciest of instruments can get out of whack.
To find out if yours is still providing an accurate reading, follow these steps:
Fill a cup with ice and pour just enough water in to cover the ice. Stir.
Remove any case or cover on your thermometer.
Dip 3 inches (or whatever the manufacturer instructs) of the thermometer into the icy water for about 30 seconds. The temperature should read very close to freezing temperature 32°F (to 35°F would be okay).
If it differs by more than 5 degrees, and if your thermometer allows you to adjust the reading, do so until it reads the correct temperature. If it does not, purchase a new thermometer.
Cheesemaking Problem #2: You never, ever get coagulation and/or you can’t ever stretch the stretchy cheeses.
Coagulation - If you know that you followed the recipe, acidified as directed, and have the proper rennet, the quality of your milk is likely to blame. You will either need to try a different brand or add calcium chloride to the milk you have to repair the milk’s structure a little. See Resources to purchase it, and then add ¼ teaspoon mixed into ¼ cup of water as soon as you add the milk to the pot.
Stretching - Using a microwave makes heating and stretching this type of cheese easier. If you opt to use the hot whey method , you will likely not be able to stretch the curd as it appears in the photos. If the curd feels bouncy, you’re on the right track! Just fold, press, or roll the curd into a shape that resembles that in the photos as closely as possible. If you did use a microwave and you are not achieving an impressive stretch, try heating the curds for another thirty seconds to adjust for your microwave—or knead them ten more times to encourage the transformation from a blob of lumpy curds into a springy ball of bouncy cheese.
Cheesemaking Problem #3: My Favorite Melty Mozzarella and Chipotle-Lime Oaxaca are waxy-looking and hard as rocks.
If you’re using the right milk and did not add extra rennet, then the curd got too hot at some point. It could have happened 1) during the initial heating just before or just after you added the rennet, or 2) later, when you heated it for stretching.
Reading Temperature - It’s possible that your pot of warming milk is not all a uniform temperature. Your burner could burn hotter in some spots than others.
To get an accurate reading, stir right before a temperature reading so that you incorporate milk from the outer edges with the middle and everything in between. Even after that, take the temperature in two different places in the pot, to be sure. Otherwise, it’s possible that you think the milk is only 100°F, when it is actually 120°F—which will change your results dramatically.
Heating for Stretching - It is also possible to overheat the curd, whether you use a microwave or a hot whey bath. Pouring boiling whey over your mozzarella curd will turn it into a rubber ball in a hurry. Similarly, extra time in the microwave along with a lot of extra stretching can also make your cheese waxy and tough. It is a combination of overheating and releasing too much whey and butter fat that can create rubbery cheese. Stick to the temperatures and instructions given in a recipe; they are important.
Naming Your Cheese
A tough mozzarella (or a tough Chipotle-Lime Oaxaca or Pizza Filata) can be cubed like paneer. (And it will become softer if simmered in a sauce like marinara or curry.) A crumbly ricotta (or Chèvre French Kisses, Fromage Facile, or Classic Cottage Cheese) can still be used like Chivo Fresco, or Farm-Fresh Rounds (pizza, pasta, stuffing veggies, on salads, and so on). My point is, if your creation is delicious, even if it’s not what you expected, the thing to do is rename it and jot down what happened so that you learn from it and can try it again.
Keep a Cheese Log
If you liked your “failed” ricotta—quick!—write down what you did to make it happen: Did the milk accidentally boil? Did you add twice as much acid? Maybe you’re not sure how this magic happened. Just take careful notes and it may become clear later as you’ve made more observations.
Aside from this, heed these following words of wisdom (gained through “failures”), and your time making cheese will never be stressful (that would be a shame!).
1. Don’t name your cheese until you taste it.
2. Save what looks like a failure to you until you’ve gathered yourself and some information.
If you ended up not with cheese but with a milky soup instead, save it until you can face it again. Also, please note that this is incredibly rare. Do not live in fear of the milky soup!
You might be frustrated, and you don’t blame you for that. Walk away for a while, but whatever you do, don’t dump out the results. Put the whole pot in the fridge for a day if you have to. Take a breather. Surprise results can almost always be saved and turned into something delicious.
Uses For One-Hour Whey
The whey that will result from every cheese recipe will be plentiful. And it still contains minerals and whey protein, so why not use it? It retains a milky flavor with a little tang, making it perfect in several homemade foods.
If you live on a farm, you probably already know that chickens and pigs love whey. you hear that some people feed their plants with it, but since it’s quite sweet (and often still a little chunky with curds).
Instead, you focus on keeping it in the kitchen.
Smoothies: What do you think whey protein powder is made of?
Risotto, oatmeal, rice, or beans: Replace water for more nutrition.
Soup broth: It’s especially good in cream-style soups.
Soaking liquid for beans and grains: Use instead of plain water, discard after.
Ice cream and sorbet: Substitute whey for 1 cup of the liquid
Biscuits, bread, and pizza crust: Use whey instead of the called for water in any baking recipe.
Note: : A lot of the lactose is left in the whey so these experiments are not for you if you’re barely able to digest the cheese you make! As an alternative, you can always ask if a neighbor can make use of it.