This school term certainly got off to a rocky start, but now that I'm getting into the swing of things, I wanted to share some of what I've been working on. In my writing class, I've been trying to do papers on farm stuffs so that I could share it with you as well! (and get double usage out of each writing session :P). Last week's assignment was to guide someone through a procedure. I scribbled out some ideas, but they were all much more involved than a two page ordeal. Then, in the sanctum of idea generation - the shower, I thought of cheese. One, because I'm totally addicted to cheese. Two, because why not? So here you go.
Making Your Own Cheese
To some, the thought of fermenting and culturing dairy products is daunting if not dangerous. While some cheeses are more difficult to make, many simple ‘farm house’ cheese can be made at home with just a handful of ingredients, some basic equipment, and patience. This is going to focus on chevre: a soft, goat’s milk cheese.
To get started, you will need to gather the following:
- 1 gallon of goat milk
- 1 packet of chevre starter cultures (resources listed below).
o Note: If you purchase more than you are going to use for just one recipe, then you will need to put the extra packets in the freezer to put the cultures into a cold-induced stasis.
o Another note: Different cheeses are made from different cultures, so you will want to make sure that the starter is for chevre cheese specifically.
- Stainless steel stockpot with lid
- A non-reactive whisk (stainless steel or silicon are fine, plastic is not recommended)
- A large towel
- Candy thermometer (make sure that it is calibrated correctly!)
- Plastic strainer large enough to hold a gallon of milk
- Giant bowl
- Cheese cloth (can be purchased at most health food stores, online, or homesteading stores)
To get things started, you want to make sure that your cooking equipment is sterilized. When culturing any food, you only want the beneficial bacteria to be present in the product and not harmful pathogens. You can do this by simply putting your stockpot and whisk in the dishwasher and using the ‘sterilizing’ setting. After doing this, you can put the towel into the dryer to warm it up if you want (this is not necessary unless it is chilly in the house; you will see how the towel is used later).
Once the dishes are retrieved from the dishwasher, you put the milk into the stockpot and slowly warm it up on the stove and slowly stir it constantly. If you raise the temperature too fast, the milk will curdle. Use the thermometer to keep an eye on how warm the milk is; the goal temperature is 85-86°F. After the milk reaches the desired temperature, turn off the stove heat and add in the packet of starter cultures. Whisk gently for approximately two minutes to allow the cultures to become rehydrated and incorporated throughout the milk.
Next, place the lid on the stockpot, wrap the entire thing with the towel, and place it on a quiet corner of the counter where it will not be in the way of your other culinary activities. By wrapping the stockpot with a towel, it will keep the milk at a temperature where the cultures can be active and doing their job: fermenting the milk. Let the milk sit in its miniature sauna for 12-18 hours. The next day, you can tell if the cheese is ready by slightly tilting the stockpot to reveal the solid, fatty mass of white (curds) and a yellow fluid (whey). The longer you allow the cultures to do their work, the more strongly flavored the cheese will be.
You have almost accomplished your cheese-making task! You just need to get the actual cheese out of its protein whey bath. To separate the two parts of the cheese, you can do this in two different ways.
1. If you want to save the whey for another use (chickens love whey), then you strain the whey into a very large bowl. To do this, place an inverted Tupperware container inside the bowl, prop the colander on top of the Tupperware, line the strainer with cheesecloth, and then gently pour in the cheese (curds and whey).
2. If whey is of no importance to you at the moment, you can line your giant bowl with cheesecloth, gently dump the cheese into it, pull up the sides of the cheesecloth and tie them into a knot, and hang it bag over the sink to let the liquid separate. You can hang it over the sink faucet if you would like.
Let the cheese strain for another 12 hours. The longer the cheese is allowed to hang, the drier the cheese will be. Any longer than 12 hours, the cheese will be crumbly. You can experiment by adding in different herbs and seasonings to flavor your creation if you so desire (or if the cheese even lasts that long). You can also try milk from different breeds of goats; the flavor and pungent qualities of the milk varies from breed to breed.
You now have the tools to get you started on cheese-making adventures. After getting comfortable with this process, you just might become addicted to the process as this Amazon reviewer discovered.