Easy Peasy Raw Milk Cheeses

Jul 20 2011 0 Comments Tags: cheese, dairy, milk

Making cheese is not as hard as it sounds.  Let me explain a few of the concepts and you'll see what I mean.

To make cheese you need to separate the milk into curds and whey.  Curds are a coagulation of the long chain casein proteins in the milk, the whey is the liquid (also containing protein) that remains uncoagulated.  Coagulation is the same thing that happens to egg when its cooked, its just the solidification process.  The separation is achieved either by adding rennet (an enzyme that was originally extracted from kid or calf stomach, but is now usually produced by GM bacteria), or by increasing the acidity of the milk (either with a weak acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or by allowing lactic acid bacteria to produce lactic acid in the milk).

I probably just made that sound complicated, but now for the practical advice.  The easiest way to make cheese is to just add the cheese culture (i.e. lactic acid bacteria) to some milk and put it in a warm place (or my Easiyo thermos) to ferment.  In 24 hours you then strain it through cheese cloth and make cream or cottage cheese.

I only wrote this post so I could show off the cheese press my husband made.
In this case its used to drain a soft cheese.
Note the spout welded onto the baking dish underneath
To make a renneted cheese, you let the bacteria ferment only for about an hour, then you add the rennet and let the curds form.  Depending on the cheese, the steps can get a bit more complicated from there, but basically you then need to separate the curds from the whey.  This can involve cutting the curd, stirring, heating and pressing in a mould to remove even more whey.  For a hard cheese you need to remove more whey than for a soft cheese.  To make feta, I just hang the curds in cheese cloth as I do for a soft cheese.  To make cheddar, I use a cheese mould.

And here's the press again, being used this
time being used to press hard cheese in a mold,
notice the springs to add extra pressure.
The most difficult part about hard cheese is not making them, that is easy if you can follow a simple recipe, the hard part is working out how to dry and age them without growing the wrong moulds and ruining the cheese.  We have converted a bar fridge into a cheese cave using a thermostat to set the temperature in the fridge to 10 degC.  We are sealing the dried cheeses using our vacuum packer.  We haven't aged any of them long enough to try them yet, so we have no idea if this is going to be a good system!

However, I have made lots of soft cheese, and it is very very easy to make, so don't be put off my all the complexity of hard cheeses!  If you want easy cheese, with minimal ingredients and equipment, just make a soft cheese.

Do you make cheese?  Any tips?  Any questions?

See more cheese-making posts here.

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