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calling all cheesemakers

Do you make cheese at home? What types? Does it take many pieces of equipment? Do you have to be a 'scientist'?

What whould you suggest to someone (LOM) who wants to get started with some simple soft cheese? (I would love to more or less duplicate the Mexican Casera cheese I've become enamered of. A bit firmer than but with the flavor of fresh ricotta.)

Thanks

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  1. Making simple soft cheeses at home doesn't require any special equipment or an advanced degree. And it is so much fun! I make a version of ricotta which is ridiculously easy, mozzarella (but it isn't the mozzarella I aspire to), and fresh goat cheese. The "ricotta" is from an Italian friend and the others are from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, who also sells cheese making supplies http://www.cheesemaking.com/ All you need is a big pot, a thermometer (I use my candy thermometer), a colander and some cheesecloth. There is a version of Queso Fresco in the book. Some wine/beer making supply stores stock cheese making stuff too. Unfortunately ours in Napa doesn't.

    I recently took a class in which we made ricotta salata, halloumi, manchego and goat feta. The goat feta was especially good. I still have the ricotta salata and halloumi aging in the fridge. Those cheeses require forms for draining, but other than that no special equipment, just the starters, lipase and rennet. Hard, aged cheeses do need a controlled temp. One woman in the class had a designated dorm-type fridge she keeps at 50 degrees, but if you have a basement....

    Please report back on your cheese.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Junie D

      I second the vote on the cheesemaking website and the Ricki Carroll book. Its fun and easy. We have made ricotta at home and mozzarella. And I boiled the whey down to that gjeost stuff they make in Norway/Sweden but I overdid it and it got too crystelly.
      I would love to take a cheese making class but haven't found it. And I would need a better, more practical supply of milk that TJs or Whole Foods.
      I have cheese envy of all of you out there with resources.....

    2. I just saw Michael Chiarello make ricotta on TV the other day, with no special equipment. Just a large pot, a cheesecloth or tea towel, a strainer to set the towel over, and a large bowl. He used 2 cups milk, 2 cups cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice. You can probably find his recipe on foodtv.com

      1. Try this:

        Get some good plain yougurt. Pour it into some cheesecloth (a couple of layers). Tie the corners and hook over the faucet of the kitchen sink. Let it drain for several hours.

        You can mix it with herbs, garlic, spices.

        Enjoy!

        5 Replies
        1. re: aureliano buendia

          you can make lebanese "lebneh" by slightly modifying the above instructions.

          1) line a collander with paper towels and rest collander on top of a pot (for drainage purposes).

          2) stir a small palmful of salt (it's subjective) into a quart of regular yogurt.

          3) pour yogurt into collander.

          4) cover and let drain overnight.

          5) move lebneh into a plastic glad container, drizzle generously with good olive oil and add more salt if you think it's needed. enjoy with lebanese pita bread (joseph's will do).

          1. re: coookie

            Adding to your lebneh - sprinkle it with Z'atar with that olive oil and you'll never go back to plain lebneh!

            1. re: Carrie 218

              ha! sounds like another lebanese person in da house.

              for the uninitiated, z'atar is a mix of toasted sesame seeds, sumac, thyme and salt.

              1. re: coookie

                I learned about it from Saveur -- it was listed as one of their "100" favorites the very first time they did a 100 favorite (ten years ago?). I was living in LA and it took some work to find all the ingredients and have loved it ever since.

            2. re: coookie

              Hi-

              For those making Lebneh, cheese, etc., does anyone know how to make yogurt at home?

              I've heard it's as easy as taking your current yogurt (with live cultures I believe) and adding milk that's been heated but not boiled. Let sit for 5 or so hours, then refrigerate. (I expect some cheesecloth draining may be desirable).

              Is that all it is? If so, what proprtions? I'd love to try it, but would hate to poison myself!

              Any insight would be so very appreciated!

              TIA!!

              ST

          2. I just started making cheese, I tried about a year ago and got busy, but wanted to dive in while I have time during the holidays. I have made queso blanco and Cheddar (now aging in the veg drawer which has been annexed as a cheese cave), My next cheese will be a Monterey jack, and then a pepper jack. Long term I want to make a blue and stilton. I ma making the cheeses using the Ricki Carroll books as well as other resources on the net.

            I would love to find some classes in So. Cal, so far they are either in the bay area or east coast. Anyone else in this area making cheese?

            1. I got so enamored with home cheese-making that I bought a second refrigerator to house my cheese! I went to the extreme and bought the press.

              Besides Ricki Carroll's book, I heartily recommend 'Making Artisan Cheese' by Tim Smith which goes a step further in the tweaking of standard cheeses.

              And Lobstah, I'm here in the city as well!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Carrie 218

                Thats great! I will look for that book this weekend. I am interested in branching out (once I have gotten the basics down) into some wilder recipes. What Cheeses are you making and how do you solve that heating from 90 to 100 (but no more than 5 degrees in two minutes issue? It is supposed to take 30 min but I always seem to take much longer.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  Hi Carrie,

                  How are you able to control the humidity in your cave/refrigerator? And what cheeses are you making? and where does one find Z'atar? (already mixed)

                2. What do you need? A bathtub! Heh, heh, heh! (Alusion to mainstream joke)

                  All my rural relatives in Mexico make cheese on a regular basis... you don't really need any special equipment... but the quality of the milk (i.e., the cow's diet) will afect the final flavor.

                  My grandma would feed her cheese cow, a blend of hay, old nopales, some grains, & discarded fruit leftovers. Very, very good results.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Lobstah

                      She just makes a smooth Fresco (not too crumbly) and ages what she doesn't eat fresh. Some of it she will cover with chile paste to age, others she wraps in a corn husk etc.,

                  1. with all this cheesemaking advice i wonder if anyone has tried making your cheese with unpasteurized, raw milk as opposed to the widely available store-bought pasteurized milk? i love cheese and since i make homemade bread, am intersted in making my own beer, etc. i would also love to make my own cheese for once. however, after reading much about old skool cheeses, french cheese, etc. i have come to the personal conclusion that using raw, unprocessed milk is the preferable path. anyone with info? thanks a lot. i would especially love if anyone has done a side by side comparison with using raw milk and then commercially available milk to make the same cheese and noted on the differnces in taste, texture, etc. thanks.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ben61820

                      absolutely. This is exactly the issue that got me experimenting with cheesemaking. I really wanted to try a raw milk brie/camembert, and since you can't buy it, I figured I'd try to make one....and the rest is history!

                      The best milk you can use is super fresh and raw/unprocessed. Some cheeses call for pasturization but in those cases it's still better to do it yourself. The main problem with what you get from the store is that it is homogenized. This ruins the texture (makes it tough and rubbery) and can compromise the curd set as well. So if you cannot get raw milk, at least try to get unhomogenized milk, or you can use skim and add the cream separately to simulate unhomogenized milk.

                      As for flavor, I have not done a side by side with store bought milk as I don't see any reason to do it. If you have never had raw milk before, brace yourself for a surprise in how much additional flavor and richness there is to it, and this definitely comes through in the cheese, too. Many people find it a bit offensive as it is far more "animal-ly" tasting than pasturized milk - this is where you can get those pronounced barnyard flavors. I love it, but it can be an aquired taste. There is an element of "milk terroir" too, that depends on the forage the cow has been getting, the time of year (I had a batch from winter milking that was so mild it was almost like store bought), even time of day of the milking. Pretty remarkable.

                      I have had lousy luck with my mold ripened cheeses, which I think has more to do with the mold culture I'm using, but the hard cheeses I've done with raw milk have been really good so far. It is SO much fun, and I fancy myself a bit of a mad scientist when I get the milk home and starting cooking.

                      Bottom line: IMHO, I fully agree that there is not much point in taking the time to make cheese at home if you can't get raw milk.

                    2. I made a homeade cheddar with raw milk and blew it (and a sizable sum of money). It was my first cheddar type cheese making attempt and I shoul dhave mitigated the costs.

                      But damn the torpedoes...

                      Anyway it was very bitter (and quite dense). I think I undersalted the curds, but I need to make it again and succeed before I can be sure.

                      The dogs liked it.