milk for cheesemaking
Here are some "nutshell" pointers about milk for cheesemaking:
It is hard to get a proper texture using homogenized milk - the final curd has a tendency to be very rubbery/squeaky. If you must use it, look for recipes where you mix skim milk and cream to simulate non-homogenized. I have not had to resort to this, so I can't recommend proportions directly.
It is very very hard to get proper curd formation using ultra-pasteurized products. Almost impossible from what I have heard. So do look for brands that are just "pasteurized".
With respect to flavor, starting with raw milk is absolutely your best bet. There is a listing of state certified raw dairies at www.realmilk.org If you are concerned about bacteria, you are still better off starting raw and pasteurizing yourself so you can control temperatures.
If you want to use pasteurized, check out shaw farm: www.shawfarm.com. They offer non-homogenized, low temperature pasteurized milk. For ease of use, decent flavor and best chance of good curd formation, this would be your best bet IMO.
Shaw's is fantastic. I have not tried it for making cheese yet...I imagine it will be superior to grocery store milk which has produced a very bland mozzarella (I'm a novice!)
I have a hard time saving Shaw's milk for cheesemaking as it really delicious to drink. I also highly recommend their ice cream which I also found rich and delicious.
The realmilk.org link is a huge help for sourcing raw milk and goat milk...Thanks!
Thanks for the advice everyone!
I have Ricki Carroll's book and it warned that dairies aren't required to state if the milk is UHT pasturized so I was worried I would get some even while trying to avoid it. I have a gallon of Shaw's, although Wilson Farms only had homoginized. If this experiment goes well I'll search out unhomogonized and possibly raw milk from the sources you suggested
While raw milk is an amazing product to have access to, I would recommend starting with a less expensive, high quality organic milk (not Ultra-Pasteurized, of course), especially if you are just getting started with harder cheeses. Work your way up to the good stuff; it can be pretty disheartening when you spend big $$ on milk for cheese that you end up not enjoying because it doesn't come out right.