My favorite step, cutting the cheese.. I mean.. curds.
A buddy of mine basically has access to an unlimited amount of the best raw milk on the planet and doesn't make cheese. This post is an attempt to put the kibosh on any of his namby-pamby excuses and to encourage him to roll up his sleeves and start cutting the curds like the rest of us. So here is my quick list of what you need to make cheese, glorious, cheese!
First you need a dairy producing animal such as a cow or goat, in milk of course.
Hey Nibbles! Come here so I can milk you!
Next, you need a good seamless, stainless bucket. I got the cheap one at Lehmans for about $20. It's OK but for something you use twice a day, every day for the whole summer I think its time for me to get off my wallet and buy a really good one. If you are just starting out, or if you have really small goats, go and check out the dog food aisle at Tractor Supply. You can get small seamless, stainless buckets or stainless dog food dishes that will work just fine for the low riders who won't fit over a regular sized bucket. Don't forget to get a strainer also. Get the big one, its just easier that way.
And of course you need a really big stainless stock pot which we learned you can get on the cheap from a restaurant supply shop. While you are there get a really good thermometer and some good quality (not from the grocery) cheese cloth. Finally you need some know-how so get some books lined up like I talked about in this post.
The first step to making cheese is ruining the milk. You need rennet for this and I really like the tablets from Caprine Supply. Its just easier to mail order, they work like a dream, and I don't have any problems with using animal-based enzymes. You can find vegetable based and/or liquid rennet but I'm stuck on these.
Adding the culture - easy and fun!
After you monkey around with that portion of the process you'll add a culture for the type of cheese you are making. Most of the cheeses I make need a Mesophyllic Starter Culture but there are many kinds of cultures that you can purchase. Don't be intimidated at the fancy names . Dr. Fankhauser has a fascinating discourse on the science behind all this stuff. His site is a great reference for all your cheesemaking questions. And he is a nice man who helped me out last year.
After all the stirring, setting, straining and all that jazz, you'll need a mold to form the cheese. I got this one last year and its perfect for gouda and cheddars and such. And at $20 its practically a bargain. You can also make your own molds - or just use what you've got. I made some splendid neufchatel cheese last summer using small spring-form cheesecake pans.
Fresh neufs waiting to be aged
And the final step may be to press the cheese. You'll remember that I made my own using nothing but good old Yankee ingenuity and Appalachian-American cheap methods here. But you can either make one or buy one from any of the cheesemaking supply places such as Hoegger, Caprine, or Lehmans... so as not to embarrass your friends and family. For now I'm stickin' with my kitty litter buckets and I don't care who knows about it.
Ok friends, you should be able to order your cheese making supplies. Now all we have to do is just wait for these goaties to freshen and then there will be nothing but made-on-the-farm cheese as far as the eye can see!