Introduction To Cheese Making

This Wiki Article is an introduction to cheese making which is the process of changing milk (cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s) into cheese through a set of controlled additives (acid, starter cultures, enzymes), applied temperatures (heating and cooling), and applied physical movement (stirring, cutting, molding, pressing) that result in a defined chemical change to a certain cheese. The combination of additives, temperature, and physical processes applied and thus resultant cheese is infinite as evidenced by a trip to a local grocery store.

Versaille, France, Open Air Market
Versailles, France, Open Air Market

Over the last probably thousands of years certain cheeses have become more popular and their recipes available. But calling this interplay a recipe is an injustice as cheese making is not as simple as following a cooking type recipe as milk (and are ingredients) is an extremely complex material subject to seasonal and regional changes and pre-processing (raw, pasteurized, homogenized). Thus cheese makers and lovers need to understand the interplay of the components and processes to obtain the type of cheese they want.

To understand what initially seems an utterly chaotic universe of cheese making we need to give it some structure. There are many books that do this by grouping cheeses for example by milk type (“Goat Cheeses I Have Loved”) or by country of origin (“Discover Italian Cheeses”) or by fresh vs aged (“Make These 10 Fresh Cheeses At Home Today”). As this website is primarily dedicated to the home and artisan craft and science of making cheese, the recipe categories and the Forum are organized primarily by the similar families or types of cheeses based on how they are made. First by fresh vs aged (also called ripened), then by coagulation method (direct acid, lactic acid, rennet), then by family for example brine preserved (Feta), pulled (Mozzarella), white mold (Camembert), blue mold (Stilton), washed curd (Gouda) etc. In this way we can now understand cheese making if we visualize it as a giant tree. You start at the base with raw cow’s or goat’s milk, you choose whether to use it raw or pasteurize or homogenize, then whether to use whole milk, skimmed milk, cream or whey, then you decide if you want a fresh or aged cheese, then how you want to coagulate the milk, then what processes to apply, and what other ingredients to add.

Pienza, Tusany, Italy, Formaggio Store
Pienza, Tuscany, Italy, Formaggio Store

But the reader is warned, as will you learn, hopefully through this website, that just as you think you understand this “organized” tree, many recipes cross use of milk types, acidifying methods, processes, and ingredients (sheep’s milk and dry powdered non-fat cow’s milk Gorgonzola using white and blue molds). Welcome to the wonderful world of cheese!