Recommendations For New Cheese Makers

This Wiki Article discusses recommendations for people new to the wonderful world of Cheese Making. Making cheese has some similarities to making wine or beer, it needs equipment, ingredients, and a recipe or method. The bad news is like wine and beer making, it is also easy to make poor quality cheese. Thus the ancient Artisan Craft of Cheese Making is both rewarding and frustrating.

Cream Cheese using Half & Half, after 7 hours ripening & gravity draining whey in cheese cloth bag.
Cream Cheese using Half & Half, after 7 hours ripening & gravity draining whey in cheese cloth bag.

Rewarding Because:

  • You get to make something completely different from milk (an extremely complicated substance) and a few select ingredients.
  • There are 100’s of different cheeses you can make with a wide variety of textures and tastes.
  • Your product is edible.

Frustrating Because:

  • As i) ingredients (including just the same milk!) are varied and ii) the cheese making process (unlike beer & wine making) is mostly open to the air for a long time; there are 1000’s of ways for things to go off-track resulting in the invention of a new “cheese”, even while following the same recipe twice. Thus a recipe that works perfectly for someone in say New Zealand may need some adjustment for someone else in Alaska.
  • On aged cheeses, you can wait several months to see, smell and taste your result before correcting a recipe.
  • The more complicated cheeses require more non-standard ingredients, equipment, and methods.

The good news is that unlike wine and beer making, like bread making there are several unaged “fresh” cheeses that can be consumed immediately and thus considerably shorten the learning time.

To mitigate some of these frustrations for the new cheese maker, it is recommended that you start with making simple fresh (non-aged) direct acid (non-lactic acid, non-rennet coagulated) cheeses as they:

  1. Have in general a higher success rate as simpler shorter recipes with less time for things to go wrong.
  2. Require little non-standard ingredients or kitchen type equipment.
  3. Will give you quick edible results.
  4. Will help you build your knowledge, ingredients, equipment, and logistics enabling you to better plan for making more complicated cheeses and time to acquire additional ingredients and equipment.

Example fresh direct acid coagulated cheeses are:

  1. Queso Blanco, a common Spanish white cheese used in cooking such as lasagna and made using acetic acid (white vinegar) to coagulate cow’s milk.
  2. Paneer, a common Indian cheese used in cooking with vegetables and made using lemon juice to coagulate cow’s milk.
  3. Mascarpone, a common Italian spreadable cheese used in for example Tiramisu and made using tartaric acid to coagulate light cow’s milk cream.

As the above are simple “instant” cheeses there is little flavour development outside of milk or cream’s natural flavour, and thus the second recommended set of cheeses for new cheese makers uses a starter culture who’s function is primarily to create lactic acid and coagulate the milk. These take a little longer to make but have more flavour and are still fresh, made to be consumable after making.

Example fresh lactic acid coagulated cheeses are:

  1. Yogurt, commonly using store-bought yogurt as a thermophilic high temperature starter culture.
  2. Strained/Greek Yogurt, a drained and thus thicker version of yogurt.
  3. Light Sour Cream, commonly using store-bought buttermilk as a mesophilic low temperature starter culture and light pasteurized cow’s cream.
  4. Heavy Sour Cream, same as above but using heavy pasteurized cow’s cream.

The next step up in making cheese requires rennet which depending where you are in the world may be easy or hard to find. You can mail order from a cheese making supply store, CFO’s global listing here, or try to find in a local beer or wine making store or sometimes in a large grocery store, phone ahead.

Example fresh mostly lactic acid and a little rennet coagulated cheeses are:

  1. Light Cream Cheese, using cow’s milk.
  2. Cream Cheese, using cream from cow’s milk.
  3. Chevre/Goat’s Cheese, using goat’s milk.
  4. Cottage Cheese, using cow’s milk.
Cream Cheese using Half & Half with herbs, 5 days old, small amount of whey.
Cream Cheese using Half & Half with herbs, 5 days old, small amount of whey.

Example consumable after making rennet coagulated cheese are:

  1. Queso Fresco
  2. Feta, using goat’s milk or Lipase if using cow or sheep’s milk to give it that piquant flavour.
1 US gallon whole cow's milk Feta in water based brine.
1 US gallon whole cow’s milk Feta in water based brine.

From here you can move up to more difficult fresh cheeses such as Mozzarella or onto pressed hard and normally aged cheeses which require considerably more equipment and for which the reader should review most of the Wiki Articles.

Lastly, like the Artisans before us, making cheese is both an art and science that is largely learnt from each other, so post your results (both successes and failures) in the appropriate or Questions – Problems CFO Forum Board and ask questions from your fellow Cheese Making Guild Members.