I'm really interested in making my own cheeses. I'm interested in Mozz, Provolone, Parmasean, Romano, Swiss, Cheddar, Colby, Jack (these are the ones that come to mind--I might add others as I learn about the others).
So I have a few questions:
1) For those cheeses that need to be aged, can I use just a fridge and put the cheeses in rubbermade/tupperware type containers? Maybe vacuum seal them via foodsaver instead? Maybe do the waxing thing? I'm a little confused because some threads seem to imply that I need to control the humidity level (and put a humidifier in the fridge) but others seem to imply that if sealed, humidity is less of an issue.
2) What about the cultures? Am I best buying them? Or can they be made easily enough?
3) How about storing the cultures? How long do they last? How should they be stored?
4) Can I use milk from the grocery store? Vitamin D? 2%? Or do I need to find a farmer?
Okay, here's my advice but other might be along shortly to offer something more thorough.
1.) When I first started out, I did use my regular household fridge to age my cheese. I have always waxed them and this seemed to work out well. Once the cheese was waxed and in the fridge, I never had a problem with the chees growing mold or cracking from drying out. Just make sure you use a proper cheese wax, which can be ordered from any cheese making supply stie (Leeners, The Dairy Connection, New England Cheese Making Supply, etc.)
2.) I've bought my cultures from day one. At first it might seem as though they are expensive but you get a lot of batches out of a very small amount. Most of my cheeses require 1/4 - 1/2 tsp., depending on the size of cheese I am making. I usually keep the following: Mesophilic A (good for colby, cheddar, blues & Jack style). Mesophilic M (I usually use this only for Gouda as it adds a nice nutty flavor and creates tiny little eyes in the cheese). Thermophilic (this is used for swiss, parmesan, romano, Mozzerella and provolone). Proprionic Shermanii (The bacteria that gives swiss it's flavor and creates the eyes in the cheese). Flora Danica (another type of Mesophilic culture that adds a lot of flavor to cheeses like Camembert and Brie). Penicillum Candidum and Penicilllum Geothricum(not sure I spelled this correctly since I'm not looking at the package). These cultures are used only for cheeses such as Camembert and Brie which are surfaced ripened cheeses.
I also keep a large supply of P. Rocqforti which is the blue mold for cheeses such as Gorgonzola an dmy beloved Stilton. Of course you won't need nearly this many to start out and according to the list of cheeses you are interested in, you can probably get by with just Thermophilic and Mesophilic A. The only other thing you might want to purchase is Lipase which is an enzyme that will give added flavor to your provolone and mozzerella cheeses. You might also want to order a bottle of cheese coloring, to add a little color to your Colby, Cheddar, Gouda, etc......
4.) The cultures are supposed to last for up to 2 years when stored in your refrigerator freezer compartment. I have used these cultures when they are well over 3 years and they seem to work just fine. Your mileage may vary, but you can expect at least two years if stored properly.
5.) As for your milk, here's the scoop: Raw milk is best. From the curd people seem to get from raw milk there is no doubt that it is superior.
Grocery store milk will also work well as long as you use Calcium Chloride solution to help in the setting of the milk. I personally do not have access to raw milk so I do use store bought, but I am pretty picky about what milk I use and have even contacted several dairies to find out what their pasteurization methods are. If the milk is heated at too high of a temp. during the pasteruization process it really does harm the quality. UHT, or Ultra Pasteruized milk is basically worthless when it comes to making cheese.
Hopefully this has answered your questions, but wait until some others have posted to this thread.
There are some highly knowledgeable people on this forum who are more qualified to offer advice than I am.
Have a great weekend.