Friday, 29 May 2009

Making Cheese at Home

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin.

One of the most satisfying projects that I have embarked on during the Greening of Gavin is cheesmaking. It must be the mouse in me coming out, but it is just so much fun to turn simple cows milk into something so divine!

In February, I attended a cheesemaking workshop and learnt how to make Feta. It was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote about over on my personal blog and if you want to find out how the day went have a look at "Homemade Feta, or Gromit I Found the Cheese!". It details the entire process. I won't list a how to in this post, because each cheese is different, and it would take a book to write them all down.

Since that time, I have bought a basic cheese making kit which contained everything I required except a few kitchen utensils and a press, a very simple recipe book, and I have made the following cheese.

Feta (twice)

Wensleydale (twice)


Pepper Jack (a variation on Monteray Jack)


I have even made an oil marinated feta.

All of these cheeses were made from a few simple ingredients that are readily available on-line at cheese websites or in your local area. The basic ingredients are;

  • Whole milk (the fresher the better)
  • Mesophilic starter (a culture to give flavour)
  • Calcium Chloride (if the milk is homogenised)
  • Rennet (vegetable)
  • Non-ionised Salt
I use milk and salt purchased from the supermarket due to the lack of a local dairy, and the other ingredients came in my cheese making kit that I bought during the cheesemaking class. A small quantity of the culture, rennet and calcium chloride go a very long way and don't need to be replaced that often. The culture must be stored in the freezer and will last indefinately. The rennet and calcium chloride store in the fridge.

Other tools that I use are from around the home. I use a 8 litre (2 gallon) stainless steel cooking pot. A smaller pot with water in it, that I sit the large one on to act as a double boiler to control the temperature, and a cafe thermometer that is used to measure the temp of the curds and whey.

I use a colander, some cheese cloth and another old pot to strain the curds from the whey.

The other kitchen utensils I use are a stainless steel stirring spoon, measuring spoons, and a small medicine measuring cup. The only other thing I had to purchase to complete my cheese making kit was a cheese press. I bought mine from an on-line shop and it was about $70 with postage. The press included a basket, follower and a spring (so you can tell how much pressure to exert on the cheese).

To store and mature the finished cheese, depending on what type you make, you need to wax the finished wheel. My kit came with a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cheese wax. I wrote about how to wax a cheese. The title is "Waxing the Cheese". It is a simple process and seals the moisture into the cheese wheel whilst it is maturing. Most semi-hard cheeses, like wensleydale, cheddar, gouda, edam, and monteray jack need to be waxed and matured for a minimum of between 1 month and 12 months, depending on the cheese and the flavour you are after.

The cheese can be stored in a cool cupboard or basement/cellar. The ideal temperature for cheese storage is between 9 - 15 degrees Celsius. In the Australian summer that is quite difficult to achieve, so I simply stored mine in the butter compartment of my fridge. During winter, I just put it into a cool cupboard and it matures nicely.

I hope I have given you all a small insight into the wonderful world of home cheese making, and am happy to field any questions via comments. I have found that once you start cheesmaking, it is very hard to stop. Since February, I make cheese on every second Friday night as a pleasurable way to spend my evening after a long week at work. A glass of red wine also helps with the process!

"Wine, Cheese, and Friends. These are three things that are much better when old."
- Gavin