Cheese Making Basic Principles
Introduction to Cheese Making
Another form of preserving the harvest is the making of butter, yoghurt, and cheese.
Milk, much like other food, is in abundance at certain times of the year, and our ancestors had to preserve this abundance for the leaner times. Whether your milk comes from goats or cows, an animal can only give milk for so long before they need to be "freshened". Freshening is the term used when you breed your animal for the purpose of freshening your milk supply.
After a goat has had a kid it will give plentiful milk for months to come, but eventually, nature will start to reduce this milk supply and you will have to breed your goat again. When this happens you will have to let her dry off (not milk her) as she will need her energy to produce her offspring. Most animals have particular breeding seasons so you can see that even if you have more than one goat or cow, there is a good likelihood that at one time of the year you will have all your animals producing lots of milk and at other times you will have much less production from your animals, or none at all.
So what do you do with all that milk when you have it, and how do you ensure you can enjoy it when your cow or goat is not available to be milked? You make cheese and yoghurt of course. Yoghurt will make your milk last weeks longer, and is very easy to make, and cheese will of course last much longer, many weeks and even months.
Today we can just go down the road and buy milk at all times of the year so we do not need to make cheese, but personally it is one of my favourite foods and it is much cheaper to buy milk, than it is to buy cheese. In addition cheese making is so much fun and very rewarding.
When I first started making cheese, like many people, I began with soft cheeses.
Soft cheeses are easy to make (even the children do it), and the rewards are instant, you eat the soft cheese the day it is made. I love to add herbs and eat it as a dip with crackers or use it as a spread on sandwiches. There are also plenty of recipes that call for soft cheeses. Most recipes call for the use of cultures, and rennet, but here is a soft cheese that you can do at home with ingredients you can find in most kitchens.
Hard cheese making is a more complicated process, with several steps and you will need some specialized equipment and ingredients. The process is not hard, but step by step, and easy to follow instructions are essential.
A summary of "cheese making"
Here is a very simple explanation of the process, using special cheese cultures, and rennet, a dairy coagulant.
The culture, or bacteria (added to warm milk) actually eat the lactose in milk, which is a sugar ... and makes a lactic (type) acid, which helps preserve the milk (as cheese) ... and gives flavour. This process happens very fast at first, as your milk is warm, rennet is then added, to form the curd. The curds are pressed in a mold to make the cheese, which is then stored to "mature".
The bacteria then continue to "work" during the maturation process, albeit slower due to the shortage of so much lactose, and the lower temperature, 12° C is ideal ... that is why 3 month old cheese does not taste as strong as 6 month old cheese.
So to make cheese culture is needed to be added to milk .... and different culture make different cheeses, Mesophilic cultures thrive at moderate temperatures & Thermophilic cultures at high temperatures .... and there are many strains of culture within these two "families".
Cultures work in two ways; Direct Inoculation and Mother.
Mother Cultures are made in advance. You incubate the milk that you are going to use to make your Mother Culture with the freeze dried culture and let it sit for 15 to 24 hours. Once you have made your mother culture you can tip into ice cube trays and freeze it for future use or use it right away.
Direct Inoculations Cultures are added right into the milk, with no need for time consuming preparation of making a Mother Culture. This saves you time and means that if you are a city dweller, or working full time, you can get up on Saturday morning and decide to make cheeses and just get started. I recommend Direct Inoculation Culture for anyone just starting out in cheese making. I have continued to use Direct Inoculation, as I work full time and the Direct Inoculation method suites my busy life style.
But where do you get milk for cheese making, in the city ?
I use homogenised and pasteurised milk straight from the supermarket, and until I get my own goats, that will have to do. Due to the milk being pasteurised, and then refrigerated, I do need to add some Calcium Chloride.
Those that have access to fresh, organic milk from their own cows or goats, who pasteurise their own milk and make cheese immediately, are to be envied, but it is most certainly not a prerequisite for making cheese successfully.
Calcium Chloride, Rennet, along with the Direct Inoculation Cultures and everything else you will need, including a Dairy Thermometer are all in our Hard Cheese Making Kit. I have written the instructions myself, and feel they are easy to follow, and I am only an email away if you have any questions.
I myself started off my wonderful, and rewarding journey, into cheese making with the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.
This is a great book for beginners and veterans alike. I still refer to it regularly and I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to try their hand at this most tasty adventure. The beauty of the Ricki Carroll book is that it has directions for making cheese using either Mother Cultures or Direct Inoculation Cultures, lots of background information on cheese making, and a troubleshooting section.
Just like everything else, the more cheese you make, the better you get at it ... so why not have a go?
Cheese Making Kits & Hardware
Check out the Green Living Australia Hard Cheese Kit which makes nine delicious, homemade cheeses: Farmhouse Cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Feta, Cottage Cheese, Colby, Corswold, Leicester, and Ricotta.