If you’re thinking of making your cheese, you may be thinking that it’s fairly easy. I mean, after all, you’ve probably watched all sorts of YouTube videos, or maybe you’ve signed up for an upcoming class to learn from a pro? Either way, they all make it seem so easy…
They just whip out some milk. They put some liquid in it. After some time has passed, they cut the curds. They separate the whey like Little Miss Muffet in the old children’s nursery rhyme, and the outcome is nice, chewy, tasty, amazing cheese.
Well, that’s YouTube. That’s not reality. Cheesemaking 101 is all about going through the right steps and following some basic rules so you can get the kind of cheese that you’re looking for. Let’s be clear. it’s very easy to come up with bad cheese.
You don’t need much training to come up with lousy tasting cheese or cheese that would make you sick. If you want cheese that lives up to your expectations, then you need to stick to some basic rules that will ensure that you get exactly that.
Now understand that these basic rules are pretty much generalized. In other words, they are formulated in such a way that they would apply to a wide range of cheeses that require a wide range of circumstances.
The key here is if you are looking for a very specific type of cheese, let’s say Edam cheese, then follow the advice below. Also, follow the specific cheese making instructions for that type of cheese.
Different types of cheeses have different ingredients. They have different starter cultures and curing requirements. Despite all those differences, there are some basic objectives and best practices they all share.
So that’s what I’m going to share with you. Pay close attention to these best practices and you can increase your chances of getting the right cheese every single time you make cheese at home.
Get access to fresh pasteurized milk
It’s really important to get milk that is as fresh as possible. However, it has to be also as safe as possible. As you probably already know, heating milk up to a certain temperature kills all sorts of harmful bacteria. Do that.
Now I understand that it’s very tempting to use unpasteurized milk because in France a lot of people swear by the superior quality of cheese if it’s unheated. The problem is are you willing to get sick and possibly even die, just so you can get your hands-on high-quality cheese?
That’s kind of a high threshold to cross while you’re still learning. I don’t think they’re going to be a lot of takers on that. So, do yourself a big favor. Get access to freshly pasteurized milk. In other words, get milk that is as close to the cow as possible while at the same time being 100% safe.
Watch the milk’s temperature
The first thing you have got to do when you’re making cheese is to heat the milk. It has to hit a certain temperature level. It’s going to chemically react to the culture and the rennet or coagulant that you’re going to use. This is the compound that turns liquid milk into solid curds, which make up cheese.
Add starter culture
When you heat your milk the first time around, you add starter culture. These are bacteria that essentially release chemicals into the milk as well as process the milk. It has the flavor, texture, and color profile that defines that milk.
Blue cheese has a different flavor, texture, and color from cheddar, which is very different from feta and other types of cheese.
Read up on the conditions of the starter culture. When you buy starter culture online, you will see instructions on the kind of temperature and how high the next temperature setting is before you take the next step.
If you are making mozzarella, on the other hand, make sure you add citric acid. A lot of people think that this is optional, but citric acid is the secret ingredient that makes mozzarella so stretchy and so chewy. This is great for pizza lovers.
Cut your curds right
You can use a knife or better yet use a special cutting tool that is specially designed for cheese cutting. This ensures a better surface area for the curds which leads to better curing.
Use the right cheese molds
Once you have separated your curds from your whey, put the curd in a cheese mold. These are hard plastic molds. They also do a better job of separating whey from curds.
Pack or stretch the curd
Depending on the cheese that you’re making, this is the part where you either pack or stretch to remove as much moisture as possible.
You stretch and heat the cheese if you’re trying to come up with something chewy like mozzarella. If you are making soft cheese, then you don’t pack it as much and you just let it sit in a refrigerator or at room temperature depending on how cold your area is.
Make sure you age your cheese right
If you’re making soft cheeses like mozzarella, you can pretty much serve them right after you make them.
On the other hand, if you are making cheese balls like Edam or harder cheeses like parmesan or cheddar, you’re going to have to salt your cheese and store them at the right temperature.
You also have to check for mold to make sure that the cheese is healthy. You’re going to have to keep this up for several months.
Easiest cheeses to make
If you are just getting started with cheese making, I suggest that you make soft cheeses. These are cheeses that you can eat immediately. These are not mozzarella. Mozzarella is harder to make, believe it or not.
You can start with Mexican queso blanco. You just need milk heated up to a certain temperature, add vinegar, and then drain it with cheesecloth. Very easy. Next, you can try Indian paneer. If you’re a big fan of Indian food, this is a nonnegotiable cheese.
Again, just add vinegar back into a mold and then press it for a moderate to hard texture. It should have a texture of tofu.
There you have it. If you are looking for steps to make cheese, I’ve given you all the necessary steps that will ensure you get some awesome cheese at the end of the process. Enjoy!