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So your thinking about making cheese eh? It’s actually pretty easy but like anything it has it’s own language. There are several terms used in the making of cheese that can be a bit confusing so maybe we should start by defining a few other terms here first ~
What is cheese?
According to Wikipedia
“Cheese is a solid food made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep, and other mammals. Cheese is made by curdling milk using a combination of rennet (or rennet substitutes) and acidification. Bacteria acidify the milk and play a role in defining the texture and flavor of most cheeses. Some cheeses also feature molds, either on the outer rind or throughout.”
Curdling sometimes called coagulation is the process by which a liquid, (in this case milk), changes to a thickened, curd like, insoluble state by chemical reaction. So curdling is what makes the liquid milk become a cheese soilid.
Curds are a dairy product obtained by curdling (coagulating) milk with rennet or an edible acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar and then draining off the liquid portion (called whey).
Whey or milk plasma is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained; it is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses. Whey is used to produce ricotta and gjetost cheeses and many other products for human consumption. So don’t throw out your whey!
Rennet is a natural complex of enzymes produced in any mammalian stomach to digest the mother's milk. Rennet contains a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The active enzyme in rennet is called rennin or chymosin (EC 18.104.22.168) but there are also other important enzymes in it, e. g., pepsin or lipase. There are animal and vegetable rennetsavailable. They also come in liquid and tablet form.
Acidification An acid is traditionally considered any chemical compound that, when dissolved in water, gives a solution with a pH less than 7.0. Don’t worry if you failed Chemestry it’s not realy needed here!
Clean Break Once the milk has been inoculated & renneted it will coagulate or thicken. A clean break is when you plunge a clean bent finger into the coagulated milk and lift your finger up and out cleanly. It will at first look like a pudding trying to stick to your finger then it will just fall away cleanly leaving a small puddle of whey where your finger once was. (I used a knife to make it easier to see)
Cultures – Cheese cultures are used to acidify the milk. There are several varieties of cultures which react differently with milk to adjust the pH.
There are two basic categories of cultures:
Mesophilic Cultures - which is used for most soft cheeses and many hard cheeses that are not heated over 102F. The word 'meso' means middle and these cultures are used for cheeses where the recipe requires temperatures between 68°F and 102°F.
Thermophilic Cultures – which are 'heat loving' and these will do best for the higher temperature cheeses that require cooking to 104°F-128°F.
Cheese cultures can be as simple as those listed above or require special laboratories to grow and package depending on the types of cheeses and milk you are using. Here is a link to a supplier I use for some of my more sophisticated aged cheeses. The Dairy Connection
Calcium Chloride – This is used to improve curd size and texture when using store bought milk.
Citric Acid - Used to increase acidity when necessary.
Tartaric Acid - Used with light cream to make fresh mascarpone desert cheeses.
Flaked Cheese Salt - Specialty grade additive free pure salt for seasoning cheese, canning, hot sauces and mustards. Enhances flavor, inhibits spoilage.
Lipase – is an enzymes used to enhance the flavor of Italian and specialty type cheeses. It comes in several varieties like kid, calf and lamb lipase powders to produce that traditional Italian "Old World" flavor. This enzyme is a "must" making some cheeses like Feta, Romano, Pecorino, and Parmesan.
Cheese Families Cheese is organized into families or categories by the way they are made. There are seven cheese families and this can help you decide what types of cheese you like and whether or not you might want to attempt this style of cheese. For more information click here !
Factors That Determine What Type of Cheese You Make
1.) the type of milk you use – (cows, goats, buffalo, or lambs milk)
2.) how long the milk is left to sour
a. the temperature you add the rennet
b. the cooking temperature (the higher the temperature the finer the curds)
4.) the length of time it is cooked
5.) the size of the curds
6.) the firmness of the cheese (pressure of the curd pressing)
7.) the time, temperature and humidity levels while the cheese is ripening
So How Do I Make Cheese ?
Assemble all the needed ingredients and equipment first!
A good Thermometer which reads at least from 0 to 250°F
Cheese cloth - which can be washes and reused.
a drain basket or plastic colander
A stainless steel pot large enough to hold your milk
Other equipment for making cheese but not needed for this recipe
A pot large enough to put the first pot in (for a water bath)
A wire cooking rack to set the pot on during the water bath
A long knife or spatula (long enough to reach the bottom of the pot)
A Cheese press (go here for instructions on how to make your own)
The best way to learn is by doing– so let’s do it!
Everybody loves pizza so we’re going to start with:
Basic Mozzarella Cheese
1 gallon whole milk (you can use 2% or 1% but it will not be a rich)
1-1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
1/2 Junket tablet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
5 quart covered stainless pot with heavy bottom
1 cup Pyrex measuring cup
2 cup Pyrex measuring cup
Thermometer, -20 C to 110 C (20 F to 220 F)
long bladed knife
sterile handkerchief or heavy cheese cloth
8 inch colander
large bowl to catch he draining whey (save it! we will use this later to make Ricotta Cheese)
1000 watt microwave oven
· Warm milk over slowly to 88°F (31C), be careful not to scorch the milk.
· Dissolve 1 1/4 tsp. citric acid powder in 1/2 cup cool water. Add to 88°F milk, stir well.
· Dissolve 1 tablet Junket Rennet into 1/4 cup cool water. Stir thoroughly into warmed milk mixture.
Ingredients Mixing Citric Acid with cold water Adding Citric to milk
Squash Rennet Squashed Rennet Dissolve in cold water Add Rennet to Milk
· Let set undisturbed for 1-2 hours, until a clean break is achieved
· Cut curd into 1/2 inch cubes (see basic cheese recipe for technique).
· Warm the curds and whey over low heat, stirring gently to warm evenly and keep the curds separated until temperature reaches 42 C (108 F). Hold at 42 C (108°F) for 35 minutes, stirring every five minutes to keep curds separated and off the bottom.
· Collect curds by pouring curds and whey through a fine cloth held in an 8 inch sieve over a 1 gallon container, let drain for 15 minutes. Make sure it’s drained really well or it won’t hold together.
(Save whey to make ricotta if you wish the recipe follows this one below).
Clean Break Cutting and stirring the curds Straining the Curds Stirring to Release Whey
· Break up curd, mix in 1 teaspoon salt thoroughly.
· Place 1 cup of the salted curd into 2 cup measure.
· Microwave on high (1000 watts) for 45 seconds (for other wattage ovens, adjust the time so that you get the desired elasticity).
· Separate hot curd from container with the back of a fork, knead with hands to distribute heat evenly. Heat again for 20 more seconds. Stretch and fold to make smooth and elastic, shape into a soft ball.
Squeezing Out the Whey Adding in Salt Stirring in Salt Microwave & Knead
Reheat Cheese Again Knead Again – Smooth Mix Brine Water Put Cheese in Brine Water
· Drop into cold, salted water (1/3rd cup salt per quart), let sit in refrigerator for a day, store in air tight container.
This is exactly what you buy at the deli floating around in a bowl of salt water.
NOTE : After soaking a cheese in a brine bath rinse off salt in plain water before you eat it or it will be very salty!!
After making your first batch don’t be afraid to experiment by adding herbs to your cheese when kneading like chopped basil or dill – it adds a nice smell as well as flavor to your cheeses.
Got Kids? After you kneed it roll it into cigar sized small logs and your kids will love it – it’s string cheese!
We’re not done yet! Remember I told you to save the whey when you made your Mozzarella? Most people dump it down the drain, but this is all we need to make our next batch of cheese! Ricotta! Each batch of cheese leaves you with about 1 gallon of whey which can be used for many things. You could use it as I said to make Ricotta or add it to your sausage or add it to raw vegetables to start as batch of lacto-fermented veggies or even pickles. Some people even drink it because it is very good for you!
· Place the whey left over from making your mozzarella cheese in a stainless steel pot. Cover and let sit overnight (12 to 24 hours) at room temperature to develop sufficient acidity.
· The next day, heat the acidified whey over a moderate fire with stirring (do not let it stick or burn) until its temperature is near boiling (200°F or 95 °C). Do not let it boil over.
· Remove from heat. Cover and allow the "cooked" whey to cool undisturbed until it is comfortable to the touch (several hours).
· DO NOT STIR UP THE CURD.
1 gallon of Whey Cook Whey to 200°F collect curds and strain
· Gently scoop out most of the fine, delicate curds with the fine strainer and place in a bowl.
· Place a large strainer lined with a fine clean cloth over a large bowl. Pour the remaining whey through the cloth (it will filter slowly). After most of the whey has drained through, add the curds and continue to drain.
· Allow the whey to drain out for 1-2 hours. Then pick up the corners of the cloth, suspend like a bag over a sink to allow the last of the whey to drain out of the ricotta. This will take several hours. It can be done in the refrigerator overnight.
Draining the water Scrape the sides Roll in a ball and squeeze
· Remove the drained ricotta from the cloth, pack into a container, cover and store in the refrigerator. Freeze or use it soon after making. Use for Lasagna, Manicotti, Canolli … Yummmmmmmm! …
Draining in a Cup Ball After Draining Finished and ready to chill 2 gallons yield near an Egg
The biggest thing to remember is to drain as much whey and water as you can before refrigeration! The fresher the milk the better the yield. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that I took enough pictures to make it clear – if not drop me a line or visit the forum and ask some questions!
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