For years, cheese production was an art that was passed down from generation to generation. Cheese production was more a matter of experience and less of know-how.
Today, cheese-making is now considered a science, requiring specialized studies and a set of strict specifications to be practiced from theory to practice. However, there are those who continue to experiment at home, trying to relive those years when cheese-making was a purely domestic affair.
To make our own homemade cheese, you need passion, patience and good reading. Not all cheeses can be made at home. It is good to set easy goals and do not dream of a homemade gruyere because we will be disappointed. However, we can make soft white cheese with a relatively simple process.
Most of the tools to start the cheese-making process are already in our kitchen. However before the first attempt, let us make sure that our list is complete.
The no1 tool is a large pot with a thick bottom. The utensil should be stainless but not aluminum as it is likely to be punctured by the acidity of the milk. The thick bottom is needed to spread the temperature evenly so that the milk does not burn. Dosimeters should not be missing from our workbench as everything is the accuracy in measuring the materials.
To the list of essentials we add a laboratory thermometer with indications from 0 to at least 100 ° C, a stirrer to work our mixture and -the most basic- a cheesecloth, the so-called bag, that will hold our homemade curd in the drainage process. To our equipment, we can also add special cheese molds that are commercially available in a variety of materials – stainless steel, wood, plastic – and are perforated to drain the cheese.
The raw materials
And after we got rid of the equipment, it is the turn of the raw materials, most importantly the milk. What kind of milk – cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s, buffalo’s milk – we will use is purely our choice. Depending on the type of milk we will use, the process of making the cheese also changes. The taste of our cheese depends to a large extent on the fat contained in the milk of our choice. The less fat, the milder the taste.
Milk consists of water, protein, fat and trace elements when we add rennet or citric acid to it, depending on our recipe, then it reacts and begins to coagulate. As a result we have the creation of curd and whey, the so-called whey. Casein plays a key role in this process – it is a milk protein – which when the acidity of milk rises, precipitates and with the help of rennet its bonds are broken and the gel is separated from the serum.
The preparation of cheese with sheep’s milk is suitable for beginners, in relation to cow’s or goat’s. This is because this milk has a higher content of casein, coagulates more easily and forms a denser curd. Anyone who tries to make cheese using powdered milk will be disappointed.
Milk for cheese production
Highly pasteurized milk is not suitable for cheese either, while the pasteurized milk that is commercially available may need the addition of calcium chloride to achieve a stable curd. The ideal – for a better taste – is clearly the fresh milk directly from the producer. An important ingredient in cheese-making is the salt which preserves the cheese, helps the whey to drain and of course offers flavor. Its amount ranges from 1% to 4% by weight of the curd.
Every homemade cheese needs its own ingredient to thicken. In feta for example this is rennet – a product of animal origin since it comes from the gastric juice of young calves, sheep and goats – while for other cheeses we can use lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid. These ingredients, in the right amount, will thicken the milk and turn it into cheese.
Homemade cheese is usually made in small quantities and in order to be consumed immediately. If we do not want to eat it the same day, we can put it in a container with a lid and keep it in the refrigerator, but not more than 2 days.
Recipe for homemade white cheese
- 5 liters of milk
- 5g Tartaric – Citric Acid
- A little water (below the middle of a small wine glass)
The yield in cheese depends on the type of milk that will be used, but also on how much we will drain the gel and therefore how much moisture the final product will have.
Put the milk in a saucepan and start heating on low heat. Stir constantly with gentle movements, using a wooden spoon pass through the bottom of the pot so that no sediment is created. When the milk reaches 85 oC dissolve the sour in the water and pour it into the milk. We continue the mixing and in a short time we will notice that the curd begins to form. Remove from the heat when enough curd has formed on the surface of the pot.
Then, with the slotted spoon, remove the curd little by little from the pot and pour it into the mold. Once all the curd has entered the mold, drain well to remove the excess liquid. Then salt the surface with coarse salt. Leave it in the mold for 3 hours and then turn it upside down and salt again. Leave for another 3 hours and take it out of the mold. It can be consumed as it is soft or we can continue salting 2-3 times and even harden it.
The mold and the bag do exactly the same thing. They collect the curd, shape it and strain the excess liquids. One difference is that the bag is used for the preparation of dry mizithra because with a tight binding it strains the whey better and hangs more easily for the drying of the specific type of cheese.