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Bouland

Making Cheese

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On a different thread, I made the comment: "...Or sometimes I make my own cheese and serve that instead." At the request of Margaret Pilgrim...

I'd love to hear about the cheese you make! Can you describe your procedure as well as the characteristics of your products?

I make primarily fresh cheese — what the French call fromage blanc or fromage frais. I describe the whole process in an article I wrote last December. The equipment and space required is minimal. There are also a number of recipes that use fromage blanc in the same article.

I've condsidered making aged cheeses, but alas, my condo is too small to undertake this activity. The web site of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a complete description of what is involved.

I also have been testing recipes that use fromage blanc to make preparations suitable for use as a cheese course. The following pressé des legumes is a recent example...

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This is a piece I wrote for a popular/general-interest audience awhile back; it's therefore not particularly detailed or sophisticated. But it contains some basic information that's not completely wrong:

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Food Craft: Cheesemaking at Home

Steven A. Shaw

If you bake your own bread, your guests will nod in appreciation. If you brew beer in the basement, they'll raise their eyebrows. But when you serve them cheese you made yourself, their jaws will drop.

Yet home cheesemaking is simple, inexpensive and quick. "People think making cheese is this complicated, mysterious thing that only experts can do," says Ricki Carroll, who started as a hobbyist and is now America's foremost homemade-cheese guru, "but with a gallon of milk and some extremely simple equipment, you can make the best mozzarella cheese you've ever had -- in half an hour."

In the 1970s, when Carroll first set out to make cheese in her home in Ashfield, Massachusetts, there was virtually no information available for the home cheesemaker. So she did her own research all over the United States and Europe, and ultimately learned so much that she started the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (which provides equipment and cultures to home cheesemakers throughout the world) and wrote a book (Cheesemaking Made Easy). She's now been teaching home cheesemaking workshops for the past twenty years.

The basic process of making cheese is tremendously simple: You heat the milk, you add a culture or an acid and let the mixture set, then you add rennet (an enzyme) which makes it all coagulate and separate into the proverbial curds and whey. You drain off the whey (usually by wrapping the mixture in cheesecloth and hanging it over a bowl) and, voila, you have an elementary, soft cheese.

Whether that cheese is ricotta, feta, queso blanco, chevre or any of a dozen other soft cheeses depends primarily on the specific temperatures, times and cultures employed. Molly Bunton, a former Chicago retailer who gave up the city life to live on a farm in Tennessee, explains, "All soft cheeses start as the same thing: Milk. Just vary one factor, though, such as heating the milk to 200 degrees instead of 180, and you get a totally different cheese. Likewise, using two different cultures will give you two unique tastes." Bunton's Fias Co Farm website (www.fiascofarm.com) contains all the basic recipes for making ricotta, feta, queso blanco, chevre, mozzarella, and more, plus yogurt (there's even a recipe for soap).

Hard cheeses are more complicated, because they require further manipulation of the curds, plus specialized equipment (a cheese press and cheese molds), expertise, hygienic aging facilities, and time. Thus, most home cheesemakers stick to the soft cheeses. But within the soft cheese universe there is infinite variation. There are, for example, hundreds of cheese cultures available from cheesemaking supply houses all across the country, each of which yields a different cheese.

To demonstrate the ease of making cheese, Bunton likes to take plain store-bought yogurt and wrap it in cheesecloth suspended over a bowl. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight, and by morning the liquid will have drained out of the yogurt, leaving behind a soft, spreadable cheese to which you can add fresh herbs, garlic, ground pepper, salt or any other seasoning. This yogurt cheese is great on crackers as an hors d'oeuvre, or on a toasted bagel for breakfast. "The next step," says Bunton, "is to make your own yogurt. And soon after that, you'll likely become a cheesemaking addict, like me."

Or you can start with one of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company's popular kits, which contain everything you need except milk from the supermarket (there's even an instructional video available). The mozzarella kit -- the most popular -- yields outstanding mozzarella in half an hour using the included cultures and your microwave oven. A gallon of milk yields about a pound of fresh mozzarella. Do the math: Making your own cheese is less expensive than buying it at the store.

Both Bunton and Carroll recommend beginners conduct their first cheesemaking endeavors using standard-issue whole milk from the supermarket, though they caution against any milk that is ultra-pasteurized (the label will say so) because it will have difficulty coagulating. Then, once you've mastered the basics, you can branch out and use virtually any kind of milk. Many cheese aficionados, for example, prefer goat milk for its subtle, sweet flavor (just about any cheese can be made with the milk of a cow, a goat, or a sheep, and will develop flavors that reflect the underlying milk). Those with dietary concerns can learn to make cheese using 2%, 1% or skim milk. And there are even resources for making cheese from lactose-reduced and lactose-free milk, including an entire book on the subject (The Lactose-Free Dairy Cookbook, by Sue Marren).

The ability to control the exact ingredients in your cheese is one of many the benefits of making your own. "Store-bought cheese often contains preservatives and artificial ingredients, whereas at home nothing goes in that you didn't put in. And homemade cheese simply tastes much better than store-bought," explains Bunton. "But perhaps most importantly, you get to experience the pride of making something delicious, yourself, naturally, by hand."

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Cheesemaking kits and equipment available from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, Inc., (413) 628-3808, www.cheesemaking.com

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Has anyone actually purchased the mozzarella beginner's kit? I'd like to hear how well it worked and the quality of the cheese.

What's the advantage of using vegetable versus animal rennin? I'm looking for some hard core enzymology and food science here!

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We like to make homemade yoghurt cheese. It's not in the same class as these others but it's a healthy alternative to cream cheese.

Take Dannon nonfat yoghurt and put it in a cheese cloth. Suspend the cloth over a bowl and in a couple of days you have something with a nice spreadable consistency.

If you don't like plain nonfat yoghurt, don't bother, but if you do, this goes well on a bagel.

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Paneer ( Indian Cheese )

* 10 cups whole milk

* 1/2 cup buttermilk / yogurt (more maybe needed, so keep some extra)

In a large heavy bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir often to ensure that the milk is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When milk starts to boil, lower heat and add the buttermilk and stir until the milk starts to separate into curds.

Remove from heat as soon as this happens. You can even add a few ice cubes to the curd-whey mix. The heat will make the protein tougher. Hence the need to expose the cheese to as little heat as possible.

If the curds are not forming, add a little more buttermilk and cook for a couple of minutes more. And do the above as soon as the curds form.

Pour the curds-whey mix into a collander lined with several layers of cheese cloth or even a layer of muslin, draining onto a dish that will collect the whey.

Collect the sides of the cheesecloth or muslin and tie them up together and twist gently to help drain the whey from the curds.

Place the bundled curds on a tray and press this bundle with a heavy pan/container or obejct. Make sure this heavy weight covers the bundle fully.

To make cheese for dessert recipes or for koftas or even a bhujia (scramble), weight it down for no more than a half hour.

For recipes where cheese cubes are used, weight the bundle down for an hour or more. This will make the cheese form a firm mass that can be cut into neat cubes.

Note: I use buttermilk as it makes for cheese that has very little sour flavor. People use lemon or vinegar, these curdle the milk quickly but leave a strong aftertaste. This aftertaste is not nice when making desserts with cheese.

Try and use the cheese the same day as you make it. The more time it is kept the dryer it becomes and the harder it will be. When making soft cheese for desserts. Weight it down for a shorter time as I write above. You can leave more moisture in, if you know you will not use it till the next day. The cheese will get dryer in refrigeration.

For firm cheese, you can make the firm cube and store it overnight in chilled water. But you cannot put the cheese in water until a firm with all the whey drained is formed. So, first make your cheese cube, and if you are not using it the same day, immerse it in a container of water, seal with a cover and cut only when ready to use into smaller cubes.

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We like to make homemade yoghurt cheese.  It's not in the same class as these others but it's a healthy alternative to cream cheese.

I love hung yogurt cheese.

I find it much tastier than cream cheese.

And one can make great fun dips with it and enjoy with papad, chips etc..

I use a single layer of muslin and tie it tight and keep tightening it as the yogurt drains. In fact one can use it as soon as 3-4 hours from when you began draining. Muslin will let the water drain and you will loose less of the cheese. Since the fabric is very fine.

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Many thanks for all of these good recommendations. I have made paneer and yogurt cheese, but haven't gone beyond that, and I think it's time to stretch.

By the way, if you want something wonderful, make yogurt cheese from the richest yogurt you can get your hands on. We use Byblos brand, the same that we use for frozen yogurt that also blows away all negotive connotation of yogurt. It is about 170 calories/cup, as I remember, and worth every one.

Varmint, Sunset Magazine published a recipe and procedure for homemade mozzerella in June '89. No special equipment was required. If you would like a copy of the article, message me privately and I can either USPS mail or fax a copy to you.

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By the way, if you want something wonderful, make yogurt cheese from the richest yogurt you can get your hands on.  We use Byblos brand, the same that we use for frozen yogurt that also blows away all negotive connotation of yogurt.  It is about 170 calories/cup, as I remember, and worth every one.

How do you make frozen yogurt?

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Varmint: The homemade mozzarella is excellent. I had the kit for about a day, I tried it once, it worked very well and I probably would have been able to beat out the standard gourmet-market house-made mozzarella on my second try but I had to relinquish the kit to the photographers. Actually you can do it just fine without the kit but it slipped out of my mind pretty quickly and went into my nice-ideas-I-don't-have-time-for file. As for animal vs. vegetable (which really just means non-animal) rennet, the trend in cheesemaking of late has been overwhelmingly towards vegetable. The experts I asked said that in a lab you can create pretty much whatever you want, so if there's a demand for a particular combination of coagulants it can be engineered. I have a feeling some artisan cheesemakers would disagree.

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Sliding off topic to answer Toby: We fell in love with the Bulgarian Yogurt ice cream sold at the stand in the Jardin du Carrousel in the Louvre complex in Paris. Coming very close, and perhaps a tad better, is sweetened Byblos (brand) whole milk yogurt frozen in a Donvier or electric ice cream freezer. We use a cup of sugar to a quart of yogurt, and no additional flavorings. (We find that yogurt from a Middle East dairy is richer than those of standard American commercial yogurts.)

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We want to make our own fresh cheese,

I kind of know how to make mozzerella after watching a friend do it several times on stage (great one man show Behind the Counter with Moussiilini ...takes place in Mikes Deli in Da Bronx) I believ you slice curds 3 times then stir them in boiling water until they stick together than pull and stretch

anyway we have some rennet which I believe is used for cheese making as I have seen it listed as an ingredient in cheese however the accompanying instruction booklet merely tells how to make some sort of nastiness called junket.

Yogurt cheese we have under control, and I think there is a Indian way of boiling milk in lemon juice but know of no real technique.

Has anyone ever done this? tips? recipes? Would love to try to make fresh goat cheese as have a supplier for goats milk.

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I'd suggest you pick up a copy of Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making, an update to her previous Cheesemaking Made Easy. The directions are clear and direct, and she does a fair job explaining how and why things work.

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Basically you're adding an acid or enzyme to scalded milk to cause it to curdle, then combining the curds. There are lots of different methods. The easiest is probably just to scald some milk (like 180 degrees), add some vinegar or lemon juice until it begins to curdle, then pour that mixture through layers of cheesecloth and then squeeze the curds into a ball. It's not the best stuff in the world, but it's the most basic kind of cheese, I think. For anything more complex, you'd certainly need to move onto a book and probably practice, practice, practice. I would highly suggest being very clean in the process, though. More than most things, cheese seems ripe for contamination.

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yup, just started doing it at home-unemployed cooks got to do something. The simplest are fresh mozzarella and ricotta. These are a a little different than what I've seen in the factory but still quite good. Ricotta salata is next on my list soon.

for other varieties of cheese you will need cultures and/or molds , forms, and a press for hard cheeses. Definately get a book to start with-Home Cheese Making as said is a good start.

I'm hooked already. Nothing like fresh warm mozzarella to eat out of hand or on a salad, etc....

hth, danny

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The Rikki Carol book is great - I've made a chevre from it that was quite delicious and will be trying more recipes over the next month. You might get the goat starter set from her site (www.cheesemaking.com I believe) which has bacterial starter cultures, molds for forming, rennet and instructions for a couple goat cheeses. Actually, with luck in a couple of weeks I will become a professional cheese-maker. We shall see.

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I want to learn how to make cheese.

Any suggestions as to how I might go about this? Anyone out there who might be willing to teach me (or perhaps we could get a whole little 'class' together)?

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM...cheese.

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The CIA has a lovely little free course on their Pro Chef website: free registration, several lessons, videos, etc. I worked my way through the course during my (wry snicker) free time during culinary school. It's pretty good. Lemme dig up the URL...

Geez, is it just me, or does this site get less usable by the month? Found it, eventually...

Free Courses

Click on the "California Cheese" course.

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Melkor and I made mozzarella from a kit sold by the New England Cheesemaking Company. It was surprisingly good and really easy to make. They have kits for a bunch of different kinds of cheeses, although mozzarella and ricotta are two of the easiest. Of course, you don't need a kit, but you will need things like rennet and calf lipase (which is not necessary but is supposed to make it taste better...).

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I've wanted to learn cheesemaking for a long time too! Will check out the free CIA course. May have to make the trek out to one of the local dairies that sell raw milk for this project too.

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Just checked out the free CIA course, but it looks more like cheese appreciation than a technical cheesemaking course.

Actually it looks like an infomercial presented by the California Cheese Board, come to think of it. Cheese, It's What's With Dinner.

:biggrin:

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I make mozzarella all the time and would be happy to get together somewhere with whoever, whenever, and make some. It's pretty easy.

So I think you should definitely plan this...I'm in!

:smile:

Jamie

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I got a cheese making kit many years ago. You could make about 8 oz of cheese with it. I scaled it up and started making wheels as big around as a phonagraph record (for those of you who might remember them) and about two inches thick.

It is surprisingly easy, but one of the first problems you come up with is the fact that you need some kind of press to compress the curds into a homogeneous mass. Many pharmacies carry rennet, which curdles the milk to start things off.

It's really quite interesting and can be a lot of fun. I'll never forget the look I got when I brought a big hunk of garlic cheese to a Christmas party and people found out that I made it myself.

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