Cheese Making Stages
If this is the first time you are making cheese, check out Beginning Cheese Making.
Otherwise, here are the major stages of cheese making:
Stage 1 Action:
Inoculate, incubate the milk
Bacteria slightly acidify (ferment) the milk so that the rennet will act on the milk
Stage 2 Action:
Add the rennet, achieve a clean break
Rennet (a digestive enzyme) digests casein, causing it to become insoluble in water and coagulate.
Stage 3 Action:
Cut and set the curd
Coagulated milk is cut into cubes and warmed to contract the curds (“curds and whey”)
Stage 4 Action:
Separate and salt the curd
Whey is poured off the “curds and whey,” and the curds are salted to preserve them
Stage 5 Action:
Press the curds
Salted curds are loaded into a press which presses out the whey and gives form to the cheese
Stage 6 Action:
Cure the cheese, wax it
Cheese is dried out and bacteria act on the curds to change their taste and consistency. It may be waxed to prevent undesirable dehydration and excessive microbial growth.
One gallon of milk yields about one pound of cheese. You may use any kind of milk for this recipe. I primarily use my own fresh goats’ milk, but have made it quite successfully with cow’s milk from the grocery, and even better with raw cow’s milk from a local farmer.
Once you have mastered this one gallon recipe, follow the 5 gallon recipe to make a larger wheel of cheese.
- One gallon freshest milk (the fewer bacteria present, the more predictable the cheese)
- 2-3 teaspoonfuls buttermilk (or 1/3rd cup yogurt)
- 1/4 tablet rennet
- Thermometer, reading -10 to 110oC (0 to 225oF) (I prefer centigrade, but have included Fahrenheit numbers as well)
- Wooden mixing spoon, whisk or other stirring device
- Stainless steel pot1 , 4-6 qt., with lid, with a thick metal bottom (Al or Cu) to spread the heat, sterilized2 .
- 8″ strainer or colander (A colander does not allow whey to flow through as fast as a strainer.)
- Large handkerchief, sterilized by boiling
- Cheese pressing frame (4″ diameter, 5″ tall can, about 20 oz, ends removed, save one end for a follower)
Curing the Cheese:
The next morning, remove from press, remove cloth, rub outside of cheese with salt and rewrap with fresh handkerchief. Place wrapped cheese on a rack in the refrigerator.
Replace the “bandage” daily (as long as it continues to become wet).
When a dry yellowish rind forms (about one to two weeks), dip in melted wax , store in refrigerator for about a month (if you can wait that long) or longer for sharper cheese.
Avoid aluminum pots, the acid will dissolve them and possibly overload you with aluminum.
Sterilize the pot just before use by pouring ½ inch of water in the bottom, covering, and bring to a rolling boil for at least five minutes. Pour out the water, replace sterile lid, keep sterilized pot covered until you are ready to add the milk.
If the curds float, you have a gas-producing contaminant in your starter or your milk was contaminated. You need to pay closer attention to handling your milk, and/or purchase fresh starter. The bacteria which form bubbles may be a form of Escherichia. However, it does not necessarily ruin the cheese, but does make it iffy.
Many CO2 formers are non-pathogenic. Indeed, you might WANT bubbles in your finished cheese. Think about Swiss cheese… However, to be safe, age your cheese for at least two months because pathogens do not survive this extended aging. In addition, you will have a little more difficulty separating the curds from the whey if the curds float.
Milk Fermenting Bacteria (Milk Fermenters)
Ricotta Cheese Making (Illustrated)