Basic Cheese Making, One Gallon Milk

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
  • Salt


  • 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.

Special Notes:

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.


Home Made Cheese Press

How to Wax Cheese

Milk Fermenting Bacteria (Milk Fermenters)

Ricotta Cheese Making (Illustrated)

Troubleshooting a Clean Break

Ricotta Cheese Making, Illustrated


Ricotta is Italian for “recooked” because it is made by “cooking” whey which is produced when the curds are separated for cheese (“curds and whey,” as in little Miss Muffet). The chemistry of ricotta is interesting. Its production relies on allowing the inoculated bacteria in whey to further ferment the liquid as it sits at room temperature for an additional 12-24 hours. During that time, the remaining sugars are converted to lactic acid which lowers the pH of the whey. The solubility of the protein in acidified whey is reduced. Heating the acidified whey denatures the protein causing it to precipitate out as a fine curd. This small-grained curd may be then dipped out or filtered out by pouring through a fine cloth. It can be used fresh or frozen until needed.


1) Non-reactive pot, either stainless steel or enameled (I have a wonderful 5 gallon stainless steel pot with a thick aluminum pad bonded to the bottom to disperse the heat. It is made by Vollrath, and was, I recall, somewhat expensive ($50-60 ten or fifteen years ago). If you use a thin enameled pot, you should either heat the whey in it over boiling water, or stir nearly continuously.

2) Wooden spoon or long handled spatula (with square end to help to keep curd off the bottom)

3) Thermometer (0-110 °C) to monitor temperature of whey while heating

4) Receiving pot the same volume or greater as cooking pot (a clean plastic bucket will do)

5) A fine meshed strainer to dip out floating curd.

6) Large strainer to suspend over receiving pot

7) Fine cloth (I use a clean sterile handkerchief or a non-terry cloth dish towel)


Whey left from turning five gallons of milk into cheese will make about 1.5 – 2 pounds of ricotta (a quart or so)


Ricotta cheese makes delicious lasagna, ravioli stuffing, gnocchi, (“Italian dumplings”) and the famous Italian dessert, cannoli, cheese-stuffed shells and blintzes, or a type of cheese cake.

Cheese Gnocchi Recipe