Bitola: Southern Macedonia

Bitola, in southern Macedonia, is home to our wonderful cheese making friend Nicolce. He gave us the grand tour which included Macedonian dancing with a live band, with some beautiful and talented young women from a local performance group.

The stoves for sale on the streets of Bitola are used to grill paprika peppers to prepare them for winter storage.



Labneh, Recipe and Illustrations

Labneh (or Laban, as some American-Lebaneese call it) is a Lebanese soft fresh cheese made from yogurt. It is eaten within a week or so of preparation. It is the easiest cheese to make that we know of, simply made by draining the whey out of yogurt. See my yogurt page for how to prepare yogurt.

1 quart yogurt
1 tsp salt

sterile handkerchief
two bowls


Serve Labneh as they do in the Middle East:

  1. form into desired shape on a plate ( a slight depression in the middle holds the oil)
  2. drown in olive oil
  3. sprinkle with pulverized spearmint
  4. surround with Greek black olives.

Eat it with toasted pita bread slices, as the Arabs have done for millennia. Coffee compliments it well.

You can also use it like a slightly tart cream cheese.

Clotted Cream

I got an email asking how to make clotted cream. I had a general idea, but it was supplemented by an article in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Here is a recipe which blends mine and theirs:

Original clotted cream is made from raw milk, not so easy to find these days…

1) Collect a pint (or more) of unpasteurized, unhomogenized cream or rich milk.
2) Gently heat until a semisolid layer of cream forms on the surface.
3) After it cools, skim off the thickened cream into a clean container.
4) Refrigerate.

I do not know how corporations make it.

How to Make Farmer’s Cheese

This simple cheese has several aliases. Two common ones are soft farmer’s cheese and “chevre.” They both are rather loose names.

“Farmer’s cheese” can refer to any of a number of different soft home-made cheeses which are eaten fresh.

Chevre,” which actually means goat, could refer to many different cheeses. This recipe for “Farmer’s Cheese” is nearly identical with Neufchatel Cheese, the recipe for which I posted some time ago.

Note: I have modified this recipe from one I got from Julia Farmer a year or two back. She states that she got it from a book by Jean-Claude Le Jaouen, but did not mention the name of the book.


  • Two gallons goats milk
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk
  • ½ tablet Rennet (or two drops of liquid rennet)


FC 01-05_Heat_milk_to_20C_P31102161. Warm milk to room temperature (68-70°F)





2. FC 02-14_Dissolve_Rennet_P3120239mdDissolve 1/2 of a rennet tablet in 1/4 cup lukewarm water.






FC 03-05_add_rennet_Pc1224833. Stir in buttermilk, mix thoroughly.

4. Stir in rennet, mix thoroughly, cover, let sit for 24 hours.




FC 04-11_clean_break_P61408885. Check for clean break.





15_cut_and_stir_curd_P6140893The curd should be firm enough to cut into 1/2 inch cubes (see page on Making 5 gallons of milk into cheese for pictures). Some recipes call for stirring the curds into a slurry, and pouring into a fairly tight weave bag to drain.

However, if the weave is too loose, such as with a single layer or two of cheese cloth, the fine curd will run through at first. I far prefer to cut the curd as it makes for more easily separated curds and whey.

FC 06-09_drain_curd_Pc142491md6. Ladel the curds into a sterile cloth in a strainer (or colander), and suspend in a refrigerator or cool place.





12_salt_curd_Pc142497sm7. Let the whey drain for 24 hours in a cool place.

Salt to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons), store covered in the refrigerator for a week or two. This cheese will not keep for much longer.


Julia Farmer further says that you can:

  • Press into small cheese molds for little cheeses
  • Roll them in ashes, place in a jar with garlic and herbs, cover with extra virgin olive oil
  • Use it in cheese cake
  • Whip the cheese up with some powdered sugar, vanilla extract and a bit of lemon juice until its well blended and then serve as dessert with sliced strawberries over the top.

“You can add a pinch of penicillium mold with the starter and cure them at 50°F for a Brie/Camembert clone.” I have not tried that one yet, but have made Blue Cheese with these curds with great success.


Making Paneer at Home, Illustrated

Making paneer (or panir) is a simple exercise in acid/heat precipitation of protein.  The only challenge is not to burn the milk while you heat it to hot but not boiling.  A thick bottomed stainless steel pot should do, but lacking that, try heating the milk in a water bath so that the volume of water stabilizes the temperature. Here is my recipe for panir:


Setting Up a Home Made Cheese Press

Making Swiss Cheese

If you are new to cheese making, please read the page on Beginning Cheese Making for suggestions of easy cheeses to start with.

Swiss cheese is not one of the simpler cheeses to make. The following recipe is still being refined. I believe it is more complex than absolutely necessary, but have not yet performed all the experiments to know how to best streamline it. The eyes were too small and the bite too mild when I made it. If you have experience making Swiss cheese, let us know the lessons your have learned.

One of the major differences between Swiss and other cheeses is that a unique bacterium, Propionibacterium shermanii, is used to ferment the cheese after it is formed into a wheel. This bacterium produces carbon dioxide (hence the bubbles or “eyes” in the cheese), and propionic acid which gives Swiss its unique bite.

Ingredients to turn a gallon of milk into a pound of Swiss cheese:

  • 1 gallon fresh milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh yogurt (with equal parts L. bulgaricus and S. thermophiles.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Propionibacterium shermanii culture
  • 1/2 tablet Junket Rennet


  1. Warm milk to 95 F.
  2. Add small amount of milk to the yogurt and P. shermanii cultures, stir to mix, whisk thoroughly into milk, let set 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, dissolve ½ tablet rennet in 1/4 cup fresh cool water
  4. Stir the dissolved rennet into the inoculated milk, cover undisturbed for about 30 minutes until a clean break is achieved. If it takes longer than 30 minutes, use more rennet next time.
  5. Cut the curd by making 1/8th inch vertical cuts in two directions to make long 1/8th inch strips. Then whisk the strips with a pastry whisk so that all levels of the curds are cut. Final curd pieces should be the size of a wheat grain. Maintain temperature at 95 F.
  6. Hold the temp at 95 F for 30-40 more minutes, then slowly increase the temperature with stirring to 125 F. Hold at 125 F for an additional 45 minutes.
  7. Test for completed cooking by squeezing a handful of curds into a ball. If it readily breaks up when rubbed between palms, it is ready.
  8. Let curds settle, dip off some whey.
  9. Dip out the curds into a clean handkerchief suspended in a strainer over a catch bowl.
  10. Pick up the four corners of the handkerchief, dip into whey to loosen curds, then set in cheese hoop.
  11. Press for five minutes, remove, replace cloth, and press for three more hours.
  12. Rinse cloth in saturated salt water, replace in press for three more hours.
  13. Repeat rinsing of cloth in salt water and pressing for three additional hours.
  14. Repeat rinsing of cloth in salt water and press overnight.
  15. Prepare saturated salt water bath: dissolve 5 Tbl salt in 16 oz water (some salt remains undissolved). Pour into a plastic container slightly wider than the cheese, cool the salt solution down to 45 F. Float cheese for two days in this 45 F brine, turning each day, sprinkle salt on surface of cheese. [NOTE: I have recently received an email that suggests this time is too long, that the cheese may become too salty. I am not certain about the finer points of brining the cheese, and am eager to hear any information others may have on the subject.]
  16. Finally, place cheese on board at 50-55 F, 90% humidity. Wipe and dry board daily for 10 days. Wipe the cheese with salt soaked cloth and turn.
  17. Rub the cheese with salt at end of 10 days.
  18. Move cheese to 70 F, 70-80 % humidity.
  19. Wipe with clean salt water 2x per week, continue for a month and a half. Cheese should puff up as characteristic holes form.
  20. Final curing at 40-45 F takes 4 months to a year.

American Mozzarella, Microwave a la Joyce

I modified this cheese from one I learned from “Joyce of KS” on the old Lactobacillus Board on the web (now It makes an “American mozzarella” similar to what is used on American pizza. It is very elastic, melts well and strings when hot. (It is not, however Italian mozzarella which is more tender at room temperature and possesses a more subtle flavor.) If you would like to make the Italian version,the recipe for making Italian fresh mozzarella which, as you will see is more complex than this one for “American” mozzarella.


  • 1 cup pyrex measuring cup
  • 2 cup pyrex measuring cup
  • 5 quart pot, stainless or enamel, with cover, preferably with a thick heat dispersing bottom
  • Thermometer, -20 to 110C
  • 8 inch strainer
  • 1000 watt microwave oven


  • 1 gallon milk (I used cow’s milk, homogenized, pasteurized, 3.5% butter fat)
  • 1¼ teaspoon citric acid powder (from local pharmacy) dissolved in ½ cup cool water
  • ½ tablet Junket rennet (from local supermarket) suspended in ¼ cup cool water


Italian Mozzarella

Fresh Mozzarella from One Gallon of Milk

Making Mascarpone at Home

Mascarpone originated around 1600 in Lombardy of North Italy Southwest of Milan. Some say the name came from “mas que bueno” (Spanish for “more than good”) when the Spanish ruled Italy. It is made from light cream (~25% butterfat) which has been heated and thickened by the addition of tartaric acid to product a rich creamy product which is spreadable. By the way, as we heard it pronounced in Italy, a friend of Italian descent urged me to point out that the correct Italian pronunciation is “mahs-car-PO-nay.”

I have learned with the assistance of readers of these pages, that tartaric acid is found in the sediment of fermented wine along with settled yeast. The word tartar may come from the Arabic word durd meaning dregs. It was also possibly harvested off the sides of wine kegs, formed as an encrustation.

Mascarpone can be used alone or with sugar added. Perhaps it is most famous as an ingredient in tiramisu, the Italian “rocket fuel” coffee-flavored cake. It is often used in place of butter to thicken and enrich rissoti.


  • One quart of “light cream,” 25% butterfat (900 mL)
    Light cream can range between 18 and 30% butterfat. For mascarpone, it should contain 25% butterfat. I mix 16 oz heavy cream with 16 oz half and half.
  • 1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid
    Or 1/2 tsp Acid Blend from L.D. Carlson, available at wine making supply houses or 2 Tbl lemon juice.


  • Stainless steel double boiler with lid
  • Thermometer, reading in the 185 F or 85 C range
  • Sterile handkerchief sterilized by boiling and hanging to dry thoroughly
  • 1 quart bowl to catch the whey



I have received an email from Fil and Pat in Quebec which reports that mascarpone was originally made with lemon juice. I now doubt the authenticity of this, but have wondered where ancient Italians would have gotten tartaric acid… (See intro above.) I have calculated that 1/4 teaspoonful of tartaric acid should be equivalent to approximately 2 tablespoonfuls (30 mL) of lemon juice. Fil and Pat (and others) report back that 2 Tbl in a quart of 18% butterfat cream made perfect mascarpone! Yea.

Neufchatel Cheese

Beginning Cheese Making

Cheese Making for Beginners

While cheese making is theoretically a science, we also need to appreciate that it is an art.  Often cheese-making instructions appear simple, but there are skills and sensitivities which must be developed for successful cheese making.  Because it is beneficial to engage in projects from easy to challenging, I strongly suggest that you master the following projects in sequence before you progress to more difficult cheeses.

As an avid homesteader, I strive to keep the ingredients for these recipes relatively easily obtained from your local supermarket and to use the equipment commonly found in the kitchen. As you become more skilled and knowledgeable, you may well want to purchase more specific ingredients from the web (etc) to refine your procedures and finished products.

Discussion of Ingredients and Equipment


You can use a wide variety of milks, from commercially purchased pasteurized homogenized cow’s milk, TB certified raw cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep or even horse’s milk.  All will make cheese, each with its unique flavor.  Cheese from unpasteurized milk makes the best cheese, but should be cured for 2-4 months if there is any doubt about pathogens in the milk.  If you use pasteurized milk, you may need to add a little calcium chloride to firm up the curd because the heat makes the calcium unavailable.  Calcium is required for a good “clean break.”

Cheese can be made from whole milk (3.5%), 2% or from skimmed milk.  However, remember that the richness of flavor of the cheese is related to the amount of butterfat in the milk.  I do not recommend reconstituted powdered milk. It has not produced either a solid clean break, nor a good flavor of cheese.  Let me know if you do.

You should  get  1 to 1.5 pounds of cheese/gallon of milk.

For store-bought milk, because Pasteurization removes calcium from solution, you may need to add a small amount of calcium chloride to aid coagulation and form curd which does not fall apart when you stir it. The desired concentration of CaCl2 is usually specified as 0.02%. This would mean adding 3.6g CaCl2 to 5 gal of pasteurized milk. My measurements indicate that 3.6g of crystals = ~3/4 tsp. Thus 3/4 tsp crystals/5 gal = ~0.02%. You should completely dissolve the CaCl2 in about 1/4 cup water before adding it to the milk. Add it slowly with thorough stirring.  You should be able to purchase CaCl2 at brewer’s supply house.  Also, it is the non-NaCl deicer that is plant-friendly.  [You might be able to use CaSO4 (plaster of Paris) in a highly diluted state, tho it is much less soluble than CaCl2.]

Reconstituted powdered milk: I have not had good luck using powdered milk, but have heard some say that they have successfully used it.  I suggest you make friends with a local dairy person to get bulk milk.  (You will have better luck getting milk from homesteaders than with commercial operators.  Legally, you must purchase it as “pet milk.”

Ultra pasteurized milk: This is common on the shelves in Europe, but I find it VERY unsatisfying in taste, and, in my opinion, this milk is nearly worthless in making basic cheese. The protein strucure is radically altered, and calcium is chelated so that it is unavailable for coagulation. If you have success with ultrapasterized milk, let us know! (You CAN use it to make yogurt and labneh.)

Bacteria must be added to acidify the milk so that the rennet will work, and to aid in the curing.  Cultured buttermilk can serve as a mesophilic starter (it likes room temperature), and yogurt can serve as a thermophilic starter (it prefers warmer temperatures).  You can also purchase pure cultures from cheese makers supply houses.  Some recipes call for addition of chemical acids to produce acidify the milk.  I prefer the flavor of cheese made from bacterially acidified milk.  Here is a detailed description of bacterial cheese starters from Peter Moller. Be aware that, especially with buttermilk, you should never add too much starter for too long a time such that the milk has even remotely thickened before you add rennet. With even slightly thickened milk, you will never get a “clean break.”

An enzyme rennin converts milk protein (casein) from a soluble to an insoluble material, causing the milk to gel (forming a clean break).  It will only work well in acidified milk.  The gelling process must be undisturbed to get a clean break.  Rennet is commonly available in supermarkets in the pudding section, or you can purchase liquid rennet from a cheese makers supply house. One tablet of Junket rennet is equivalent to 20 drops of fresh liquid rennet.

If you would like to try it, and have the materials available, I have successfully prepared home made rennet from the abomasum of a suckling kid.


Most decently equipped kitchens have the necessary equipment:

Heavy stainless steel pot with lid:  A non-reactive pot is important because the acidifying milk can dissolve aluminum.  Enamel pots would work as well.  A heavy bottom is important to evenly disperse the heat and prevent scorching.  Scorching affects the flavor and is a cleanup hassle.  The size of the pot should be large enough so that you have at least an inch of head space above the milk.  A cover is needed for the steps when the milk must sit for periods of time.  I bought a high quality five gallon pot like this years ago (expensive).  I have never been sorry.

Measuring cups  You may need measuring cups ranging from 1/4 cup to a quart.  Obviously you can improvise, but accurate measurements improve your success rate.  Measuring spoons are occasionally needed.

Thermometer  Very important is an accurate thermometer which reads in the range between freezing and boiling for water (~32-212 F, or 0 to 100 C).  A candy or meat thermometer can work.  There are several reasons that accurate temperature is important: the texture of the cheese depends a great deal on achieving a temperature to within onedegree.  Also, after milk for yogurt is scalded, itmust be cooled to 130 F for optimum bacteria action.

Whisk  Thorough mixing of starter and rennet is important.  A whisk is the obvioius choice for this step.

“Cheese cloth”:  The purpose of “cheese cloth” is to catch the curd and allow the whey to drain out.  What most people think of as “cheese cloth:” the very wide weave flimsy material is often useless for this purpose.  If your curd is fine, it passes through.  Even if it is large curd, the curd can become enmeshed in the coarse weave.  I use either large plain white cotton handkercheifs, or white non-terry cotton dish towels.  I recommend ignoring what is sold as “cheese cloth…”

Cheese press is required for the hard cheeses.  You can purchase them for a handsome price, or fashion one from materials at home.

Waxing your cheese:  This step is important so that your cheese does not dry out during aging, and to prevent mold from growing on the surface (mold needs air to grow).

Cheese Making, Course Syllabus

Setting Up a Home Made Cheese Press

How to Wax Cheese

Rennet for Making Cheese

Rennet, Home Made, Illustrated