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

Ingredients:

Milk:
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.)

Starter:
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.”

Rennet:
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.

Equipment:

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

A Cheese Making Course Syllabus

Try these recipes in the order given for optimum success.

Yogurt

Labneh

Neufchatel

Basic cheese for one gallon

Basic cheese for five gallons

American Mozzarella

Blue Cheese

Where to get supplies?

I have purposely tried to develop recipes which use ingredients easily found locally in supermarkets. Ask the manager for help. However, if you are looking to buy from a specialty source, check out these companies.

I do not officially endorse any commercial establishment from these pages, but have heard positive comments from others about them. Let me know what your experience is with them.

New England Cheesemaking Supply Company

Glengarry Cheesemaking

The Grape and Granary, Cheesemaking

Danlac Canada Incorporated

 

Making Ginger Ale at Home

Fermentation has been used by mankind for thousands of years for raising bread, fermenting wine and brewing beer. The products of the fermentation of sugar by baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a fungus) are ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. (Here is a page on the chemical reactions involved in glycolysis and fermentation.) Carbon dioxide causes bread to rise and gives effervescent drinks their bubbles. This action of yeast on sugar is used to ‘carbonate’ beverages, as in the addition of bubbles to champagne).

We will set up a fermentation in a closed system and capture the generated carbon dioxide to carbonate our home made ginger ale. You may of course adjust the quantities of sugar and/or extract to taste. Note that the lemon called for in step eight is optional. And if you want a spicier drink, you can increase the amount of grated ginger. As with any yeast fermentation, there is a small amount of alcohol generated in the beverage (about 0.4%).

Equipment

  • Clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle with cap (not glass: explosions are dangerous.)
  • funnel
  • Grater (preferably with fine “cutting” teeth
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1/4 tsp and 1 Tbl measuring spoons

Ingredients

  • Cane (table) sugar [sucrose] (1 cup)
  • Freshly grated ginger root (1 1/2-2 tablespoons)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Fresh granular baker’s yeast (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Cold fresh pure water

Directions

Once the bottle feels hard to a forceful squeeze, usually only 24-48 hours, place in the refrigerator. Before opening, refrigerate at least overnight to thoroughly chill. Crack the lid of the thoroughly chilled ginger ale just a little to release the pressure slowly. You do not want a ginger ale fountain!

Notes

Do not leave the finished ginger ale in a warm place any longer than the time it takes for the bottle to feel hard. Leaving it at room temperature longer than two days, especially in the summer when the temperature is high, can generate enough pressure to explode the bottle! (Speaking from experience here…) Once it is thoroughly chilled, there is little danger of explosion.

Filter the ginger ale through a strainer if you find floating pieces of ginger objectionable. These are found in the first glass or two poured, and, since most of the ginger sinks to the bottom, the last glass or so may require filtering too. Rinse the bottle out immediately after serving the last of the batch.

There will be a sediment of grated ginger and yeast at the bottom of the bottle, so that the last bit of ginger ale will be carry ginger fibers. Decant carefully if you wish to avoid this sediment.

The gas will develop faster in ginger ale than in home made root beer, presumably because there are more nutrients in it than in root beer extract.

Related

About alcohol made in home made Ginger Ale or Root Beer

Yogurt Making: Two Quarts

(See my main yogurt page for illustrated steps to make four quarts of yogurt.)

Yogurt is a fermented milk product in which a mixed culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus (or occasionally L. acidophilus) and Streptococcus thermophilus which produce lactic acid during fermentation. This lowers the pH and makes it tart. The partial digestion of the milk when these bacteria ferment milk makes yogurt easily digestible.

In addition, these bacteria will help settle GI upset including that which follows oral antibiotic therapy by replenishing non-pathogenic flora of the gastrointestinal tract.
Several factors are crucial for successful yogurt making:

  • Good sterile technique (i.e., proper cleansing and heat treatment of glassware)
  • Proper incubation temperature. Lactobacillus is killed if exposed to temperatures over 55oC, and does not grow well below 37oC. We will use a temperature on the high side of its preferred growth temperature so that most pathogens will be strongly inhibited from growing.
  • Protection of the starter from contamination. Do not open the starter (either Dannon Plain yogurt, or 4 oz starter from the previous yogurt batch) until you are ready to make the next batch.

Yogurt is preserved by its acidity which inhibits the growth of spoilage bacteria. With lids intact, this yogurt will keep at least a month or two in the refrigerator. After that time, a layer of non-pathogenic white mold may form on the top. After this is removed, the yogurt is still suitable for cooking.

Baked goods will rise well when yogurt is used due its acidity. Use it as part or all of the liquid in cakes, waffles, pancakes and muffins, and cut down on the amount of baking powder.

Yogurt is an excellent dish by itself, but is valuable in its many other uses

Ingredients:
½ gallon milk
½ cup Dannon plain yogurt (use a fresh culture for starter)

Equipment:
double boiler (or heavy pot) with lid, capacity 2 ½ qt
two qt. bottles with lids, sterilized in boiling water
an 8 oz jar with lid, very clean and sterile.
candy thermometer, reading range = 40 to 90oC (100 to 200 oF)
1 Styrofoam cooler

Procedure: 
Heat milk to 85-90oC in double boiler (185-195 oF). If using a heavy pot, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Keep covered.
Remove from fire, place covered pot in pan of clean cool water until stirred milk is very close to 55oC (130oF).

Stir up yogurt starter with a clean fork, add to 55o C milk, stir thoroughly, (temp should drop to 50 oC (122 o F) or just below). Pour still warm mixture into the three bottles, plus the smaller 8 oz jar. Cover immediately with the sterile lids.

Place filled bottles in cooler, add enough 50oC (122 oF) water so that bottles are surrounded, but the water is well below the lid rims. The starter jar will have to be placed on a support to keep its lid above the water.

Do not disturb the yogurt and it will be finished in 3 hrs, provided the temperature does not drop below 40 oC (104 oF).  Refrigerate until needed.

For more firm yogurt, add 2 Tbl powdered milk to the ½ gallon of milk prior to heating. Either whole or skimmed milk may be used, but whole milk makes richer yogurt.
YOGURT HAS MANY USES:
My favorite uses of yogurt include:

In place of sour cream. Add dollops:

  • to baked potatoes,
  • on rice dishes,
  • on bowls of soup (especially lamb stew, chilli or borscht).
  • with hot chili (works as a fire extinguisher too!)
  • In cucumber-yogurt soup (fabulous summer dish)
  • As a liquid in soda-raised breads, waffles and pancakes
  • To make Laban , a Lebanese soft cheese, (easy yogurt cheese) can be made by hanging yogurt in a clean cloth, permitting the whey to drip into a bowl. Add salt to taste. It is delicious served with pulverized spearmint and olive oil as a dip.
  • as a starter for cheese
  • as a starter for yogurt (see above for how to do this)
  • Diluted and slightly salted to make ayran (EYE-ron), a refreshing Turkish cool drink.

Check any Middle Eastern cookbook for a variety of uses.

Simply Ice Cream, Illustrated

Simplicity is my watchword.

Here is the recipe I have refined for making ice cream, containing what I believe are its essentials. Yes, you can do all kind of experiments making flavored ice cream, but I suggest you try this pure and simple ice cream first. After it is made, you can top it with a little fruit, chocolate sauce, or sprinkle a little powdered instant coffee on it for flavor variations.

This page has THREE parts, first the recipe for the ice cream mixture , and second, the technique for freezing ice cream. Finally, I have included a review of my White Mountain Freezer (the Cadillac of freezers).

Recipe for Simply Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 quarts of “medium” cream: either Half and Half or cream skimmed from fresh milk left undisturbed for several days.
2/3 cup sugar (more if you like it sweet)
1 Tbl good vanilla extract

Add all these ingredients to the freezer can, insert dasher and cover.

The following steps include skimming instructions if you have your own source of whole milk.

Instructions for Freezing Ice Cream

Supplies:

Up to 10 pounds finely chipped ice. If you can only get larger chunk ice, you may have to crush it by placing in cloth bag and hammering it down to pieces no larger than ½ inch diameter. The smaller the size ice, the faster the ice cream will freeze. Too big, and the chunks will impair the turning of the bucket. The actual amount of ice needed varies with the freezer.

1-2 pounds of rock salt. (You can use any salt, but rock salt is cheapest. Fine grained salt will freeze ice cream faster.)
Favorite mix for ice cream, liquid (See above)

Equipment:

2 cup measuring cup to measure the ice
1/4 cup measuring cup to measure the salt (or assume your handful is 1/4th cup)
Your ice cream freezer, either hand or machine cranked. (I have graduated to a White Mountain machine, expensive but the best quality freezer I have found.

  1. Add the ice cream mix to the freezer can, insert dasher and place lid on the freezer can.
  2. Place assembled freezer can in bucket, attach turning mechanism, lock in place.
  3. Scoop a 2 cup measure of ice and pour into bucket on either side of the turning mechanism. (4 cups total)
  4. Scoop in a 1/4 cup measure of salt on either side of the turning mechanism. I have found that one of my handfuls is equal to 1/4th cup, so I add salt that way. (one measure for each side = ½ cup total). You can turn on the machine now.
  5. Repeat the alternating layers of 2 cups ice and 1/4 cup salt per side until both sides are filled up to the top of the can.
  6. After turning for a few minutes, the ice will melt down some, and you should add 2 additional cups ice to both sides, followed by 1/4 cup salt to both sides. Keep the level of the ice near the top of the freezer can.
  7. Check on the consistency after 10 minutes of cranking. Depending on the design of the can and the amount of ice cream mix added, the ice cream should be frozen in 10-20 minutes. Listen for the motor to labor, or notice that the hand cranking is getting HARD.
  8. Turn off machine, remove turning mechanism and lid, and examine the consistency. It should have risen up in the can and LOOK like “soft-whip” ice cream. It is best to stop when it is the consistency of moderately firm “soft-whip” ice cream for two reasons:
    1. It is much easier to pack (put it immediately into your freezer after you house it), and
    2. It is less likely to turn the cream to butter (from excessive cranking).

Some machines call for packing additional ice and salt after removing the dasher to further harden it. This is good for picnics, but at home, I put it straight into the freezer.

I have owned many different kinds of freezers, and have used this 8:1 ratio of ice to salt for all of them. The White Mountain Freezer I recently purchased calls for 6:1 ratio, but I’m not convinced it requires that much salt, since there is always undissolved salt left in the bottom.

Good Luck, and delicious eating to you.

Review of the White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer after several years of use:

Positives:

  • Generally high quality materials, sturdy, the freezer can is stainless steel.
  • Makes excellent smooth ice cream, partly due to the “double action” of the dasher.
  • Freezes relatively quickly (though this is also relative to the ice chip size and amount of salt.

Negatives:

  • It is quite noisy during operation.
  • It requires more ice to fill the bucket than most freezers of the same capacity.
  • Although the freezer can is stainless, the hoops on the bucket are iron, and are rusting badly.
  • The latch which holds the turning mechanism in place is very temperamental, often requiring several repositioning
    attempts with the whole turning mechanism before it can be latched (very annoying).
  • The locking mechanism holding the turning mechanism is made of iron and is severely rusting.
  • I have yet to find a machine from which the ice cream is easily packed. The “double action” dasher has even more nooks and crannies which must be cleared of ice cream when packing the ice cream.
  • It is quite expensive (I think I paid around $160 for the 3 quart electric freezer in 1999).

Added in 2005 after 5 years of use:

  • The iron hoops which hold together the wooden tub rusted and broke. I replaced with stainless steel banding.
  • The wooden staves pull apart when the bucket dries, leaking salt water onto the floor.
  • Worst: the motor burned out in Fall of 2004. I sent off to the manufacturer and purchased a new motor for about $36 which I was able in install. In the interim, I tried two inexpensive (and terrible) models of ice cream maker–one from Sam’s club (the drive connection was so weak that the dasher slipped way before the ice cream was ready) and one from Home Depot (took 45 minutes to make ice cream). VERY happy to have my White Mountain back in operation.

However, all in all, I have not found a better machine yet.

Making Root Beer at Home

Fermentation has been used by mankind for thousands of years for brewing beer, fermenting wine and raising bread. The products of the fermentation of sugar by baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a fungus) are ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide causes bread to rise and gives effervescent drinks their bubbles. This action of yeast on sugar is used to ‘carbonate’ beverages, as in the addition of bubbles to champagne). [Note: In response to many questions I have received, here is a discussion of the small amount of ethyl alcohol which results in this root beer .]

We will set up a fermentation in a closed system and capture the generated carbon dioxide to carbonate root beer. You may of course adjust the quantities of sugar and/or extract to taste. You should be able to find root beer extract at your local supermarket.

Hires and A&W have a long history of making root beer extract. I find Zatarain’s extract especially delicious, but your definition of root beer may include a different assortment of flavors. If you can’t find it, Zatarain’s, a product of New Orleans can be ordered on the web.

Other flavors can be substituted for the root beer extract.

Try using a tablespoon of vanilla instead of the extract for a cream soda, and grated ginger and lemon for ginger ale.

IMPORTANT SAFETY CAUTION: As you follow the following recipe, be sure to refrigerate these bottle-fermented soft drinks as soon as the bottle feels hard. Especially in the summer, after a week or so, there is a risk of explosion!

[SUGAR SUBSTITUTES? Many people have emailed me asking about substituting artificial sweeteners for the sugar in this recipe. The short answer; no.

Sugar is required for yeast to generate carbon dioxide which carbonates the beverage. No sugar, no carbonation.

You might experiment with less sugar, and add a substitute to make up for the lower sweetness. I do not know how little sugar you can add and still get adequate carbonization, but 1/2 cup of sugar/ 2 liters makes plenty of carbonation.]

Equipment

  • Clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle with cap.
    I do not recommend glass bottles because of the risk of explosive shards of glass.
  • Funnel
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1/4 tsp measuring spoon
  • 1 Tbl measuring spoon

Supplies

  • 1 cup table sugar [alias cane sugar or sucrose]
  • Zatarains’s Root Beer Extract (1 tablespoon)
  • Powdered baker’s yeast (1/4 teaspoon)
    Yeast for brewing would certainly work at least as well as baking yeast.
  • Cold, fresh water

Note on Zatarain’s Root Beer Extract:

When I could not find it locally, I ordered a case of 12 bottles for $18 from Zatarain’s, New Orleans, LA 70114. Previously, I had used Hires extract.

Instructions

 

NOTE: There will be a sediment of yeast at the bottom of the bottle, so that the last bit of root beer will be turbid. It will not hurt you, but you can decant carefully if you wish to avoid this sediment.

A Word about the Alcohol in Home Made Root Beer (or Ginger Ale):

I have received numerous inquiries about whether there might be alcohol in this home made soft drink. The answer is yes, but…

We have tested in our lab the alcoholic content which results from the fermentation of this root beer and found it to be between 0.35 and 0.5 %. Comparing this to the 6% in many beers, it would require a person to drink about a gallon and a half of this root beer to be equivalent to one 12 ounce beer.

I would call this amount of alcohol negligible, but for persons with metabolic problems who cannot metabolize alcohol properly, or religious prohibition against any alcohol, consumption should be limited or avoided. However, there are many high school biology labs who have made this beverage without any problems.

If you are one of these, I am interested to hear about your conclusions.

Professor Fankhauser mixing waffle batter

Fankhauser’s Cornmeal Waffles

Recipe for Fankhauser’s Cornmeal Waffles

Whisk in a 2 qt bowl until blended:

  • 1 egg

Add to egg and whisk gently just to blend:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (or buttermilk)
  • 1 cup beer, cold and effervescent

Measure into a sifter:

  • 2/3 cup cornmeal (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Sift onto liquids, whisk just to mix, leaving small lumps. (You may need to add a bit more flour to adjust the thickness of the batter if it appears too runny.)

Fold in:

  • 1/4 cup oil

Sprinkle shelled sunflower seeds onto a preheated hot (just starting to smoke) well-seasoned waffle iron.

Bake until browned, about 6 minutes.

Brush with melted 1:1 butter:oil, drizzle on maple syrup, try to stop after eating just one…

Note

For the deluxe version, you may sprinkle in cooked sausage, walnuts and/or pecans in the same manner as the sunflower seeds.

Related

University of Cincinnati, Clermont College Waffle & Maple Syrup Breakfast

Making Maple Syrup

North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual: Second Edition (Looseleaf)

Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Maple Syrup
Ohioline (Ohio State University Extension)