Further Adventures in Dairyland – Cheesemaking at Home

fresh cheeses

I am in a place in life right now when I feel the need to learn new things, so I’m on the lookout for culinary classes. Earlier I wrote a piece about how I started making my own yogurt and butter, and now my adventures in the land of dairy continue with cheese.

Man has been making cheese from raw ingredients with non-industrial methods for 7,500+ years. That is, waaay before refrigerators, thermometers and sterile lab equipment, so it must not be too complicated.

Or so I thought. Truth is, making cheese is both art and science. After the workshop I’ve attended hosted by chef Balázs Sarudi, this became very clear to me. Here’s a short summary of what I’ve learnt while we made our own mozzarella- and parenica style cheese plus some delicious ricotta to take home with us.

Real cheesemaking requires extensive knowledge (think MSc levels of biochemistry and microbiology) and years, if not decades of experience relying on your senses.

There are many types of cheese and just as many methods for making it. But while the recipes for all types of cheese vary (some undergo more steps and require more time to make than others), the basic process of turning milk into cheese stays the same: curdling and then separating the solids from the whey.

To make even the simplest forms of cheese – fresh cheese – at home, the most important of all is to buy quality raw whole milk, preferably from pastured cows. Evident as it may sound, getting your hands on it could be trickier than you might think. Once you’ve managed that though, you can be sure it will yield the best flavor.

Now, to turn that lovely dairy to cheese, you need to heat it first. When the milk is warm, a starter culture containing lactic bacteria is added to change lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This process changes the acidity level of the milk and begins turning milk from liquid into solid.

The next step is called coagulation, when we further encourage the milk to solidify. There are two ways to do this: using acid (like lemon juice or white vinegar) will yield small, crumbly curdles. Using enzymes such as rennet will result in a gel-like consistency, allowing curds to be stretched and molded, unlike curds formed with acid. Rennet, found in the stomach linings of cattle and sheep, is the oldest method.

After some resting, it’s time to cut curds to expel and separate whey. Generally, the smaller the curds are cut, the harder the resulting cheese will be. Whey is then drained, but it would be a shame to discard as it is full of protein and nutrients. It can be used for many things from feeding to animals, using it fresh in place of water or milk in recipes like bread and pastries, making other dairy products such as ricotta, or processed foods e.g. whey protein.

Salting the curd adds flavor and acts as a preservative as well so the cheese does not spoil. After this, the cheese is put into a mold and is pressed or turned regularly to expel remaining liquids.

And voilà! What you have now is fresh cheese, cheese in its youngest, purest form. It has a simple yet satisfying flavor, mild, maybe a little salty or tangy. With time, it would ripen and could be called aged cheese.

And that’s about it. I did not share an exact recipe as you could find everything online, but do please let me know if you’d still like me to, I am at your disposal. 🙂

At-home cheesemaking kits are available at specialty shops and also from online retailers (to my Hungarian readers: visit Panni sajtműhelye for recipes and webshop). Can’t wait for mine to arrive, hopefully my efforts will be worth sharing.

One more thing though, if you are even slightly interested in trying your hands at homemade cheese, I do encourage you to find a dairy workshop near you and attend. YouTube might have it all, but going out to see, touch, smell and taste for yourself makes all the difference.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

‘Fresh cheeses on white wood’ stock image via Shutterstock

Advertisements

How I Started Making My Own Dairy

homemade dairy

For a long time, I wanted to attend to a culinary course but have been putting it off because I didn’t want to go alone. As we all have busy lives, making it happen sadly seemed on the verge of impossible. After a few attempts on reaching an agreement it became obvious that if I were to wait for the whens, wheres and all that to come together, it will probably never happen, so I decided to go by myself.

I’ve participated in a bread & dairy workshop a few weeks back and it turned out to be so much fun! Did not even miss company because my attention was completely focused on making the food. In 3 hours, not only did we bake several delicious breads, but also prepared our own butter, yogurt, fresh cheese and yeast starter to take home with us. From scratch.

On this occasion it cleared on me how straightforward making your own dairy could be. Before seeing it for myself, I thought it’ something you can’t possibly have the proper tools and conditions at home. With my newly acquired knowledge though, I jumped straight into homemade dairy and I don’t think I’m buying these items from the store anytime soon!

TBH, I don’t drink milk. Period. Lattes and hot cocoa yes, but not plain milk. Dairy though! I love, love, love dairy. Thank God (and mom and dad and genetics) I’m not lactose intolerant, I’d be so miserable missing out on all the deliciousness. Having allergies myself, I really feel for everyone with this condition, fingers crossed we will soon have some kind of remedy.

So why should you start making your own yogurt and butter? Not because it’s cheaper, although you’d be better off (not counting the value of your labour that goes into it). And not because it’s more convenient, as lifting products off a store shelf is always easier, of course. Why do it then?

Because it makes you proud. In a word where most of us are nine-to-fivers sitting in an office all day and our jobs come down to keystrokes and clicks, sooner or later you start feeling like you need to make something tangible. To create. Art, crafts, food, or anything really, with your own hands.

I started my blog because I was at that point, and I cook and DIY for the same reason. Not that I hate my day job, it’s just that I had to look for an outlet elsewhere to channel my creative energy. Luckily, I found my passion and the everyday grind gets so much more tolerable when you have activities that relax your mind, charge you up and give you satisfaction.

But back to the matter at hand! Utensil-wise, if your kitchen is equipped with a pot, some kind of a jar, a mixing bowl and an electric mixer (or at least a whisk), you are set to go. Other useful devices could be a food thermometer, ramekins and a sieve, but those are not strictly mandatory.

For the yogurt, ingredients are milk and a cup of natural, unflavored yogurt. Skim, semi-skimmed, or whole milk will all work, both HTST and UHT. Note that the higher the fat content, the thicker, creamier and tastier your yogurt will be.

homemade yogurt ingredients

homemade natural yogurt

The natural yogurt will act as the starter culture, the live bacteria in it turn the milk to yogurt. Once you start making your own yogurt, you can use leftovers from each batch to culture your next. Just save the proper amount to use for this purpose. The recipe can be scaled up or down.

Homemade Natural Yogurt

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 l/34 fl oz milk

160 g/5.64 oz plain natural yogurt

Directions

  1. Heat the milk in a heavy bottomed pan to just below boiling (95°C/200°F) stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom.
  2. Wait for milk to cool to warm, around 50-60°C/120-140°F
  3. Stir the yogurt with the milk using a whisk until dissolved
  4. Transfer mixture to a jug or jar, wrap container in a heavy scarf to slow cooling process.
  5. Let set on the counter for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Avoid jostling or stirring until yogurt has fully set.
  6. Cool.

Refrigerated, yogurt keeps for about 2 weeks.

For the butter, use whipping or heavy cream (30-36% fat content). You need to churn the cream until it divides to butter and buttermilk, which can be done with a whisk or an electric mixer. Save buttermilk for later use.

homemade butter ingredients

homemade butter with bread

Homemade Butter

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

400 ml/13.5 fl oz heavy whipping cream, cooled

Directions

  1. Pour cream in a high sided mixing bowl to avoid splashes, and start whipping.
  2. You will eventually reach the state of whipped cream; continue whipping.
  3. You’ll notice that whipped cream starts to collapse and clump up. That’s what you’re looking for, keep whipping!
  4. When clusters of fat collect and buttermilk has precipitated, your butter is ready: drain buttermilk with the help of cheese cloth or a sieve, and transfer butter to a ramekin or muffin tin.
  5. Refrigerate. When butter has cooled, you can turn it out from the mold.

This amount of cream makes approximately 125 g/4.4 oz/1 stick butter and 245 g/8.6 oz buttermilk.

Next stop for me? Definitely cheese. I’m already eyeing some courses, can’t wait!

How do you feel about making some foods for yourself instead of opting for the convenient choice? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Fruzsi

“Close-up of glass of milk” photo featured as title image © asierromeo / freepik