Fias Co Farm:
Cheesemaking

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Supplies and Equipment for home cheesemaking

Whenever possible, use stainless steel equipment.  It may cost more, but it's worth it.  It is easily cleaned, which is very important in cheesemaking, where cleanliness is of the utmost importance (please see milking & sanitation ).

Equipment needed:
Stainless steel cheesemaking pot with lid I use a 4 gallon pot.
Slightly larger pot, to make a "double boiler" I use a large canning kettle.
Use use this to regulate the temperature of the curds (how it's done)
Thermometer-
Good cheesemaking

The thermometer you use needs to read from at least 70*-215* in accurate, readable, 2 degree increments and have a long enough stem to reach your milk.  Other than that, there is nothing "special" about what thermometer you use.

These can be expensive, but are worth it and last a long time if you take care of them.

Note- After going through three Dairy Thermometers I started using a programmable digital thermometer made by Polder. I now really prefer this to the "old fashioned" mechanical type and would never use anything else but digital. The thing I really like about this thermometer is that is has a built in timer and an alarm you can set to go off when the milk reaches a certain temperature; this is great because now I don't have to stand over the pot constantly. Also, my "new" digital thermometer has worked well for many years where as I went through an "old school" one every couple of years.

Thermometer-
Fairly good
To put in he double boiler pot so you can see the temp of the water- I got my "instant read" dial thermometer from Amazon.
Ladle, Slotted For stirring the curds.
Knife, very long For cutting the curds.
Colander For draining the curds.
Cheese cultures Bacterial cultures are the key to cheese making.  Almost all cheese needs to have some sort of bacterial culture added to it.  These bacterial cultures not only give the cheese its flavor, but also acidify the milk, which aids in the coagulation of the curds. 
Click here for more information on cultures.
Rennet

Rennet is what "sets" or "curdles" the milk, causing the milk to form a solid curd. I recommend you use liquid, it's so much easier than tablets and can be used for every kind of cheese.  You can use animal or vegetable rennet.


Do not use "Junket". It is not the same strength and will not work as well.
I am often asked if there is a substitute for rennet and the answer is no; you must have rennet to make cheese (except acid precipitated cheese like Ricotta & Panir, which need vinegar).

Lipase powder Lipase is an enzyme used for the development of certain flavors in some cheeses. This enzyme is a "must" for the manufacture of cheeses like Feta, Romano, Pecorino, Parmesan, Mozzarella, etc. Without lipase, the cheese will never develop the favor you expect from the particular cheese.
Click here for more info on lipase powder.
Salt, Kosher (course salt) I use Diamond Crystal.  It comes in a red box, available in most grocery stores.
Cheese cloth

Look for real cheesecloth. Do not use the stuff you find it the grocery store that is called "cheesecloth". This is not real cheesecloth. It has much to course a weave and will not work correctly.

Molds You can buy these from various cheese supply places to you can make your own.
Cheesepress You can build your own cheesepress
Cheesemats I  use two different kinds of draining mats, depending on the cheese.  When I need a smaller weave in the mat, I like to use a plastic craft "canvas".  You can get these in the craft department of stores.   It is very easily cut and is cheap..  When I want a larger hole in my drying rack, I like to use "egg crate".  This comes in a large sheet (2'X4') intended for use in suspended ceilings.   It's the stuff they put over where the fluorescent lighting fixture goes.  You can get this at your home improvement store.  It can be cut to size with wire nippers.  I use these two "mats" separately and in combination to dry and age all my cheeses.
Citric Acid If you're going to make Mozzarella cheese, you need this. 

Maintaining the temperature of the curds during cheesemaking:


Here's a good way to control the temp. Make a "double boiler" using pots you already have. To do this find a pot that is just a little bigger than your cheese making pot. I use a big stainless steel pot for holding the milk and a big (cheap) canning kettle as the bigger pot. Place this large pot on your heat source. Place your cheesemaking pot inside the larger, outer pot. Fill the cheesemaking pot with your milk and the outer pot with water to the level of the milk. Try to have it so there is at least one inch of water under the bottom of the cheesemaking pot (more space is better). Put your dairy thermometer in the cheesemaking pot and another thermometer in outer pot. This way you can see what temp the water is. The water will act as an insulator and keep the milk at the right temp. You can turn on the heat (when needed) to slowly raise the temp of the water without worrying that you might overheat the milk too quickly.

Making your own molds for Chevre:

You will need molds (as in containers with holes in them, not like in moldy bread) to make Chevre.  You can buy molds from a cheesemaking supplier, or you can make your own.  When making your own cheese molds, you must keep in mind that they should be made out of non-corrosive, food grade materials.  Buy a set (5) of medium to large plastic tumblers.  Use a butane torch to heat a small nail until it is red hot, be very careful doing this (definitely not a project for the kids).  Use the hot nail to punch out drainage holes in the tumbler approximately every inch or so.  Believe it or not, that's it, you are now ready to make your very own Chevre.


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