Sunday, August 12, 2012

Simply Cheese..or Is It?

   Our little farmstead has been a registered dairy herd for a few years now with bumps and lessons along the way. The venture into cheese making has been quite an interesting journey with love and loss all through it. Basic cheese making was introduced to use through a 4H class taught by a local small farm family. Just one day of watching a gallon of milk transform into soft white cheese and whey morph into delicious ricotta..we were inspired.
   Research, word of mouth and basic net browsing led us to New England Cheesemaking Supply Company were Ricki Carroll shares her wisdom with naive novices like me. Our milk was used for basic vinegar cheese, easy whey ricotta before we moved on to mozzarella and chevre. Last year gouda crossed our press as did panir and jack. With each wonderful success came the need for a press.
   One of our long trusted resources led us to this set of plans for a small home press. Simple instructions using basic on hand supplies brought us a helpful tool for weighted cheese pressing. For the next few days farmhouse cheddar will reside here before drying and waxing.
   Looking back, it may sound like cheese making is simple..but is it? Well, yes and no. Cheese making is a science and as science goes, sometimes it's tricky. Measuring and temperatures need to be precise..our hot and humid weather can make this quite a challenge! Nothing is more frustrating than aging a cheese for several months only to find it molded badly..the wax didn't adhere well enough.

   A few tips and lessons:
1. Measure; don't guess or estimate, measure the milk, the cultures, the rennet...all of it.
2. Use a thermometer. Mine has an alarm to let me know when we reach temp..I need it!
3. Don't walk away. Milk can scorch or boil over in the blink of an eye!
4. Use the right salt. Sea or celtic is great..but no ionized salt..the iodine discolors and causes rusty streaks.
5. The sink is a friend. When the kitchen is too hot and cooling is just not happening..a sink of cool water is the perfect place to set your pan of curds.
6. Diapers are dependable! Cloth diapers (not prefolded) are perfect for draining cheeses..reusable and easily washed.
7. Enjoy the process. Life is about learning and when it comes to takes a bit of learning to get through it.

   I personally use fresh goat's milk, but cheese can be made from cow or even sheep milk with wonderful and tasty results. My advice is start simple and start small...grow with the project..ease into it.
   Tomorrow.. two favorite cheese recipes..join me!


Keli Martin said...

I have been wanting to make our own cheeses for some time now. Maybe I'll get the chance to this fall/winter.

J.E. Traweek said...

My cheese is almost gone; need to drop by this week for more!

Simply Scaife Family said...

Keli, I hope you get a chance to try first I wasn't sure if I would like making cheese, but today I think I'm hooked!
Judy, there is plenty more:)

Citadel Kalahari said...

I've just started making cheeses this past year and have enjoyed it so much. :-) My favorites are Halloumi and simple cottage cheese. Deeeelicious! :-) Love your idea for cloth diapers and the instructions for the homemade press. Brilliant! :-)

Simply Scaife Family said...

Thank you! I have never heard of Halloumi, but I bet it is wonderful:)