Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making Cheese

Making soft cheeses is surprisingly easy.  I've found that it's not really cost effective to make it compared to buying it, but it's fun and I really enjoy the satisfaction of eating the cheese I made.  I've had a lot of questions about how cheese is made.  The details are different for different types of cheese, but the basics are the same.  A starter bacteria culture is added to milk which starts to separate the curds and whey.  Some cheese also require the addition of rennet; an enzyme that further separates the curds and whey and makes a harder cheese.  I like to make chevre, which is a soft goat cheese (about the texture of whipped cream cheese).  It only has two ingredients, and it's very simple.

Chevre (soft goat cheese) 
(steps shown below)

1 gallon of goat's milk (I've tried cow's milk but the result is a cheese that tastes like sour cream)
1 packet of chevre starter culture (available from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company)

1. Heat the milk to 86 degrees F
2. Stir in chevre starter culture
3. Let sit for 12 hours (or overnight) at a temperature of at least 72 degrees F
4. Ladle curds into a colander lined with butter muslin
5. Allow whey to drain by hanging the butter muslin filled with cheese for 6-12 hours (depending on desired consistency)

The cheese can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or it can be frozen for a long time.  It freezes really well.

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