Cheesemaking 101

Cheesemaking 101

There are 3 types of cheese: Hard, Soft and Ripened.

  1. Hard : Parmesan, Cheddar,
  2. Soft : Port du Salut, Taleggio, Munster, cottage, cream, Mozarella
  3. Ripened: Brie, Blue, Camembert

Most cheeses taste better if served at room temp. for 2 to 3 hours before serving as it tastes better than serving it cold from the fridge. Soft cheeses are the exception. Cottage cheese and cream cheeses are especially good served cold.

If you are buying store-bought milk to make your cheese you will need to add calcium chloride back into the milk as the pasteurization process removes this from the milk. Adding calcium chloride into the milk will help firm up the curd. Using Ultra High Temperature milk for cheese making is also never successful as the high heating process it goes through affects the whey proteins and your milk will not form curds.

Cultures are either mesophilic or thermophilic. Yogurt is an example of a thermophilic culture, while buttermilk is an example of a mesophilic culture. You can either make your own cultures, or you can buy them. The big freezer in the milk room has direct vat cultures for sale.

Rennet and Cultures for Making Cheese

Rennet is important for you milk to coagulate. You can get animal rennet that comes from the lining of calf stomachs, or you get vegetarian rennet that is made from certain plants. Either one will work well but use the liquid form for making cheese. Junket tablets are for making deserts not cheese. If that is all you have it is ok to use. 3 drops of iquid rennet or 1/2 tablet rennet are usually diluted in a 1/4 cup of cool water.


You will need a large, heavy-based pot for warming the milk in (or you can use a sink) and a colander to assist in draining the whey. You will also need a ladle that has holes in the bottom to allow the curds to drain off the whey. Cheesecloth or butter muslin is required to further help in draining the excess whey, long-handled knife to cut the curds and a thermometer. For making hard cheese you will need a cheese mold. You can make them with round stainless steel cutlery holders, which work just as well, or plastic bowls that have holes to allow the whey to drain off. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT EVERYTHING MUST BE STERILE.


To be successful with your homemade cheese making, you will need to bring your milk to room temperature before you start. You can do this by taking the milk out of the fridge for 1-2 hours before hand, so that you can start. The temperature right from the cow is perfect.


When making any type of cheese the next step is to heat the milk. This is necessary for the lactose in the milk to covert to lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid is necessary for your milk to coagulate and helps the curd separate from the whey.


These starters may be lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or dried cultures from cheese suppliers in the form of mesophilic or thermophilic cultures, each of which when added, will result in a different flavor of cheese.

Make your own Natural Cheese Starter

You can make your own homemade cheese starter for cheese making. Although not difficult to do, and although the recipe below is an old, traditional recipe, many people stopped using it because a homemade cheese starter didn’t give standardized results. As a result commercial starters were then favored. Method: This may not work if you make a lot of bread

  • Take about 1 quart of clean, new milk and place in a previously-scalded vessel and allow to stand in a clean area till it sours.
  • If the temperature has been kept at from 70 to 75 Fahrenheit, souring will take place in about 24 hours.
  • The top is skimmed off and thrown away, and the remainder well stirred into 2 or 3 gallons of separated milk, which has been previously heated to a temperature of 185 Fahrenheit, for 20 minutes, and then cooled to 75 or 80 Fahrenheit before adding the soured milk.
  • This is again put aside for a further 24 hours, and it is stirred occasionally at first.
  • By the next day the starter will be ready for use.

A fresh lot of separated milk is inoculated each day with a little of the starter, and you now have a continuous supply of homemade starter for making cheese. Sufficient starter should be added to each lot of separated milk to ensure its souring in from 20 to 24 hours. After being in use for some time a starter will need renewing, the length of time it will take to renew will depend on what sort of conditions it has been kept in. If the homemade starter has been kept in clean conditions, and the top always skimmed off and thrown away before using, it will last for a considerable time. However, if the homemade starter is kept under less favorable conditions it will need to be replaced more regularly.

Always keep your starter covered with a piece of thin muslin to keep out dust, etc., without excluding the air. A fresh lot of separated milk is inoculated each day with a little of the starter, and a continuous supply thus maintained for use.

When you add your starter, make sure that it is well stirred through the milk for even distribution. After that, leave the milk alone and don’t touch it so that the coagulation process can take place. I have kept this on my warming shelf on the wood stove all winter with good success in the past.


After your milk has been left to ripen, you can start adding your rennet. However, using rennet is a bit of a science as if you add too little, your milk won’t develop curds, and if you add too much, your milk will give you curds that are too dense.

Dilute your rennet in 1/2 c of cool to warm water, and when you add it to the milk, stir it thoroughly for even distribution. After the rennet has been added, the milk is again left undisturbed so that the curds can form. The amount of the rennet will depend on the concentration. Usually 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.


When your curd has formed, and you have the clean break that you are looking for, you will need to take that long-handled knife mentioned earlier and cut the curd into 1-2 inch blocks. When doing this make sure that the knife goes all the way down to the bottom of the pot.

So how do you know when your curd has reached that stage of a clean break? If you put your finger into the curd and pull upwards the curd should break away and whey should pool in the hole that has been left behind. If it doesn’t, you will need to wait a little longer. Patience! …


This part of the process always reminds me of Little Miss Muffet! However, I digress! Back to the job of cheese making. What you want for making cheese is of course the curds. However, never throw the liquid, called the whey, out. Any excess whey can be fed to chickens and pigs on the homestead. More importantly, as a baker it is like manna from heaven. Substituting milk or water for whey in muffins, homemade bread, pancakes and cakes will result in an excellent finished product, light and moist; you will surprised at the results.

Place your butter muslin, or cheesecloth in a colander and with your slotted spoon, scoop the curds out of the pot and into the colander. Collect the whey at the bottom by placing your colander in another bowl. Leave it to drain like this until all excess whey has been removed.

If cottage or soft cheese, you are done. If hard cheese place the curds in a cheese press now, semi soft hang your bag of curds for two hours or longer to get more whey out.


So you can see, that by making sure that your equipment has been sterilized, and that you have the right type of milk, rennet and cultures, in 7 easy steps, you too could me making homemade cheese.