Yesterday, I shared 4 Easy Raw Cheese Recipes – the cheeses I have been making over and over since early last year.
Continuing the series, today I’ll share what basic cheesemaking supplies I use and recommend. My goal during all this time of learning cheesemaking has not only been to produce fantastic cheese, but to whittle down the processes and supplies until they’re as simple as can be. However, I know that I will probably learn more as time goes on.
Notes: I’m only including general supplies and equipment; special ingredients that would be recipe-dependent won’t be included. Such items would be wax (to protect cheese while it ages) or calf lipase (for feta). Also, I’m dealing with raw cheeses here — cheeses that not only start with raw milk, but whose temperature doesn’t exceed 118 degrees Fahrenheit. This precludes the inclusion of thermophilic starter cultures, which are cultures that proliferate at high temperatures.
The Cultures and/or Food Ingredients
All of these can be found in the Cultures section of my Resources page. The rennet coagulates the milk curds into cheese.
- All-purpose mesophilic culture (MA or MM) – all the raw cheeses I make are cultured with this group of bacteria which culture at middle (meso) temperatures, most often (for me) at room temperature or 86 degrees.
- Rennet tablets – according to Jerry at Homesteader Supply, vegetarian rennet dissolves more easily, so that’s what I’ve always purchased; used for harder cheeses that require a larger quantity of rennet.
- Double-strength liquid vegetable rennet – used by the drop; 1/2 teaspoon of this is equal to 1 rennet tablet. (note: this is double-strength, so adjust recipes accordingly)
- Unrefined sea salt
The Supplies & Equipment
Once again, you’ll find links to some of these on my Resources page.
- 90-count cheesecloth (2) – I use two layers of this for dripping out chevre, kefir cheese, or ricotta
- 3 x 3 foot square cotton cloth or butter muslin – from a clean, fairly-high thread count bedsheet; used to line a cheesepress or to hold hanging cheese
- *stainless steel colander(s) – sometimes I find it helpful to use 2 for one recipe
- *large (10 to 13 quart) stainless steel stockpot(s) – again, sometimes 2 is helpful, and particularly one that nests inside the other to create a double boiler to maintain temperature in cooler weather
- *stainless steel utensils – stirring spoon and slotted spoon
- basic kitchen thermometer (0 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit range) – 2 if making a double-boiler, one for each pot
- long knife – for cutting curds; I use a long, serrated bread knife
- cheese press (see below)
- a way to hang a bag of cheese (see below)
*Note on the stainless steel: In April 2009, the Weston A Price Foundation came out with updated information regarding cookware, suggesting that stainless steel may not be the best. Read more here (scroll down to “Cookware” under “Reducing Enviromental Exposure”). Other choices would be glass, or high-end lead-free enamel pans such as from Le Crueset.
This is my homemade DIY cheesepress, which has its drawbacks. (Update 2011: Now I use this cheese press.) Namely, that it is can be dangerous. So if you use something like this, be very, very careful.
The base is a rectangular baking tray to catch the whey. A sturdy baking rack balances on that. Then the press and follower sit on the rack, lined with cheesecloth. Now here’s the dangerous part. Free weights sit on the follower and weight down the cheese. If the cheese takes a not-level shape, the weights will start tipping and could slide off, hurting someone or breaking something. To prevent an accident, I build up to using maximum weights, and I watch how the cheese is pressing down and adjust the position of the weights accordingly to facilitate it being level.
I no longer hang my chevre or kefir, as I wrote in my notes for those recipes (part 1 of this series). However, some cheeses do need to be hung, such as the feta I make. Here’s where I’d love to hear from others of you who’ve rigged ways to hang cheese in your kitchens.
This is how I hang my cheese. I put a long, sturdy stick across the top of the two cupboards that are around the sink area. I looped strong paracord around the stick. When I say looped, I mean looped. The bottom end of it is a loop onto which I tie the cheesecloth or cotton cloth that contains the cheese curds. This works well for me. I put a big stainless steel stockpot under the bag to catch the whey.
Now hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything! Please share what you use for supplies and equipment; I’d love to hear how I could do things better or simpler. And if you have questions, please leave them in the comments. I’ll be returning with part 3 (Raw Cheese Benefits) of this series next Wednesday, so stay tuned.
Want to learn more about raw cheesemaking? Check out my online class, the Cultured Dairy & Basic Cheese eCourse, including videos and print tutorials, starting at just $8/mo.