Many of the foods we take for granted as difficult or out of the average home cook’s reach are actually easily prepared in the kitchen. We talked about SCOBYs and cultures in the last post. Keeping dairy in mind, let’s dig into the glories of home cheese making today.
Why Make Cheese at Home?
Making cheese at home has more benefits than just knowing what ingredients are going in to your food. Many people have objections to the use of rennet, an acid taken from the stomachs of calves and added to some cheese to create the desired texture, flavor, and consistency. By making cheese at home, you can rest assured that there is no rennet in your cheese.
If you don’t mind the addition of rennet, there are still reasons to make your own cheese. Apart from the bragging rights you’ll earn, you can also ensure a truly nutritious cheese – no chemical additives, colorings, or potentially harmful ingredients. You can control for allergens, as well. Most importantly, it’s cheaper. Making your own cheese is often significantly less expensive than buying cheeses in the store. There are a few exceptions, but for cheeses like ricotta, mozarella, paneer, and mascarpone, you’re better off creating the tastier artisan versions at home than buying them in the store.
Where Do You Begin?
If you love the sound of making cheese at home, but aren’t sure where to begin, don’t worry. Cheese is actually very simple. All you need, in most cases, is an acid, a salt, and milk. For more complex cheeses, a bacterial culture or specific type of mold may also be required. This post deals with a few basic cheeses, however. For more complex cheesemaking information, a quick YouTube search can yield quite a bit of information, and several step by step recipes.
The easiest home cheeses are Farmer’s Cheese, Easter Cheese, Tvorog (a Russian cheese that is similar to Farmer’s and Easter cheeses), Paneer (an Indian cheese), Queso Blanco (hailing from Mexico), Mascarpone and Ricotta (both Mascarpone and Ricotta are Italian). Mascarpone is a very expensive cheese, and yet is very simple to make. The same is true of ricotta. The other cheese listed above can be nearly impossible to locate without visiting specialty markets.
Where Can You Find Recipes?
Many home cheese recipes can be found on the internet. We’ll be posting cheese recipes here occasionally, too. If you have any specific requests for recipes, let us know. We’ll see if we can find a recipe for your favorite cheeses.
What Supplies Do You Need?
Beginning cheesemakers need a few key supplies, many of which you may already have on hand. These include:
Cheese salt (table salt can be used if you can’t find this specialty salt)
Pots and Pans
Cheese molds and forms (optional)
Something to Keep in Mind
Some kinds of cheese can’t be made at home. As accessible as cheesemaking really is, the need for climate control, aging, and specific coatings, as well as the use of domain protected ingredients, can make the crafting of some cheeses impossible outside of a specific geographical region. Manchego is a perfect example – this cheese is produced exclusively in Spain, although a cheese with the same name is also made in Mexico, but is not recognized internationally. Manchego is made from sheep’s milk, aged in specific conditions in the region of La Mancha, and requires a specific set of ingredients and process to be considered legitimate. Some cheeses with nearly identical recipes and aging conditions go by multiple names around the world, as a result of geographically protected naming rights.
Making cheese at home can be as simple as boiling milk with salt, and adding a little vinegar or lemon juice, then straining – that’s ricotta’s core recipe, by the way – while other cheeses may require dedicated craftsmanship. You can make many popular and expensive cheeses in your own kitchen, however. Go ahead and give it a try – you’ll be happy with the result!