Category Archives: Cheese Making

How’s it Hanging?


So how IS it hanging? In this case, by a piece of artificial sinew and underneath my kitchen counter. Ha! Why does my kitchen look like a scientists lab? Because, cheese. That is probably the worst semblance of a sentence I have ever put on the web. The grammar nazi in me is very angry.

Cheese that is happening right now: Russian Tvorog Farmer’s Cheese, Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese, and Cottage Cheese. Also dreaming of what I could do with the whey from that farmer’s cheese. Whey, it’s a wonderful thing.

I used to think that all whey was wonderful. I’m now learning that I only really prefer the whey from soft cheeses. The whey produced from my Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese making does not smell the same. I don’t think that it is bad or unsafe, I just don’t like the smell of it. I do, however, have dogs and pigs and poultry (oh my) who would enjoy that whey. The no-waste factor has been happily satisfied. Soft cheese whey is for us, hard cheese way is for the birds. Ha! There I go again…

New and exciting in my cheese making adventures is using my Excalibur dehydrator. I love my dehydrator. I have had several brands/models….this is THE BEST, well worth the investment. I had come to a road block in making cheese: when heating the curd, it would burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. I lost one pan to this, as it was not worth trying to scrub it. I actually did work on it for several weeks before deciding to throw in the towel. My first brainstorm was to heat the milk/curd in a double-boiler. It worked, but not for high-temperature cheeses. Yeah, you *could* do that. It’s a HUGE hassle. The good thing that it did for me was strengthen my faith in my ability to make cheese without all the scrubbing and fuss, and wasted yucky burnt stuff.

I hope to put together some basic cheese recipes specifically for use with the Excalibur dehydrator, as well as yogurt and sour cream. For now, I’m working on different recipes and methods to make the process as simple as possible. My theory is simply this: people have been making cheese for thousands of years. Cheese and bread have been the first “processed foods” and many people in a lot of less-than-ideal situations with equipment, temperature and sanitation have successfully made cheese. I’m sure that not every batch worked out, just as my every batch does not work quite as well as I may have hoped or planned. Usually, it is edible or at least good for the animals. Although I appreciate some of the fancy, exotic cheeses (and even some basic ones that are more difficult to make), I really enjoy simplifying things to the KISS factor. That is, Keep It Sweet and Simple. I also like it make cheese with sustainability in mind. “What on earth does she mean by that?” Well, again, picture our ancestors a while back, making cheese. Did they go to Amazon to buy cheese cultures? No. They either got lucky and cultured it with a slower method, or learned to add some of a successful culture to a new batch of cheese. This is what I do! When I make cottage cheese (which happens about once or twice a week), I save out about two 1/3 cup starter cultures so that I can continue making cheese without buying more commercially prepared starter culture packets. There are other ways to make other cultures, and that is for another post….but when I can do this myself, I will. When I can do it quickly and easily and teach others to do the same, I will. As for rennet, I’d like to learn how to work on using both vegan-friendly and animal-based rennet.

My husband and I were just joking, and for anyone who’d like to start making their own cheese, think of this: Go out and buy about four extra stock pots, strainers, 5 yards of cheesecloth, two cases of quart jars and four cases of half gallon jars. Now do some spring cleaning. Take every washable dish, plate, bowl, utensil, pan, etc. from your kitchen cabinets and wash them. Now, wash every scrap of clothing, towels, curtains, bedspreads, etc. Make sure all of those items are dried, and put away appropriately. Next, go to the grocery store and buy a pound of cheese. Freeze it for six months. Wasn’t that fun?

I am being somewhat sarcastic and somewhat realistic – yes, cheesemaking is a pain in the backside. It dirties up the kitchen and clutters up your workspace. It involves extra loads of dishes and laundry. Your family will think you are nuts at times. Then, you wait to enjoy the hard work you’ve put in. But then…you go to your favorite festival with some of your favorite people and have a martini and pass around cheese, homemade bread and homemade butter…..and wow, it’s worth it.