Category Archives: Cheese Making

Making the Ultimate Cheese Press

We found an amazing wood worker who lives here in Chino Valley and owns a shop in Prescott, Arizona. They make beautiful furniture and cabinets. Jerri was on a mission to find someone to build cheese presses for Homesteader’s Supply. This gave us control over the wood type, control over the quality and consistency we expected from a cheese press.
We moved away from pine and into a hardwood in the Mahogany family. It’s naturally resistant to bacteria and washes up nicely with simple soap and water. We had it finished with 100% Tung Oil which is FDA approved for food contact.

So, what’s involved in making the cheese presses? This big plate of wood took six hours to cut. The grooves were added to the bar that holds the hoops in place to keep the hoops from slipping off to the side when tightening down the follower. The knobs were designed to be easy to grip and clean. The followers were given grooves for gripping when needing to pull it out of the follower. All of these designs were developed over time when testing prototypes. It was actually a very fun process!!! After six hours, the parts were ready to be sanded free from the small bit of wood that secured them to the slab. Once they are all free, they are sanded and oiled with three coats of Tung Oil. with plenty of drying time in between. Finally the stainless steel hardware is added and the hoops are cut and sanded until ultimately….. You have the Homesteader’s Supply Ultimate Cheese Press!!!!

Homesteader’s Supply Ultimate Cheese Press

The New Cheese Press by Homesteader’s Supply!

Pictures to be posted soon!!! Homesteader’s Supply is having a custom cheese press manufactured!!! For the past few months we’ve had issues getting cheese presses. We’d order them to fulfill orders from our customers and then we’d wait and wait and wait… in turn… our customers would wait and wait and wait… Finally, we decided to do something about it. We are working with a local woodworking wizard and he loved the project. We were given the prototype yesterday and will test the press this weekend. Once it meets our approval, we’ll go into production and have them available for sale!

I’ll post picture of the new press soon and then photos of the final product that will be manufactured here in Chino Valley, Arizona… USA MADE!!!!

Happy Homesteading!!!

Cheese Making 103

In the last blog, we made cheese! Often our dairy cows give us MUCH more cream than we need for “whole milk”. What to do with all that cream???? Well, I’m thinking butter and sour cream!

The culture we used to make Colby cheese is just as useful in making sour cream! Simply ladle off some of the excess cream into a clean glass jar and follow the instructions below!

Sour Cream:

Use Pint or quart of Cream in glass jar that has a lid.
Add 1/16 or 1/32 tsp of Meso II Culture and stir well throughout.
Place lid on the jar.
Leave on counter at room temperature over night. (Warmer temps work faster, colder temps need longer curing.)
Once the cream has become thick in the jar, place into refrigerator for about 8 hours. You now have the best tasting sour cream!
If you make a larger batch, remove the amount you want to use for sour cream, the rest you can make into butter!
Experiment later with other cultures, as it is the culture that gives the specific flavor to the sour cream and the butter (as well as the cheeses you make… it’s all a personal preference!)
*Remember, there are no preservatives added so it may last only 5-7 days, depending on the temp of your frig.

Butter making is a bit more labor intensive… Once you have the chilled sour cream, you put one cup of the cream into the blender and add a bit of cool water….. blend until the butter fat breaks from the cream. This is a distinct sound, but a difficult one to explain. You will see butter floating on the top of the blender when it breaks. I use a double mesh strainer and pour the contents of the blender through the strainer. I save the byproduct for the chickens. You can then run the strainer under COLD water in the sink for a bit to rinse it off. This blending of the cream is repeated until all of the cream is used.
Now, you have a bowl of milky butter. I put cold water in the blender and repeat the above blending steps until the water loses the milky coloring. The butter should rinse with clear water before you’re ready for the next step. This is done to keep the butter from spoiling in the milk that’s left behind.
Once you’ve rinsed the butter of the milky residue… it’s time to mash… I have the butter in a stainless steel or glass bowl and grab a fork… I mash the butter releasing the trapped water. Pour the water off as you go. If the butter becomes too soft, simply put it in the refrigerator for an hour and then continue. The goal here is to get the water released so your toast isn’t soggy! Once this step is complete, I use mini loaf pans lined with plastic wrap. I make one pound loaves as seen in the picture. The bricks of butter freeze well and depending on how well you were able to rinse out the milk, they will keep in the refrigerator for some time! Please feel free to ask any questions. We are happy to help out fellow homesteader’s!

HAPPY HOMESTEADING!!!

Cheese Making 102

Today…. we will make cheese!

Now that we have found our healthy source of milk, whether you’re using goat’s milk or cow’s milk, we will begin the roughly five hour adventure of cheese making. I toss the five hour thing in there so you don’t start this project at ten o’clock in the evening an then curse me at three a.m.!!!

First thing you want to do is create a double boiler. I use a stock pot with a few wide mouth rings in the bottom. I fill it with water until the stainless steel bucket will fit inside and not overflow water all over the stove. The photo shows two thirteen quart stainless steel pails but you can make your cheese in a single one gallon batch as well. That’s the nice thing about making your own cheese, you can make how ever much you want! Here’s the recipe for a one gallon batch…

Colby Cheese

1 gal whole milk

¼ tsp MESOPHILIC II Culture

½ rennet tablet dissolved in ¼ cup cool water

½ Tbsp sea salt (or more if desired)

Warm milk to 86 degrees F. Add culture and mix thoroughly. Please understand that whisking ‘bruises’ the milk… gently stir the culture in once’s it has dissolved on top of the milk. Let it ripen at 86 degrees for one hour without disturbing. Covered holds the temperature more steady but isn’t required. While you’re waiting, dissolve the rennet into a 1/4 cup of cool water.

Once the hour is up… add dissolved rennet tablet and gently stir into milk throughout. Let milk set for 30-45 minutes undisturbed or until curd shows a “clean break” (when pressing your sterile tool into the cheese, it should be like breaking into texture like jello).

With long knife, slice through the curds to the bottom in 1 inch sections. Then do the same in the other direction. Once cubed, cut on an angle to not have long one inch strips… but instead cubes to your best ability. Let curd rest for 15 minutes to firm up.

Raise temperature of the curd 2 degrees every 5 minutes until temperature reaches 102 degrees. Stir very gently so curd particles do not mat together and yet aren’t bruised. Hold at 102 degrees for 30 minutes. Gently stir curd. Then let curd set undisturbed for 5 minutes to settle at bottom of pot.

Drain off the whey to level of the curd. Save the whey for baking, fermenting, etc. Add cool tap water until temperature of curd and water reaches 80 degrees. Stir gently while adding the water. Hold curd at 80 degrees for 15 minutes. Stir to keep from matting. (Moisture content of the cheese is controlled by the temperature of the water added… dryer cheese, keep at a few degrees higher than 80 degrees, if moister cheese is desired, keep at few degrees below 80 degrees.)

Pour curds into cheesecloth lined colander. Allow curds to drain 20 minutes.

Place curds into large bowl, add salt, and seasonings/herbs as desired. Mix thoroughly yet gently, breaking curds into thumbnail size pieces.

Place cheese into cheese cloth lined mold. Cover cheese completely with the cloth, placing follower on top. Press with 10-20 lbs pressure for several hours, or until no more whey is being released. (You will have to be creative to find ways to press the cheese with weight, sometimes a small place on top of the follower with hand weights works.)

Flip cheese and press with 8-15 lbs for another 8 hours.

Remove cheese from mold. Remove cheesecloth and place on drying rack to air dry for a day or two, flipping as needed, until a light/dry skin covers cheese. Your cheese is now ready to eat. Store covered in refrigerator. If mold appears on skin of cheese, gently wash it off with salt water soaked cheesecloth.

*If using store bought milk, and you have a hard time forming curds, you can try using a little more rennet, waiting another 15 minutes for curds to form, or obtain some calcium chloride from your local store, to be added when the culture is added.

*If aging is desired, wax and store at 50 degrees for 2-3 months. Turn the cheese daily for first couple days, then at least once a week until eaten.

*Remember, cheese making is an art, not an exact science. Many people change their recipe as they learn, trying different cultures, types of milk, different herbs, etc.

We have many styles of cheese making kits on the web-store… www.homesteadersupply.com

Please feel free to post any questions you have about cheese making or items used for cheese making!!! Look for future blogs on making butter, sour cream and yogurt!!!!!

I hope you enjoy the process of home made cheese as much as I do!!!

Nance

Cheese Making 101


When folks find out I have a dairy cow, who when freshened gives me about eight gallons of milk a day, the first question I’m asked is, “What do you do with all that milk?”
My response… MAKE CHEESE!!!

Homemade cheese is probably one of my favorite abilities that comes with owning a dairy cow. The texture and flavor are unmatched, in my opinion, by any supermarket cheese.

So, how does one go about making homemade cheese???

For me, it’s all about the milk. I have a Jersey / Guernsey cross dairy cow… yes, Cookie cow… she’s the cow in the first photo on the blog. I have her bred approximately every other year and then milk for about a year and a half. Just after calving she’ll offer eight or so gallons of milk a day. That decreases as the calf gets more hungry and as she gets on in the cycle. Right now I’m getting between 2 to 3 gallons a day and milk just in the evenings. She calved about a fifteen months ago.

The milk, or more importantly, the health of the cow (or goat) is a HUGE factor in cheese making success. I am a freak for clean! I wash Cookie’s teats before milking. I will only milk into a clean, sterilized food grade stainless steel bucket. I wash Cookie’s teats again after milking and then strain the milk into sterilized glass jars. I use painters tape to date the jar of milk and rotate stock in the refrigerator. When straining her milk, I’m watchful of anything hanging out in the filter. When a cow is fighting an infection in the udder, she will have flaking in the milk. It’s like little milk clots that won’t dissolve in warm water. (Milk clumps that do dissolve are simply butter fat) The clots are created by an increased Somatic cell count (SCC) and are really increased white blood cells responding to an unwelcome guest, bacteria being the most common. If these are present… it alters the ph level of the milk and makes cheese making more challenging. So, happy, healthy cows make healthy, happy cheese!!!

Once you have your healthy source of milk you’re certainly on your way to cheese making. Now, anyone who looks up cheese making on the internet will almost certainly be overwhelmed by the pages and pages of information written for people who already make cheese. So, how to decipher all of the at information…

Cheese making is achieved by adding a culture to milk at a certain temperature and then once the milk has had time to absorb the culture, you add rennet to convert the liquid to a jello type mass. In the pre-culture days… milk was set out on the counter to clabber. What this means is that good bacteria in the air inoculated the milk and raised the acid level of the milk. That’s how different cheeses came to exist… from different bacteria (good bacteria) being isolated to a specific region of the world. Over time, these single strains of bacteria were isolated and cultures were created so you could make Provolone cheese in Texas instead of having to clabber milk in Italy. There are two basic types of cultures that are the foundation of all cheese. Mesophilic and Thermophilic… in essence – buttermilk is a mesophilic culture and yogurt is a thermophilic culture. Blending the two can create even more varieties.

Mesophilic is the foundation for Colby, Cheddar, Feta and the like… Thermophilic is geared more towards Italian cheeses like Parmesan or Provolone. Lipase powder is added for that provolone taste. There is a mold culture that’s added to create blue cheese… really the possibilities are endless! As you progress in your cheese making art form.. you sample different types of mesophilic cultures because each one does have a unique taste! We carry three different varieties of mesophilic cultures and I enjoy the Danisco the best. It’s a very mild flavor and makes a wonderful cheese quesadilla!

Now to the rennet… there are as many varieties of rennet as there are cultures! Rennet is an enzyme which turns the milk into curds and whey. According to histories of cheese making, people in Egypt carried milk in a calve’s stomach and found it to separate into curds and whey… this simple accident was the foundation of storing milk as cheese to keep it from spoiling! Due to modern science the enzymes in a calve’s stomach have been duplicated into a vegetarian form. There is still calf rennet available, but I use Fromase rennet with wonderful consistency.

So, where do you buy cheese making stuff???? Anywhere!!! Before we started Homesteader’s Supply, I bought cheese making stuff from many folks online. My biggest struggle was consistency of the final product. This was one of the reasons for creating Homesteader’s Supply! We have found, in our opinion of coarse, the best source for cheese making information. We only recommend this one book because it’s the only one we use out of probably ten we own. Why make other people buy ten books too and then only use one? Our resource isThe Cheese Makers Manual” by Margaret Morris. It covers all aspects of cheese making from large, professional recipes to home cheese making recipes. There’s a wonderful troubleshooting section that came in handy on many occasions.

I’ll share this story with you. I like to make home made bread… I posted the recipe in an earlier blog. Well, all of a sudden the cheese curds GREW once in the press… smelled yeasty and became spongy! Come to find out (from the troubleshooting section of that book)… cheese curds absorb EVERYTHING and if yeast is in the air…. it will over take any other cultures you have in the cheese! Lesson learned… I could NOT make bread and cheese on the same day!!!

Cultures were another thing we’d order before Homesteader’s Supply and get in a little ziploc baggie. Some times the cheese would turn out great, other times it would taste funny or too strong. Each time I made cheese I was careful to use exactly the same amount of culture. Our quest for consistent cultures to produce consistent tasting cheese brought us to carry Danisco, Sacco and Abiasa cultures. Each hosting a specific flavor but all very reliable for the same flavor each time!

Rennet…. I’ve tried calf rennet, Marshals, JunkIT, liquid, tablets… all sorts of rennet varieties.. The best for setting a quality curd in my opinion??? Fromase! We carry liquid and calf rennet, but the only vegetarian tablet rennet we carry is the one that works for us time and time again.

I share all of this with you so you don’t spend the money I did testing, trying and figuring it all out. It’s up to you certainly… try anything you want. Just know, I’ve done it too and these are the items I liked the best and why we carry them on the store.

Look for the next blog on cheese making for the recipe we use for a great tasting Colby cheese… my quesadilla favorite!!!!!

The Dog Ate My….. Cheese?

Jerri comes by weekly and picks up five to eight gallons of milk from our Cookie cow to make cheese for both households. Our homestead works too many jobs and she doesn’t have milk cows, so the arrangement works out well. She picks up the milk, makes colby or cheddar cheese and we share the bounty, providing both homesteads with a great food source. So, a few days ago she made this amazing wheel of cheddar cheese. It was about four inches thick and about seven inches wide at the center of the wheel. She was so excited about how well it had turned out that she called bragging and explained that I could swing by and pick up some in a day or two when it was finished drying.
Well, this morning (the typical drop off cheese / pick up milk day) the phone starts ringing and I figure it was milk swap time. I answer it to hear… 
“I’m so bummed….Do you remember the old adage ‘The dog ate my homework?'”
“What?” I asked trying to follow the conversation..
“You know… the dog ate my homework…. well, I have a new one for you… the dog ate my cheese!” She says, thinking this will clarify things for me. My silence must have hinting to my ongoing confusion, so she continued, “I went into the kitchen to cut and wrap up the cheese so I could bring you some when I picked up milk and all I found was the cheese cloth on the tile floor. So, I’m looking everywhere wondering ‘where is the cheese?’… I can’t image that the dog ate an entire wheel of cheese!” She explains. 
Now lights are starting to go off… the cheddar cheese that she’d bragged about a couple of days ago. Well, I start laughing because all I hear in my head is that old lady saying ‘WHERE’S THE BEEF?’ in the Wendy’s commercials from the eighties.
Jerri continues her story over the phone, “So, I’m looking all over the house wondering where’s the cheese… looking for some sort of evidence… tiny cheese crumbles… anything. Finally, I look over to the couch and see the leg blanket crumpled up in the corner. Now I know I had folded it up on top of the couch last night. I walked over and lifted the blanket off the couch and here’s this small hidden chunk of chewed on cheese!”
Now I’m really laughing! The dog was saving it for a snack!
Jerri sighs and then continues into the phone, “So, I won’t be bringing cheese over today, but I do need more milk.”
Ah, life on a homestead. Could have been worse I suppose… she could have been thawing rib-eye steaks! Here’s the picture she sent just a few minutes ago… a recreation of the events!!! See the cheese piece by the stuffed donkey… LOL