Cheesemaking for Beginners

Homemade RicottaEditor’s Note: Get the crackers ready. We’re closing out National Dairy Month with cheesemaking! It’s our pleasure to introduce Lindsay Lehman Peters, daughter of CEO Galen Lehman. Lindsay recently made cheese for the first time and is now sharing with us the tips and tricks she learned along the way.

I love making things from scratch. Thanks to growing up in a town that values simplicity and doing things with your own hands, it’s come naturally to me!

In the past years I have tried out more and more things. Homemade bread, homebrewed kombucha, even laundry detergent and soap. However, I’ve stopped short at making cheese.

Cheese? That’s way too complicated.

At least that’s what I thought. This past Christmas I even went as far as asking for a cheese making kit from Lehman’s but, despite the box’s proclamations that it was simple and would only take 30 minutes, the kit still sat unused.

Then, this past week I pulled it off the shelf, and I’m here to tell you that it actually is that simple.

Lehman’s Easy to Use Cheese Making Kit

cheesemaking kit

Here’s everything that comes in the kit. Available at Lehmans.com

The kit comes with all the supplies you need. The only thing you need is milk! It’s very important to make sure that you buy fresh milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. I went with a brand of whole milk that is produced locally and I know I can trust.

The kit includes a recipe book that allows you to choose between making your own ricotta or mozzarella. I had some mozzarella on hand already, and I’ve been itching to make a homemade lasagna, so I went with the ricotta.

I’d recommend starting with ricotta to any other apprehensive beginners out there, as from the looks of it, the ricotta is the simpler recipe of the two.

The kit comes with enough supplies for 30 one pound batches and includes a recipe booklet, 8 oz citric acid, 8 oz cheese salt, 1 yd. cheesecloth, a dairy thermometer, and 10 rennet tablets.

Beginner Steps for Fresh, Homemade Ricotta Cheese

For the ricotta, you don’t need the rennet tablets, so to get started, simply pull out the salt, citric acid, and a stainless steel pot. The recipe book recommends against using aluminum or cast iron.

To avoid any lumping, combine a small amount of the milk with the salt and citric acid and stir until smooth. Then add the mixture to the rest of the milk in the stainless steel pot.

Stirring

Stirring the mixture

You want the milk to reach 185°F, so I set the burner to medium low. After a while, I realized that it was moving a little too slowly, so I moved it up to medium high and continued testing the temperature frequently. After about 20 minutes, it had hit 185°F. As soon as it does, move it off the burner and let it sit.

Next, I prepared my cheesecloth. I set my cheesecloth on top of a strainer, however, the strainer is not necessary. I then poured the curds and whey through the cheesecloth. There are a lot of different things you can do with whey, so, if you want to save it, make sure to have another pot set below the cheesecloth to catch it. Once everything was filtered out, I took the opposite corners of the cheesecloth and tied them together, making a hammock of sorts. You can choose to hang this anywhere (what was easiest for me was to simply hang it on my sink faucet). That part of the process took just over half an hour. Considering that I started with low heat and was reading directions and taking pictures as I went, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly things went!

Straining Ricotta

Straining the ricotta

Achieving the Perfect Texture for Your Ricotta Cheese

To get the perfect firmness for your cheese, the cheesecloth needs to sit for at least 30 minutes to let any excess moisture drain off, but you can let it continue to drain if you’d like a firmer cheese. I ended up going out for a run and came back to the cheese about an hour and a half later. The result was a nice firm, but still moist ball of ricotta. All I had left to do was to rinse the cheese cloth in cold water, hang it out to dry, and stick the ricotta in the fridge.

The next day I made lasagna with it, and I couldn’t be happier. Really, that’s it! The hardest part was the patience it took to wait for the milk to heat up.

Lasagna

Homemade lasagna, including the cheese!

I encourage you to check out the cheese making kit for yourself. In 35 minutes and some drain time, you can get your own homemade ricotta too!

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lindsay lehman petersLindsay Lehman Peters is the granddaughter of Founder Jay Lehman and daughter of CEO Galen Lehman. She lives in Kidron with her husband, Grant, and her two furbabies. Lindsay is a teacher by trade and is currently training for her first half marathon.