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. Continue reading

Celebrate Dairy Month: Whip Up Some Neufchatel!

Making Cheese, Butter and Yogurt Book

Over 10,000 years of cheese making (plus butter and yogurt making) wisdom is contained in this bulletin. Outlines in detail everything you need to know – from equipment and ingredients, to pasteurizing your own milk, to great recipes for fresh, wholesome, delicious dairy products you make right in your own kitchen. By expert cheesemaker Ricki Carroll

Ricki Carroll Home Cheesemaking from lehmans.comKathy Anderson is an enthusiastic cook, and always enjoys a challenge. “Cream cheese,” she said. “How hard could it be? It’s a soft cheese, so the most it’ll take is time.” Below, she shares her adventure, step by step, including how she handled the purchase of a major ingredient! (She’s lucky: her Brownsburg, IN-area dairy delivers to her door!)

Prep: March 31, 2014

I ended up determined to try Neufchatel recipe from Home Cheese Making. I had intended to make Cream Cheese, but somehow had spaced on the fact that I was getting milk, not cream. Since I had the milk, I went for Neufchatel, which is make from milk rather than cream, although the finished texture is similar to cream cheese.

  • Received two gallons Pastures Delights Dairy raw whole milk:
    One gallon from 26-Mar-2014; one gallon from 30-Mar-2014.

I had no pot large enough for two gallons of milk, so I decided to experiment.  I would make two batches of identical cheese, with the only variable being the milk’s date.  From here on:

  • “Silver” refers to the batch prepared in the stainless steel pan, with milk dated 26-Mar-2014.
  • “Orange” refers to the batch prepared in the orange enameled cast iron pan, with milk dated 30-Mar-2014.

 

Process

  • 6:15 p.m. – Set both pans on heat at setting 5 on my stove, a medium heat.  Stirred both pans frequently to distribute heat.
  • 6:26 p.m. – Silver over 80°F; probably 87°F at the highest.  Removed from heat and continued to stir to bring down temperature.
  • 6:27 p.m. – Orange batch at 81°F.  Removed from heat.
  • Cheese starting kit: mesophilic and thermophilic starters, rennet powder, wax, more.

    Lehman’s Cheese Starters and Supplies pack includes mesophilic starter and rennet. See more at Lehmans.com.

    6:30 p.m. – Both batches at 80°F.  Added to each:
    1 packet Mesophilic Starter
    1 tsp. Rennet, mixed from 3 drops Concentrated Vegetable Rennet dissolved in 1/3 cup cool water.

  • Stirred to mix.
  • Placed both pots in oven for safekeeping. (We have two cats and two dogs, one of which is a Great Dane mix. Conveniently for him, his head is counter height. This is not so convenient for us.)

April 1,2014

  • 6:30 a.m. – Checked both batches.  They didn’t look “like yogurt” as specified in the recipe, so I let them sit.
  • 5:44 p.m. – Checked both batches using an offset frosting knife.  Thickness and texture looked good.

 

  •  Set up for draining:  Cut ½ piece butter muslin for each batch.
  •  Carefully ladled slices of Silver curd into butter muslin in mesh colander.  Noticed that in addition to the curd being amazingly opaque and creamy-looking, there was a noticeable yellow layer on top.  Maybe because the milk was of such good quality, there was extra butterfat?

Splitting the Batches

Turns out ½ piece butter muslin wasn’t close to having enough capacity for a 1-gallon batch where you end up with 100% soft curds instead of cut curds!  The batch filled the colander to the brim, and I didn’t have enough overlap to pull the corners up and start draining.

  • Second set up for draining: Put ½ piece cheesecloth in large red baskets so remaining curd could drain.
  • Transferred Silver curd till it filled the red basket.  This left barely enough slack in the butter muslin to create a hanging bundle, using kitchen twine.
  • To keep consistent, repeated the entire process (put everything into butter muslin; then transferred part to red basket) with Orange curd.

Tied hanging bundles to kitchen cabinet handles, placing bowls beneath to catch whey.

  • Placed baskets in oven for safekeeping, set on a baking sheet to catch whey.
  • 9:26 p.m. – Had over 1 gallon whey, including the baking sheet being full and hard to move without spilling.  Collected all whey into large pan.

April 2, 2014

  • 6:36 a.m. – Had 1.75 gallons whey.  Collected all whey into large pan.  Didn’t like how hanging batches were draining; they still seemed very soft.  Cut them down (left bundles tied) and placed the bundles in mesh colanders set over bowls to catch the whey.

 

  •  6:00 p.m.: Unwrapped all batches. Tested texture and moisture by scooping out a spoonful of each batch.
  • Texture, best to less optimal (all were still excellent):
  1. Orange basket
  2. Silver basket
  3. Orange hanging
  4. Silver hanging
  • Transferred all batches to individually labeled containers.
  • Stirred hanging batches (individually) to try to equalize texture.  There were still lumps; probably need to whisk them.
  • Collected all whey for final time.  Total was a bit more than 1 ¾ gallons.  Will use on plants.

Weighing and Tasting

Orange basket:  1 lb., 2 7/8 oz.  (18.875 oz.)

Taste test, orange curd basket batch.

Taste test, orange curd basket batch.

Silver basket:  1 lb., 3 ¾ oz.  (19.75 oz.)

Taste test. Silver curd drained only.

Taste test. Silver curd drained only.

Orange hanging:  1 lb., 8 1/8 oz.  (24.125 oz.)

Taste test, hanging batch, orange curd.

Taste test, hanging batch, orange curd.

Silver hanging:  1 lb., 4 ¾ oz.  (20.75 oz.)

Silver hanging curd batch, finished in colander. Taste test.

Silver hanging curd batch, finished in colander. Taste test.

Total weight:  5 lb., 3.5 oz.  (83.5 oz.)

  • Orange batch total:  2 lb., 11 oz.  (43 oz.)
  • Silver batch total:  2 lb., 8.5 oz.  (40.5 oz.)

I tasted all batches.  Other than texture, the only difference I noticed was that the basket batches were less tangy, perhaps from having less whey remaining.  All batches were tasty.  My favorite for both taste and texture:  Orange basket batch.

Conclusions

  • Fresher milk (4 days younger) did have a higher yield.
  • Recipe estimated yield was 2 pounds per gallon, so I imagine the high-quality raw milk is responsible for the significantly higher yield than the recipe estimate.
  • This recipe (and maybe all soft-curd recipes?) benefits from going into a basket/colander directly instead of being hung first.
  • No point in cutting butter muslin or cheesecloth into smaller pieces, unless to line very small molds.
  • Tasty and awesome!