First time cheese makers can start with a recipe for a simple hard cheese and use ingredients and utensils that are easily available. If you find that you enjoy cheese making, you can invest in cheese presses, larger pots, and more exotic cultures for flavors later.
Equipment you will need:
Large stainless steel or enameled pot with lid
Long blade knife
3 Tbl Cultured buttermilk (or 4 oz. active plain yogurt)
2 Tbl Salt
1 rennet “junket” tablet – usually found in the baking or canning supplies section of most large supermarkets; sometimes they are with puddings or homemade ice cream supplies.
Sterilize your pot and lid with steam by boiling a little water for 6+ minutes. Dump the water out.
To two gallons milk, add active buttermilk. Stir, cover with lid, and let stand at room temperature of 70°F for 5-8 hours.
Dissolve the rennet tablet in 2 Tbl cold water and set aside. Heat the milk slowly to 86°F, stirring to keep it from burning. Turn off heat. Stir rennet solution into warm milk. Replace lid. Let it sit undisturbed for at least one, and up to three hours.
The curd should form during this time. After one hour, begin testing for a “clean breaking” curd. A clean break means the curd can support its own weight when prodded with a finger. If your finger gets covered with a custardy slime, it is either not ready, the milk was not fresh, or the temperatures were off.
Cut the curd in lines at ½ inch intervals with a long blade that reaches the bottom of the pot. Turn the pot 90° and repeat. The top pattern will look like squares. Rotate and cut twice more, but this time cut at an angle so that you are creating little ½ inch diamond-shaped cubes below the surface. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. The whey will begin coming out of the cheese while it rests. Pour off most of the whey.
Now it’s time to cook the curd to 96° (for semi-firm) to 102° (very firm). Stir continuously until it has the consistency of scrambled eggs.
Pour into a colander that has been lined with several layers of cheese cloth, and let the curds drain for a couple minutes. While the curd is still warm, work 1½ to 2 Tbl salt into the curd with very clean hands or use food service gloves.
It’s time to press the cheese. If you do not have a cheese press, you can make one from nearly any washable cylinder. A smooth sided tin can with the ends removed works well. The cylindrical midsection of some plastic jars may work. If you will be making cheese regularly, you can make a reusable cheese press from a section of 6″ diameter PVC pipe. You will also need a rigid disk that is just a little smaller in diameter than your cylinder to use as a follower.
Triple-layer the cheesecloth and stuff it into the cylinder like a bag liner. The ‘bag’ will hold the curds. Place this in a pot or on a deep tray that can catch the excess whey from the pressing. Put the salted curd into the cloth bag while it’s still warm. If it cools too much before it is molded, you will have crumbly cheese. Pull up the sides to reduce wrinkles. Put the follower on top and add weight from what ever is handy: bricks, water filled jars, etc.
Leave it in the press overnight. Remove the cheese and re wrap in fresh cloth. Refrigerate it for several days until a rind forms, turning the cheese twice a day and replacing the cloth if it gets soggy. For extra flavor, seal the cheese in wax after the rind forms. Age it in the refrigerator for two to six months.