Cheese Making - Getting Started

To make cheese, the first thing needed is, of course, milk. Unless you are in the position to have a cow or goat in the back garden, then like me, you will probably need to buy this commodity; this is one of those rare times when a supermarket comes in handy, their milk is cheap and they have a variety of acceptable quality milks, especially for the new starter. However, I am aware that for some, supermarket milk is a matter of conscience, so wherever you get your milk is up to you really.

The next thing required is a stainless steel pan, I started and was successful with a one gallon (5 litre) pan, I have now, however, moved on to a 2 gallon (9 litre) pan. You will need a roasting tin to form a water bath or 'Bain Marie'. Also a stainless steel slotted kitchen spoon is required. All of these you may already have as part of your kitchen utensils, but what you will need is a food, or milk, thermometer. You can get these reasonably priced over the internet or from good kitchen utensil shops.

You will then need to decide if you want to make your cheese using natural products or if you would like to purchase the aid of science. Such things as chemical starters can be bought from cheese making shops along with animal rennet, but you can produce a starter bacteria yourself and you can use vegetable rennet if you so desire.

Also, you need to think about what milk you would like to use. Surprisingly enough, semi skimmed milk will work just as well as any other to make cheese; this is because the process of cheese making involves the interaction between bacteria (natural) and the natural sugar (lactose) present in milk. The bacteria converts the lactose into lactic acid, once a coagulant is added, the milk protein 'casein' curdles to form a solid mass of curd which then separates from the whey. How you achieve this and how you process the curd, has an impact on the cheese you make.

Unless you want to form your cheese by draining and hand forming, you will need to use some form of mould to form the shape of the cheese. I have, in the past used cream and yogurt cartons as moulds for soft goats cheese; this proves you don’t need to invest in equipment, however, that’s up to you.