Monday, January 21, 2013

Novice cheesemaker

My cheesemaking journey began simply, turning milk from Hilhof Dairy into yogurt and kefir. I knew, even then, that I wanted to wander down the dairying path. Here is my first experiment with something that resembles cheese (read: requires setting a curd, cutting it, and cooking and rinsing).

Cottage cheese
Adapted from/inspired by recipes from Ricki Carroll and Mother Earth News


  • Stainless steel pot big enough to hold all the ingredients. You want one that has a lid that fits.
  • Thermometer. It's awesome if it's the kind that can clip on to your pot. Mine does not, and I survive.
  • Glass/pyrex measuring cup
  • 10-inch kitchen knife
Make sure everything is clean when you start. I didn't sterilize, but if you have trouble with contamination, that'd be one thing to try.


  • 1/2 gallon skim milk (thanks to Hilhof Dairy)
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (the kind you buy in the store)

The milk I buy is pasteurized (but not ultrapasteurized). If you start with raw milk, everybody says it's best to pasteurize it so that you are starting with a bacterial culture that you pick (from the buttermilk). That's between you and your buttermilk. 

Step 1: Setting the curd

  • Bring milk to room temperature by heating or just by sitting out in a pan while you get distracted by other chores. You're aiming for about 75 degrees. 
  • I let the buttermilk sit out for a bit too, to bring it up to room temperature.
  • Stir the buttermilk into the pot of skim milk. Cover, and place in a warm spot (70-75 degrees).
  • Let it sit for 16 hours (at least), probably closer to 24. You want it to resemble custard.

Note: For weekday cheesery, I do this at 7 or 8 p.m., so that when I get home from work the next day, I can check it first thing. If it needs a few more hours, I am still ok to finish the cheese before bed. On weekends, or in my daydream farm life, I'd do it at 9 or 10 in the morning.

Tomorrow evening, I'll move on to step 2...

Step 2: Cutting the curd

Step 3: Cooking/heating to separate

Step 4: Draining and washing