Soft Cheeses: Where To Start?

Making cheese at home is great fun. With a minimum of special equipment, you may produce really delicious cheeses right in your kitchen using basic ingredients. However, if you are a beginner, I recommend starting with soft cheeses. They are easier to make and taste great when eaten fresh. 

To start the journey of cheesemaking, you will need:

  • stainless steel large pan
  • large colander
  • large bowl
  • measuring spoons and cups
  • skimmer spoon
  • thermometer
  • muslin cheesecloths
  • soft cheese molds

What do you need to know before starting the journey?

  • use stainless steel, ceramic or plastic equipment only
  • always sterilize all equipment before use
  • heat milk gently to avoid burning it
  • mind the temperature of the ingredients as mentioned in your recipe
  • don’t over stir when adding rennet or lemon juice
  • always cover developing cheese
  • keep the cheese away from strong-flavored food
  • store fresh cheese in an airtight container and discard it immediately at the first sign of mold

What kind of milk to use for cheesemaking?

My personal philosophy, in this case, is to stick to traditions. And traditionally, only raw unpasteurized unhomogenized milk is the best choice for cheesemaking. The best cheeses are still made out of raw milk. While pasteurized milk can also make good cheese, I recommend using raw milk wherever possible. The homogenization process alters the fat structure and may affect the end result. 

Making soft cheese is the same for cow, goat, or sheep milk. Sheep milk usually contains a higher proportion of solids, making slightly more cheese per gallon of milk. What yield can you expect from homemade cheese? Basically, it depends on how much whey you drain from the curd. If you use raw milk, you may expect that the cured will be 20% of the initial weight of the milk. Drying, pressing, and aging is what reduce the weight of your cheese. The end result may be just 5-10 % of the original weight. 

Now Get Started To Make Soft Cheese!

A few general basic principles are the same for making all soft cheeses. To make cheese, you will need:

  • Heat the milk. Do it slowly, stirring it frequently, but for the best result, I recommend using a «water bath,» which is indirect heating.
  • Add starter culture and rennet or acidic coagulant as lemon juice or citric acid. At this stage, the milk proteins and fats form the curd. Once the milk has curdled, you need to separate the solid portion from liquid whey. While the curd is for your future cheese, the whey is also really useful in many recipes like cakes, smoothies, crepes, or bread baking. 
  • Drain only well-formed curd. Place the colander with cheesecloth or muslin over a large bowl and pour in the curd. Once the primary liquid has drained, tie the corners of the muslin together to form a bag and hang it over a bowl for further draining.
  • When the whey stops dripping, add salt to improve flavor and increase the shelf life of your cheese. You may transfer the cheese to a mold for more pressing at this stage. 
  • Pay careful attention to hygiene at all times. Micro-organisms that occur naturally and help us in cheesemaking prevent the other unfriendly microbes from growing, but these unfriendly microbes can still develop. Discard the cheese immediately if there is a growth of black or blue molds or you notice red staining. 
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