It ain't easy being cheesy!
April 5, 2011 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to try my hand at making my own cheese...

I love cheese, realllly I do! So I want to give it a go and make my own.

I've looked online to find some cheese-making kits, but any website I've found tends to look like it's put together by some lady in a trailer between her in-home child day-care services. (no offense to anyone here who runs a daycare service and makes cheese out of their double-wide)

Any recommendations out there for a quality cheese-making kit, or a website that can get me up to the basics and let me assemble my own kit?
posted by matty to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
We tried making mozzarella with this kit and it turned out really gritty. We followed the directions to the letter, but there were too many vague steps and we obviously messed it up somehow.
posted by egeanin at 4:25 PM on April 5, 2011

I have taken a cheesemaking class and the instructor did not recommend trying to make mozzarella on your first attempt. In the class we made queso blanco (easy!), Chevre (still easy) and feta (a little more difficult but worth it).
He recommended this book and website, even though it does look a little outdated.
posted by Duffington at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2011

so i've helped my mom make cheese a bunch of times, and she uses this book. the author lives in our area and apparently sells the various cultures and cheesecloths and stuff as well, online I think. everything we've made has been edible, most of it has been fantastic. the most amazing thing was making cheddar, seeing it sit on a shelf for 6 months, then eating it (it was delicious!). motz or paneer are both good first cheeses, but make sure you get raw, unpasturized milk- it won't work with the supermarket stuff.
posted by genmonster at 4:45 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Relatively accomplished home cheese maker here.

I wouldn't get a kit. You need cheesecloth or floursack towels, and cultures and rennet. (As well as milk, salt, wax, a pot, a thermometer, and a range, but you knew that. ;) )If you get really good, you'll need a mold or wheel, and weights, but these can be improvised very easily.

I'd start by making yogurt. It's like... cheese pushups. Then, I'd get this book, which is full of recipes that actually work and a wonderful resource section to get every bit of cheese equipment you could ever want.
posted by Leta at 4:50 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oops, genmonster beat me to it!
posted by Leta at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2011

Oh, and I have to disagree- I use raw milk when I can get it, but I use supermarket milk, too. It can be pasteurized, just not ultra pasteurized.
posted by Leta at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paneer is easy!

And I agree, don't try for mozz for a while. It's damn hard. Mine never spun and I ended up with something that was actually... a lot like paneer. So I made paneer tikka masala out of it.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:27 PM on April 5, 2011

Suzanne McMinn has been learning to make cheese and documenting her efforts over at
Chickens in the Road - with her posts about it under the cheesemaking tag. If I was going to try to make cheese (and I'm tempted!) she seems to have a lot of good advice.
posted by lemniskate at 5:27 PM on April 5, 2011

Oh and this is my favorite cheesemaking website. There's science and step-by-step photos and it's written by a chemist. But it's not like sitting through a cheese lecture.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:29 PM on April 5, 2011

I've taken a cheese class with Ricki Carroll (author of Home Cheese Making recommended by several above and owner of New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, also already recommended). I get what you're saying about her basic mozz kit. In general, I think her products are great, but what I would recommend you do is this (assuming you don't want to start with a class somewhere, which is probably your best bet):

1. First try making something very simple that doesn't involve any specialty ingredients, such as this dead simple ricotta. This process is very similar to queso fresco, paneer, etc. You need a big stainless steel pot, a thermometer (actually not 100% necessary for this but a good idea to help you learn what's going on in there; dairy thermometer if possible but a candy thermometer will be fine for now), a stainless steel ladle, cheesecloth, and a place to hang it up to try.

2. If everything goes well with that and you enjoy it, your next step would be mozzarella. Go with Ricki's kit or another mozz kit or buy stuff a la carte; they're all basically going to be the same and include an acidifying agent (e.g., citric acid), a thermometer, and rennet (most kits include rennet tablets, but if possible I'd go with liquid rennet because I find it easier to use). For this one, you have to be careful you get either raw or pasteurized milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized; ultra-pasteurization happens at such a high temperature that the protein in the milk is damaged and it won't turn into cheese). I believe you can use ultra-pasteurized for the ricotta above, but I've only made it with regular pasteurized so I can't be 100% sure.

3. Once you master that, you can go on to other cheeses, graduating to hard cheese like cheddar, etc.

I always buy my supplies etc from Ricki and can recommend New England Cheesemaking Supply. I imagine there are other companies out there that are good too, but I only have experience with that one. Also there's this new book that's just come out about home dairying; I haven't seen or read it yet, but it's on my wish list!

I've actually taught a couple of classes on beginning cheesemaking myself. I wouldn't say I'm a full-on expert or anything, but if you have more basic and beginning questions, feel free to memail me!
posted by hansbrough at 6:04 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Forgot to add that Leta's tip of yogurt as a beginner project is a great idea! Do that, too.
posted by hansbrough at 6:05 PM on April 5, 2011

Seconding the ricotta from 101 Cookbooks - really simple and really delicious, especially if you mix in some chopped herbs and olive oil. Plus it is quick and confidence building. Because in 10 minutes, you made cheese! From milk! It's awesome!

And tasty.
posted by firei at 6:27 PM on April 5, 2011

Try this site. I haven't worked my way up to the cheese recipes yet (though I've made ginger ale, labneh, and paneer) but his instructions are excellent and he's very used to novices needing very explicit instructions and photos.
posted by Maximian at 6:30 PM on April 5, 2011

Seconding elsietheeel on Fankhouser's cheese website. I taught myself from that site two summers ago and made it all the way up to bleu cheese. It was an admittedly ghetto result, but it was bleu cheese and no one died from eating it. I consider that success.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:47 PM on April 5, 2011

Seconding both Fankhauser and Ricki Carroll's website and book. The quick mozz you make from those kits is very different from real mozz which is very time-consuming. However, it's a fun and easy cheese to make and you can (and should) eat it right away.

Yogurt is also good fun and easy to make. I used a run of the mill cooler for incubating my yogurt and it kept temp really well. Chevre is also easy and soft cheeses like paneer, ricotta and marscapone are simple, too. I've written about most of theses cheeses and other cheese making adventures on my blog which looks pretty good IMHO -
posted by amanda at 8:12 AM on April 6, 2011

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