cheesy like david hasselhoff
October 31, 2012 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Are there any cheeses which are worthwhile to make myself?

I am a pretty decent home cook and I enjoy making things from scratch when it makes a difference. I think I make a better pie crust than the bakery and even with great bread just across the street, bread fresh from the oven is superior.

So in the spirit of getting a superior result: are there any cheeses I should try to make? I am close to some farms so could get raw materials. I have only made paneer (under close supervision) before.
posted by shothotbot to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Homemade mozzarella is super easy and tasty. And a great source for home cheesemaking supplies is New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. Check out their basic kits for ideas of cheeses that are easy to make in a home kitchen.
posted by illenion at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've done a fair bit of reading on cheesemaking, though I've only ever made paneer and labneh.

For quality for the beginning cheesemaker, I suspect the answer is "no", although the 30 minute mozzarella looked interesting. But this website is a fantastic guide to cheesemaking.
posted by zug at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by edgeways at 7:48 PM on October 31, 2012

Mozzarella and ricotta are both dead easy to make and really awesome. You need to find non-ultrapasteurized milk. (Regular pasteurized is OK. Raw is ideal, since you'll effectively pasteurize it as part of the cheesemaking process, but hard to find.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2012

Ricotta for sure. It's the same basic idea as paneer, but instead of weighting/draining the cheese overnight, you leave it creamy.

You can actually start with a ricotta recipe and make a few different types of cheeses with it. Ricotta with most of the whey still in is, well, ricotta. Drain it for a few hours, till it's a little firmer but still spreadable, and you've got farmer's cheese. Drain overnight and you've got paneer. I've never tried this, but supposedly you can brine the paneer and end up with something a lot like feta.

You can do the same technique with goat's milk, drain for the same amount of time as farmer's cheese, and get chevre.

If you enjoy all that stuff, you may want to start messing with mozzarella and cultured cheeses.

Homemade ricotta is a million times better than the kind in the dairy section at the store. The drier cheeses mentioned above (farmer's/chevre, paneer, "apparently feta-esque") may or may not be better, but they're still interesting to try at home and very simple.

You don't need to get raw milk from farms to make any of these cheeses, though it's not a good idea to use ultra-pasteurized milk (for this reason I tend to use conventional rather than organic, though if you can find organic milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized, that would be great of course). Cheese made from ultra-pasteurized milk tends to be gummy rather than creamy. Still edible, but not nearly as tasty.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Make cottage cheese: personally, I think all the store brands in the US are atrocious, and it's worth the effort to make your own.

Skyr sits on the border between yogurt and cheese: it uses rennet, so it's not the same as strained yogurt, but it also uses a starter, so it's not the same as paneer or mozzarella.
posted by holgate at 7:59 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ricotta! So easy, and so much better than the grocery variety. I've also made mascarpone, but found the cost/flavor was about equal to good-quality store bought.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:02 PM on October 31, 2012

haloumi [haloomi/halumi/...]!
It starts with mozzarella, and then you brine it a bit and press it a bit.
It is the tastiest [like salty mozzarella!] and you can grill it on the bbq for the most amazing browned cheese flavour ever.

It is also kind of expensive when you buy it, so making it saves a bit of money.
I don't have a particular recipe for you, but I recommend finding one!
posted by Acari at 8:21 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Many people including myself have found that it is easier to learn hard cheesemaking if you start with soft cheeses-- which start with yogurt, mostly. So I'd encourage you to begin there. I've written before about a good way to get your feet wet in the hobby without buying any special equipment other than a candy thermometer. Making yogurt the way Dr. Fankhauser suggests is not only fun, but naturally leads you towards making hard cheeses if you are interested. (Totally off-topic, but the scientist who created the great pages I linked to was one of the original 1960's "Freedom Riders"-- a civil rights activist. On his yogurt website you can even see his mug shot from a 1961 arrest during a demonstration in Mississippi. It doesn't make the cheese taste any better, but it is still double cool!)
posted by seasparrow at 8:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Paneer is quite easy to make, and can be rather expensive to buy in stores depending on where you live. The home-made version also tends to be very tender in texture, which is nice compared to the rubberiness of a lot of store-bought brands.
posted by threeants at 8:54 PM on October 31, 2012

Also came in to suggest paneer, which I believe doesn't even need renin.
posted by windykites at 9:13 PM on October 31, 2012

The only ingredients in paneer are literally milk and your acid of choice.
posted by threeants at 9:21 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Relatedly, making tofu at home is essentially the same as making a basic fresh cheese, just using a soy milk rather than animal milk. If that's the sort of thing that interests you, give it a shot. Fun!
posted by mumkin at 10:30 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing paneer. Here is the recipe from Manjula's Kitchen.
posted by HFSH at 2:50 AM on November 1, 2012

"Mozzarella and ricotta are both dead easy to make and really awesome. You need to find non-ultrapasteurized milk. (Regular pasteurized is OK. Raw is ideal, since you'll effectively pasteurize it as part of the cheesemaking process, but hard to find.)"

This is only really true for many but not all harder cheeses, and then only true for cheese makers who both know what they are doing and properly age their cheeses. Soft cheeses, and especially the kinds of cheeses that are most accessible to home cheese makers, as well as yoghurts, puddings, and ice creams are just as dangerous as the milk they are made from.

While Ultra-Pasteurization does not have a meaningful effect on the nutritional value of milk, it does have a large effect on the ability of milk to turn into cheese and is not recommended for this purpose. That said, the regular pasteurization process is designed specifically to not have this same effect and there is no special benefit to using raw milk. Through the parallel woo economy you may be able to find milk that is likely to be more fresh, which will aid your efforts, or even better milk from different breeds of cow - milk from Jersey cattle is AMAZING, and especially good for beginner types of cheese.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:38 AM on November 1, 2012

I second Zug that Labneh is extremely easy.
The only ingredients are plain yogurt and salt and there is practically no preparation required.
It is super flexible and can be be served with brunch, as part of a middle eastern dinner or as an appetizer.
Now, I want to make haloumi.
posted by jazh at 4:50 AM on November 1, 2012

Pointing out to all that the OP has stated she HAS made paneer before....

I've made mozarella and ricotta before; I used the mozarella kit from New England Cheesemakers linked above. It was easy, but fair warning that the kit isn't set up QUITE well for someone who may want a smaller batch than they offer (I recall having to split a tablet because I wanted to halve the batch, and the other half is still in a baggie shoved way into the back of my freezer because I simply haven't gotten around to trying again).

Ricotta from scratch was dead easy even WITHOUT a kit, though; I tried it with the kit and then without and it worked great both times. Labneh is also dead easy - just drain yogurt overnight and add a little salt to taste.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 AM on November 1, 2012

I've done mozarella, ricotta (loose and pressed), paneer, and queso fresco.

In my opinion, the mozzarella was a ton of fun but not actually "worth it" when it comes to wanting good cheese to eat. Taking a gallon of milk and creating a softball-sized of cheese is highly entertaining and makes a great "have a couple of friends over and do something cool in the kitchen" kind of evening. Bringing a handmade mozzarella-and-prosciutto log to a party is a great conversation piece. However, when it comes to just eating the cheese either in little balls or in slices, it's really nothing special; it's as good as the cheese from the store that I don't much like, but falls far short of my favorite brands.

Making paneer on the other hand, makes a lot of sense; I don't have an Indian grocery nearby, and I like making saag. Ricotta is stupidly easy, so there's no real reason not to; except that I don't eat a lot of ricotta so I don't do it much.

So, absolutely you should try it, because it's fun and amazing to create cheese out of milk. But if you want "better cheese" you may be underwhelmed.
posted by aimedwander at 7:08 AM on November 1, 2012

I"ve tried making ricotta and labneh at home. Although it was interesting to learn aboutthe process, it doesn't seem worth it to me. Its a bit messy and I"m pretty sure it was actually more expensive to make it yourself than to buy an equivalent amount at the supermarket. (I suspect due to producers buying milk in bulk its cheaper).

Personally I think cows milk mozzarella is pretty bland. so unless you can get cheap Buffalo milk is there any point in making mozzarella?

Similarly I like soft goats cheese but goats milk in the supermarket is more expensive than the cheese.

So, I"d say do it once for kicks then just buy it at the fromagerie.
posted by mary8nne at 7:50 AM on November 1, 2012

I have never made cheese. But if I did, I might start with burrata, because it's so delicious, should be eaten very fresh, sometimes hard to get, and relatively expensive to buy. Here's a recipe that is half from-scratch, and one that's fully from-scratch.

And after I made it, I'd lay down a nice bed of greens, put warmed burrata on it, garnish with roasted grapes, drizzle with balsamic and then eat it and just die of pure happiness.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 7:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, seasparrow! Seconding Fankhauser.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:08 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've made the Smitten Kitchen ricotta mentioned by Sara C. above, and I'm telling you, you'll never buy ricotta again. No comparison; same with mozz.
Raw milk resouces
Don't throw away the whey.
posted by JABof72 at 8:15 AM on November 1, 2012

I've just started making some cheese and have found it really fun. It's really simple to make Chevre.
If you want a good introduction to cheese making with some hand-holding I recommend Mary Karlin's Artisan Cheesemaking Craftsy course.
posted by mister e at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2012

Worth it?

Hard to say what is worth it. Ricotta, mascarpone, creme fraiche, butter and yogurt are all fairly simple and very delicious made fresh with good ingredients. Fresh goat cheeses are equally delightful and simple chevre mixed with your own fresh herbs is divine.

I have made a handful of quick mozzarella recipes. It is fun to do but I don't consider it "worth it" necessarily. Quick mozz is not like regular mozzarella which is not quick and your results will be different than you expect. Do it for the experience and then buy your mozz from a decent source.

And that goes for most cheeses. I have one experience making my own cheddar and it was laborious and required a number of different tools and implements not to mention the right environment and ultimately, it's not worth it to me. Again, great fun and an interesting experience but I have decided that supporting my local cheesemakers and all their very hard work is more important (and delicious) than making my own.

But, if you were to make just one "cheese" -- yogurt. So worth it if you like yogurt -- you can make many batches based on one mother culture and it's SCIENCE and yummy.

I have written about some of my home cheesemaking adventures on my cheese blog which you can find linked in my profile. Do a search for farmhouse cheddar and for yogurt.
posted by amanda at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2012

It's probably worth nothing that "superior" probably depends on where you live. In France and Britain for example, it's pretty unlikely any cheese you make at home would be as good as what you could buy more cheaply in the local supermarket. I can't speak for the US or anywhere else in the world.
But if it's a sense of satisfaction; I made goat cheese once (mix lime juice into Goat's milk and leave hung in cheese cloth) and mixed with herbs and was indeed really nice. But it was no better than buying from a local shop or supermarket in Sheffield.
posted by chill at 12:48 AM on November 2, 2012

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