Cheese is produced from milk due
to the activity of special dairy bacteria and the action of rennet.
These act on the proteins in milk, causing them to coalesce into a
gel-like curd which is the beginning of cheese. Cheese may be made from
almost any kind of milk – goat’s, sheep’s, powdered dry, skimmed, 1%,
2%, etc. (See
Our mission is to make it as easy as possible for you to make cheese at home. In
addition to all the information on our website, we have a
wonderful blog covering all aspects of cheese making. If you still have questions, you may e-mail our technical advisor, Jim Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I start making cheese?
We always encourage people to start with a small
investment and proceed from there. For this we have developed several
kits for the home cheese maker. Our
Gourmet Home Dairy Kit is the absolutely easiest way to start because the cheeses are all soft, requiring no aging. Also, our Fresh Goat Cheese Kit has very simple recipes for cheeses which do not require aging.
The popular Basic Hard Cheese Kit
is a good way to start if you would like to begin making hard cheeses.
(You will need to order wax for the aged cheeses. One or two pounds will
be enough to get you started.) This kit contains a mold for forming the
cheese. All you need to do is find a jar lid or plate that fits inside
and a little weight to place on top. (We do not recommend that beginners
buy a press until they have made a few batches this way.)
Value-wise, our best deal is the Starter Special, which includes the Mozzarella Kit, our book, Home Cheese Making, and a DVD
of Ricki teaching Cheesemaking 101. If you are a person who learns
better by seeing things demonstrated than by reading about them, the DVD
will help you enormously. In it, Ricki teaches her beginner workshop.
You will find free recipes and newsletters with loads of information on our website and at our blog (blog.cheesemaking.com). For those who really
want to jump-start their home cheese making, we offer beginner and advanced
workshops. (If you live too far from us, see our blog article- Finding a Cheese Making Class Near You)
How is home cheese making different from commercial?
Home cheese making differs from commercial cheese making in scale and in the need to produce exact duplicate products day after day for retail markets. Commercial cheese makers employ the same raw ingredients as home cheese makers, but their knowledge and experience is much higher. (Also, they must obtain local certifications and follow strict regulations.) If you wish to sell your cheese, we suggest you start by making simple cheeses, do as much reading as you can and visit cheese makers in your area.
I live in a country with limited refrigeration. Can I make cheese?
Of course. Cheese has been made for centuries in every
corner of the globe. If you have limited refrigeration, we would
suggest you stick with some of the fresh cheeses and, most specifically,
the Mediterranean or Central and South American style cheeses. They
depend on high acid and/or salt for their preservation and they are
consumed quickly as fresh cheese. Examples are Mozzarella, Feta, Queso
Fresco, "Queso Blanco, etc.
Many of the recipes have the same ingredients in them. What makes the cheeses different?
At first glance, it may seem that different cheeses
are made the same way. However, the differences in the cheeses are due
to very slight variations in the process. Cheddar and Colby, for
example, are very similar as they start out. However, in the Colby,
there is a step where water is added to the curds, causing it to be a
cheese with more moisture than Cheddar.
Other factors which determine the outcome of the
cheese include the amount of culture, the ripening time , the amount of
rennet, the size of the cut curds, the rate time at and which the milk
is heated, the length of time stirred, and the way the whey is removed.
Minor changes in any of these areas can have a dramatic affect on the
I live at a high altitude. Will I have to adjust the recipes?
No. Since we are not reaching boiling temperatures, no adjustments are needed.
How much cheese can I expect to get from one gallon of milk?
Your yield will be approximately one pound per gallon
for the hard cheeses and two pounds per gallon for the soft cheeses. The
amount of butterfat in the milk will affect this. Sheep’s milk for
example, is 9% butterfat, so the yield is much higher.
Can I double or triple your recipes?
Yes. You should be able to increase amounts of culture
and rennet proportionately. The times and temperatures should be close
to what the recipes call for. Brining time is simply a matter of scale -
increase proportionate to cheese volume. (As in life, nothing works
perfectly, so you may need to tweak the recipes a bit. We recommend
keeping good notes.)
Can I make cheese with beer & wine in it?
Yes, beer or wine is often used. Here are a few examples:
- in washing curds - as in Gouda or
Colby cheese. Each curd will take on the color of the wine or beer, as
in the stout and porter washed cheeses.
- in washing the rinds with beer.
- in making Tomme au Marc where the final cheese is stored in the skins and seeds from wine pressing.
Can I make smoked cheeses?
Yes. There is a lot of information about this online and in our blog articles (for example: Smoking Your Cheese).
Always do a cold smoke when smoking your cheeses. The smoke is usually
generated in a separate chamber and then cooled before entering a box
with the cheese in it. On the industrial level, the cheese is smoked at
40-50F. At home, it must be kept below 84F, or the butterfat melts and
For a quick fix, some folks add liquid smoke to the
milk when making our 30 Minute Mozzarella. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons per
gallon right after adding the citric acid. We don’t recommend doing this
with any other cheeses.
Can I make whey protein from liquid whey?
Unfortunately, this would be a wasted effort. Even
larger cheese makers cannot justify the energy needed to dehydrate the
whey. Primarily, it is done by large operations that consolidate whey
from many large plants. We have two articles with better ways to use
your whey -
Using Leftover Whey and The Whey of the World
Don't Throw it a-Whey!
Are any of your products Kosher?
We are dedicated to providing Kosher products whenever
possible. All of our cultures and mold powders are Kosher certified, you can find certificates on product pages. Many of our other ingredients are certified Kosher in bulk form such as liquid vegetable rennet, wax, citric acid, cheese salt, calcium chloride and tartaric acid. At the moment many of the smaller sizes we offer do not have a certificate. Certificates for our products can be found directly on the products page.
Which of your products are for goats and which are for cows?
All of the cultures and supplies we sell can be used
with goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk. The same is true for our recipes.
Some cheeses are traditionally made with goat’s milk, so we have put
them in a separate section of our book (p. 181,
Home Cheese Making). (There is a good article about using sheep's milk at our blog.)
Can your products be shipped overseas (2 or 3 weeks to a hot climate)?
Yes. We have been shipping to all parts of the world for over 30 years. We have tested our cultures and rennet by storing them at room temperature for up to two months and they are fine. Two or three weeks in a warmer climate is comparable to this, and they will survive. However, if you are shipping to a very hot climate, it is always safest to pay extra for faster shipping.
Is there anything perishable in the Starter Special?
No. The Mozzarella Kit has ingredients with a very
long shelf life. The rennet is in tablet form and will last at room
temperature for up to a year. If you put the tablets in the freezer,
they will last up to 5 years.
I would like to order the Goat Cheese Kit, but I am a vegetarian. Can you switch rennets for me?
Yes. We will be happy to switch the rennet in the Goat Cheese Kit to liquid vegetable rennet. Just remember to use half the amount of rennet called for in the recipes because the vegetable rennet is double-strength.
I purchased my kit from a local store, where it wasn’t being kept refrigerated. Are the cultures still good?
Our 30 Minute Mozzarella Kit can be stored for long periods at room temperature with no ill effects. Our other kits will survive up to 2 months at room temperature. We try to explain to our wholesale customers that the kits with the live cultures need to be refrigerated. Most shops keep them cold and replace them as they sell off the shelves. We recommend asking the store what their policy is.
I have noticed some differences between the recipes in my kit and the recipes in your book.
Yes, there are variations in the recipes between our book, our pamphlets and our website. This is something we have to live with since there is so much variation in the quality of milk, the ingredients and the processes of producing similar cheeses. (These are not recipes as in baking.)
Think of this as going to several cheese makers and seeing how differently they all make similar styles of cheese. In the end, you will still get the same delicious product.
The milk you see on your store shelves is quite variable and different milks require slight changes in process. Recently, due to what the milk processors are doing to the milk (high temperature heating), we have added additional steps and tips to some of our recipes. Since we cannot reprint the booklets that often, it is important to check with the website recipes for the latest information.
Can I make cheese without salt? If not, why do I have to use flake salt?
Our 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricki’s Whole Milk Ricotta are two cheeses that do not require salt. All of the soft cheeses may be made without salt, also. Salt is added to these simply for flavor.
The hard cheeses and mold-ripened cheeses do require salt. Salt is used in cheese making, not just for flavor, but to slow the bacteria down and prevent overly acidic cheeses. Most cheeses finish with about 1-1.5% salt by weight.
You may use any salt you wish, but be sure to get one where the only ingredient is salt. (Iodized salt will interfere with any bacterial ripening, so we suggest using one that is non-iodized.) Most canning salts qualify. For brines, any non-iodized salt will do.
The difference between our flake salt and any canning salt is the larger crystal size. This ensures that when dry salting,
the salt doesn’t dissolve too rapidly.
Can I use the cheesecloth they sell at the grocery store?
No, do not buy the open weave cloth in a grocery store. These cloths are not woven tight enough and after all that good work you have put into your cheese making, it would be a shame to lose it through the loose weave of commercial cheese cloth.
We make sure that all of our cloths for draining cheese are finely woven and will protect your curds from going down the drain. Our cheesecloth is used for lining molds and for draining curds during hard cheese making. Our butter muslin is used for draining soft cheese curds.
Why can’t I use chlorinated water when diluting rennet?
Chlorinated water will stop the enzyme action of the
rennet. If you don’t know whether or not your tap water is chlorinated,
call your local water department. If it is chlorinated, you may choose
to buy distilled water or spring water, or you may filter your tap
water. (Most filters remove 97% of the chlorine from your water, which
is enough for cheese making.)
How do I calibrate my thermometer?
It is a simple matter to check your thermometer and
readjust it. Underneath the head is a nut which can be held with a
wrench while you turn the head. This will move the dial.
You can use a medical thermometer as a gauge to check
your thermometer. Target a temperature of 90F by bringing a container of
water (tap is fine) to this temperature and using this as a comparison
to check the cheese making thermometer. If it is a few degrees off, just
turn the little nut under the dial to read what the medical thermometer
reads. It’s a good idea to do this often (we calibrate ours every month