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Ricki's Basic Cheese Making Kit

Item #:K1 

Basic Cheese Kit

   Our Price: $29.95
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Availability: In Stock
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If you are a beginner cheese maker then this is the kit for you!!! This kit makes eight delicious, homemade cheeses: Farmhouse Cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Feta, Cottage Cheese, Colby, Parmesan and Ricotta.
With this kit you will be able to make 10 two pound batches of cheese.

With a little effort and a lot of fun, you can make your very own preservative free cheeses! Start now and make this a family tradition. Our kit comes with detailed recipes, demystifying all the steps in the cheese making process.

DO NOT FORGET TO ORDER WAX WHEN ORDERING THIS KIT.

The included basket mold is an ideal mold for soft and hard cheeses. For the harder cheeses, simply use an inverted small plate or large jar lid as a follower/pressure-plate to spread the weight evenly over the top surface. If you are trying to find a follower for this mold we suggest checking out our stainless steel separating disc, we have found it to work well when pressing.
A weight of 3 to 20 lbs is the working range for this mold.

CONTENTS: Basket Mold (M222), Vegetable Rennet Tablets (R4), Mesophilic DS Starter (C101), Thermophilic DS Starter (C201), Dairy Thermometer, 1/2oz. Calcium Chloride, 1 yard Re-usable Cheesecloth, Recipe Booklet    
 
USAGE: Use to make a variety of eight delicious cheeses right in the comfort of your very own kitchen!!!

STORAGE: Rennet tablets, mesophilic culture and thermophilic culture should be stored in the freezer. Rennet tablet will last up to 5 years and cultures will keep up to two years if stored properly. Calcium chloride should be stored tightly sealed in a cool, dark place.

DISCOUNT: Order 12 or more of our Basic Hard Cheese Kits and get them for $14.98/kit.

When you buy this all in 
a kit you are saving
$8.62!

 

Aging Information

1. Where can I age my cheese?

The following is taken from an excellent article in the Winter 2006 newsletter:

1. You can use your existing refrigerator, but unfortunately it is 10 - 15 degrees cooler then a cave and it has a tendency to suck the moisture out of anything that is unprotected.

To protect the cheese, place it in the warmest part of the refrigerator. To keep it from drying out, you will need an airtight container. The size of the container should be much larger than the cheese - 40% cheese and 60% empty space (air). You can control the humidity of the air inside the container by using a wet paper towel, crumpled up in a ball and placed in a corner of the container.

2. You can modify an old refrigerator. The temperature can be easily controlled with a regulator like our refrigerator thermostat. Plug it in and set it to 52-55F. The humidity can be controlled by simply using a pan of water with a partial cover. By simply adjusting the cover opening, you should be able to control the amount of humidity.

At times you may need to seriously increase the amount of moisture in the box, especially when starting out. In this case, you may need to spray the inside with sterile water or provide a damp towel. You will also notice that as the seasons change, you will have abrupt changes in the moisture level. The amount of cheese inside the cave will also affect the amount of moisture needed because there is less of a problem when it is filled with moist cheeses.

3. You can also find a cool space in the cellar where the cheese can be protected in a cabinet or in covered plastic boxes. This cool cellar will do a pretty good job, with stable temperatures during most of the year. However, controlling the humidity will still be a bit of a challenge.

Plastic boxes with lids will work well to conserve moisture. Simply use a wet sponge or paper towel to maintain the moisture needed. The paper towel or sponge should not be dripping wet. The object is to introduce moisture to the air and not to leave the bottom of your container with standing water. The paper towel should not be touching the cheese. (The air should be damp, not the cheese.)

If you are also using plastic boxes for draining your soft ripened cheese, make sure you keep clearing the draining whey so the cheese is not in contact with it. If you then use the box for drying, remove the top and use a fan to provide gentle air movement.

When using the plastic boxes, several considerations are important;

The first is not to let too much moisture build up inside on the cover and drip onto the cheese. If you see moisture condensing on the lid or collecting in the bottom, make sure you wipe it off when turning the cheese. You do not want a wet surface to develop or mold may become a serious problem. Also, when using these for soft ripened and high moisture cheeses that continue to drain for several days, pay close attention to the moisture build up.

Mats should also be used in these boxes to keep the cheese off of the bottom surface to allow them to breathe and keep away from excessive moisture.

Since the volume of air in these boxes is somewhat limited, they should be opened frequently to exchange the gases produced by ripening for fresh air. This is especially important with higher moisture young cheeses.

2. If I don't have exactly the right temperature and humidity, will I make anyone sick from eating my cheese?

Cheese is usually safe to eat if you pay close attention to healthy milk supplies and the process. If your milk comes with bad bacteria, it may very well survive the process and cause health issues. For this reason, it is important to have a healthy starter culture to prevent other bacteria from getting a hold in your cheese  Of course, sanitation is always essential.

3. After only a few days of drying, my cheese has mold on it.

This is natural. Wipe it down with a cloth soaked in heavy salt water.

4. My cheese is developing cracks during the drying stage. Should I be pressing it more?

Your problem is not the cheese inside being too moist but the air outside being too dry. During the winter the air humidity is nil. We pump about 5 gallons of water a week into our cave when the temperatures here drop too low. This is a common problem during the winter and you will need to find a more humid area for these cheeses (65-75% will work).

Thinking about pressing more for a drier cheese is not an option. The final moisture control needs to be done in the pot with the heating and stirring. Your final cheese will have two types of moisture; water bound in the curd that is not going to be released by press and water that is free and can be removed by pressing. Pressing is for consolidation of the curd and the release of final moisture.

5. Why is my cheese dry and crumbly?

Too much acidity developed in the cheese... As the acid increased, it caused the calcium balance to change (less calcium in the cheese). This caused a weaker bond for the curd and hence a less elastic, more brittle cheese. The excess acidity also caused the curds to shrink and to force out more moisture over time. This is commonly known as 'acid cut.' The cause of this can be one or a combination of two problems:

1... too much culture or too long a ripening time which creates more acid

2 ... not a long enough stir after heating to drive off excess lactose. This lactose will carry over into the later stages and provide the fuel to continue to produce acid.

Next time add less culture (20-50%) and/or stir a bit longer in the pot until the curd seems a bit drier. A combination of these two should get you back on track. If you are using our small packs of culture, cut back to 1/2-3/4 pack for two gallons or go to making 3-4 gallons with one pack.

http://www.cheesemaking.com/images/contentimages/naturalrinds/MF-2.jpg6. When it was done aging, my cheese had mold all through it.

This is an indication that the cheese was not prepared well. The interior should be a single consolidation of the cheese curds which should not allow the mold to develop internally. This growth could be due to many things; the curds being too dry before pressing which allows them to cool too much, not using enough weight when pressing or nor pressing long enough.

7. Why is my cheese coming out white instead of yellow?

The color of cheese comes from the milk. If the herd is grass fed you will get a rich cream to yellow color. If it is a silage fed herd it will be white. If you want your cheese to be yellow, you will need to add cheese coloring (Annatto).

Salt Brining Cheese

The primary reason for salting cheese is to slow down or stop the bacteria process of converting lactose to lactic acid. During the brine process, most of the lactose is removed. If the cheese were not salted, the residual moisture contains enough lactose to produce more acid than is ideal for a proper curd ripening. The secondary purpose is for the cheese flavor.
Salting of the cheese will also pull moisture from the surface and begin forming the rind of the cheese. This will also tend to inhibit the growth of many molds.

How do I brine my Cheese ?

  • When do we salt ?
    When the final pressing has been completed the cheese is moved to a cool cave to stabilize it's temperature to that of the brine. Brining a warm cheese will increase the rate of salt absorption and cause over salting.
     Prepare your brine or, if you have been storing a good brine, simply pour this into a non reactive pan.
    A simple brine formula is:
  • - 1 Gallon of water to which is added 2.25 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.
  • This will result in saturated brine at 5.2 pH, suitable for most cheeses.

      Place the cheese into the brine. The density of the brine will cause the cheese to float, which will result in the surface of the cheese rising out of the brine. This means the surface of your cheese will not get salted during the brine process like the bulk of your cheese. To remedy this, simply toss a small amount of salt on the surface of your cheese. This will cause your cheese surface to form its own brine due to surface moisture.
  • How long should cheese be brined for ?
    Cheeses of different densities and shapes will require varying times in the brine. A general rule is 1 hour per lb. per each 1 inch thickness of cheese. A very dense low moisture cheese such as Parma will need more time than a moist open texture cheese.
  • How should the cheese be handled after brining ?
    Once a cheese has been brined, it should be drained and allowed to air dry, while turning, for a day or so. Once a dry firm surface is observed, the cheese is then ready for waxing or the development of natural rinds.

What details are involved in salting with a brine ?

  • What is enough salt ?
    The brine is usually made up to a saturated strength. This means adding salt until the salt no longer dissolves when added.
  • How do we replenish the salt ?
    When adding fresh cheese to a brine, always make sure to sprinkle a good amount of salt on the surface of the floating cheese.
  • What else does the brine need to be ideal?
    ...Brine should be kept to as cool a temperature as possible. Most folks keep it at 52-54F and store it in the cave area to keep cool.
    ...It should also be stabilized at an acid level similar to the cheese being salted. This is usually in the pH 5.4-4.9 range.
    ...Fresh brine needs to have Calcium added because low Ca in the brine will cause the Ca inside the cheese (responsible for binding the proteins) to be pulled into the brine. This will in time cause a weakening of the curd structure and a softening of the rind.

    When making fresh brine, I usually add about a cup of clear whey to each gallon of brine (for the calcium it contains) and as much salt as will dissolve, then just a bit more to see that it is saturated. This will be about 23% at the cave temps. I then add a bit of citric acid to reach my target pH (that of the cheese being brined).
  • How long will the brine keep?
    I keep my brine here for a year or two. If it gets moldy or starts looking somewhat bad, I simply bring it to a boil and refilter it.
    Dumping this heavy load of salt down the drain is hard on the water treatment system. I feel that a good brine gets better with time. In Italy and France, I see the recirculation and filtering of brine almost everywhere. When asked, some cheese makers say they can not remember changing the brine.
  • How should you manage the brine?
    Most people keep the brine tanks covered and filter it when it looks dirty or cloudy. Others use a system of constant recirculation through filters. I filter mine with cotton balls back into gallon jugs between my small cheese making batches. I do check the brine pH and saturation regularly. The calcium level is not an issue after the first batch or so since some calcium will always be coming out of fresh cheese until an equilibrium is reached between curd and brine. Remember to keep the brine cool because at warmer temperatures some molds will grow (halophillic .. salt tolerant). Also, if the brine saturation drops below 16%, there are many molds that can grow in this. Remember, if you see this happen, just boil and filter the brine and correct the situation.
    I tend to use funnels.

Q. Just purchased your Basic Cheese Making Kit - can't wait for my first batch! My daughter is very lactose intolerant and I'd like to know if I can make all of the recipes easier for her to digest. She does well on goat cheese so can I use goat milk for all the recipes or do some of the naturally have less lactose? Thank you for your help!

A. Goat milk works for those lactose intolerant to some degree because it is an easier milk in general to digest. The cheese making process though does remove the majority of all lactose when making harder aged cheese. Goats milk can be used for most of the recipes in Ricki's book.

Q. I am attempting to make the Farmhouse Cheddar recipe from Ricki's book and I am unclear about the first two steps: 1) Heat milk to 90F. 2) Add starter culture. Stir in well and leave the pot where it can maintain its temperature for 45 minutes.
 Do I keep the temperature at 90 degrees the whole time during these steps?

A.Yes, you do need to keep the temp at the directed culturing temp the entire time. These bacteria are very temp sensitive and will slow down if they cool too much.


Just ordered your beginners cheese kit, I looked at a number of other sites and sources, but the reason I ordered from you is that your website is a fun and friendly site - very much so. Love your little cows and graphics. I am a transplanted New Englander (RI) down here to Texas, and since it was a nice, less than 90 day today - Yay - Fall in Texas - I decided to bring a bit more of New England down here. What better way than New England Cheeses??? J I want to learn the basics with your soft cheeses but my true love is the sharpest, most intense cheddars and other pungent cheeses. Anyhow, just wanted to say thanks and look forward to joining your family and hope to be ordering a lot more from you in the future. Warm regards, Gary Johnson Austin, Texas
Not a question, a yippee!! Although when my grandson (age 5) and I made your mozzarella, we were very pleased with ourselves, I was very nervous about my farmstead cheddar. I took it (aged for 2 1/2 months) with me to my sisters house last weekend thinking if it was a flop we could just bury it in the woods and nobody would ever know. Well, my (your) cheese got raves. I was only allowed to bring home half the left-overs. Folks here will have to wait for the next batch. Thanks so much for making this so easy, so much fun, and so good. I now can not wait for this weekend so I can get busy making some more. Janet B. 
I am making alot of cheddar and feta using your recipes and they are turning out great! I am using sheep milk from my own flock, so have had to learn to adjust the recipes, but it is working out fine. I get about 20% more curd than with cows milk. Thanks, Donna  
Thank you so much for your wonderful products! I purchased the hard and soft cheesemaking kits and they are great. When I told my friends and family that I was going to try making my own cheese, they all thought I was crazy. Why go through all that trouble for something that you can get at the grocery store? Well, let me tell you my critics have become my biggest fans. Anytime I have people over for dinner, they ALWAYS ask me if I am going to have some of my homemade cheeses. Many people today have never had a truly good cheese... one that did not come as individually wrapped slices or in a green can. But once they try a homemade cheese, they realize that this is something that you can not get at the grocery store. Thanks! Mark
I have purchased two kits, the Hard Cheese and Mozzarella kit and found them very easy to follow. I have never made cheese before and your directions where easy to follow. Everyone has loved the cheeses and several want to buy your kits. Austin Home Brew is where we get them and they are doing a great job on getting people to try them out. Cheers for a job well done on the kit and finding the right people to sell your items.
7 month old parmesan...I cut the parm. cheese that I made last July. The smell, taste and texture is outstanding. I am so happy and pleased that I wanted to share this moment with my cheese friends. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I am so hooked on cheesemaking. I am making a batch every two weeks. My camembert is doing very well, I could not wait so I cut one piece off and ate it and it is almost ready. I cant wait for it to ripen. Thank you all so much, a very happy cheese friend, Lloyd  
Thank you for my order which arrived today. I am so excited...there are no mail casualties, everything survived the mail handlers. Tonight my kitchen is going to be Cheeseville City, Yokosuka, Japan. My beer brewing friends will not have anything on me...I always try to stay one step ahead of them! The next time they breakout the home made beer, I will breakout some home made cheese! Terry Shampo, Japan 
Hi, We have really enjoyed making cheese with our Basic Cheese Kit. My daughter used it for her science project this year, got first place, and is going to the District Science Fair in 2 days. She added garlic and herbs to the cheese and that won the prize! Thanks so much, Melanie Wells 
Hi, I was astonished to get the hard cheese kit that I had ordered so quickly. It was perfect timing, too. A mid-morning mail delivery, had the house to myself, and before I knew it a batch of Monterey Jack was underway, and is currently drying on my kitchen counter. I can tell this hobby is going to nicely complement my beer brewing hobby, and I think my next batch will be the Farmhouse Cheddar, as that should be nice and sharp at cider pressing time. Scott

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Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!

In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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