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From Wisconsin - America's Dairyland
"Blessed are the cheesemakers" ~ Monty Python
Frequently Asked Questions
- Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Is home cheese making difficult?
The home cheese making hobby is not difficult to learn. If you take it step-by-step and make small batches in the beginning, you will learn the little tricks of the trade faster. Carefully reading and understanding the instructions is important. If you need assistant, call or write me and if I can't answer your question, I'll do some research and contact you back. Even making gourmet cheeses like Camembert/Brie and Blue are not difficult if you have the correct information.
How much does it cost to start?
It is not costly to get into home and artisan cheesemaking. Since most people have the simple necessary kitchen tools already, you will need a couple starter cultures, rennet, calcium chloride, cheese cloth, mould to shape and press your cheese. Obtaining a good book is very important. It will not only teach you, but will offer excellent recipes. Cheese making is a learning experience. You will get better with time.
Do you offer cheese making classes or workshops?
Yes. I do offer both three hour and weekend workshops. In the three hour workshop we will make Camembert/Brie style cheese as well as learn much about all aspects of home and artisan cheesemaking. The weekend workshop takes up an entire Saturday making Camembert, Blue, Gouda, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Chevre, Ricotta and Feta. Butter, Yogurt, Creme Fraiche are also made. Take home some of the cheeses you have made while tasting Wisconsin artisan cheeses and California wines. The weekend workshop is the most complete and extensive workshop of its kind. You will go back with a wealth of knowledge, having hands on experience.
What kind of customer service do you offer?
Cheese making is a lifelong learning experience, one which will give you plenty of satisfaction and rewards. It's ok to lean on me for help anytime, via email, text or phone. When writing to me, give as many details of your specific situation or concern so I can accurately give you the best information.
What will I need to make gourmet cheese at home?
Most of the utensils necessary for home cheese make can be found in your kitchen. You will need some kind of warming pot, roaster, double-boiler (anything that is clean and be heated to warm the milk to 90F. The size should be at least 1 ½ gallons (5.67 liters) if you are using one gallon (3.78 liters) of milk; 1 large slotted non-wood spoon is perfect, but a regular large spoon will also work fine; a cake frosting rack or even your oven rack will work well as a draining rack; a long knife, about 8 inches in length; a soup ladle or a measuring cup to scoop off the whey; small measuring spoons; and unscented bleach or other type of sanitizer; and a refrigerator. Many of the above items are offered on my site at the supplies page.
How much cheese does one kit make?
That depends on which cheese kit you purchase. My Camembert/Brie/Blue Cheese Making Standard Kit will produce two Camembert and two Blue cheeses. The Deluxe Kit includes cultures to make nearly 300 Camembert and 300 Blue cheeses. The cultures can be kept in your freezer almost indefinitely. Both the Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit and the Deluxe Soft & Hard Kit are great ways to get started to make lots and lots of cheese.
What ingredients will I have to purchase?
You will need milk to make your cheese. Whole non-homoginized milk is excellent, although skim plus heavy cream will also work.(For example:1 gallon skim milk & 1 pint heavy cream). You can also use farm fresh milk available from your local dairy farmer. Try not to use homogenized milk.
What other supplies will I need?
You probably already have some of the necessary cheese making supplies in your kitchen. You will need some kind of heating pot, slow-cooker or water-bath. A kitchen thermometer, stirring spoon and Calcium Chloride are some items you will need, also available on the supplies and cultures pages.
Approximately how long does the process take?
The first step in the cheese making process will take between 3 and 6 hours, of which most of that time is waiting for the milk to warm, waiting for the cultures to ‘do their thing’ in the milk. So while you’re ‘waiting’, you can attend to other matters and come back for the next step in the process. It’s a lot like cooking, but a bit less labor intensive. After you have your cheeses in the moulds (hoops or tubes), the rest is letting the cheeses age.
Where can I store my cheese as it ages?
For many cheeses, the refrigerator works perfect as your ‘cheese cave’. After you’ve made a few batches of cheese, you may want to go further and invest in an additional freezer/refrigerator and use a special thermostat to keep your ‘cheese cave’ set at a specific cheese aging temperature.
When is it safe to eat my cheese?
This will depend on what cheeses you are making. Cheeses like fresh goat’s cheese, mozzarella and ricotta can be ready to eat the next day. Camembert, Brie and some Blue cheeses are ready to eat in about 30-50 days, while hard cheese usually needs a few months minimum before you want to eat them. Like a good wine, hard cheeses mellow over time.
How long will the cheese last?
For some cheese, especially hard cheeses, they can last more than a year, if you can keep from eating them. Fresh cheeses like Ricotta and Mozzarella can last a week or two in your refrigerator. The same holds true for some Camembert, Brie’s and Blue cheeses.
Do you have any ideas about how to serve my homemade cheese?
There are many ways to use your cheese to create a culinary delight. I’m constantly experimenting and searching recipes to tweak them the way I like. You can even join my Recipe Forum from this web site and have different cheese recipes emailed to you.
Can I purchase additional ingredients if I run out?
I do offer cheese making cultures to make specific cheeses. These cultures are not expensive to purchase. Since you use such a small amount of these cultures per batch, home cheese making is an inexpensive and rewarding hobby.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Maintaining the integrity and shelf-life of freeze dried DVI (direct vat inoculation) lactic bacteria cultures: The use of the modern freeze dried Direct Set Cultures is very convenience for home and artisan cheese makers. No need to make a 'mother culture' or 'starter culture', unless you are a large producer and intend to inoculate a large amount of milk (1000-10,000 lbs.). Caring for them once you open the sealed foil packet is important to shelf-life and consistant batch making. If you will be using a small amount of culture for your batch, the following is very important. Your culture can be affected by humidity and airborne elements. If the sealed foil packet is kept in the freezer, it will last 1.5-2 years. Once opened, it is important to keep moisture from shortening the shelf-life of your culture. Some cultures are blends of up to four different lactic bacteria in specific proportions. Some cultures contain a single strain of lactic bacteria. With the latter, using a small amount of the product for a small batch is fine. The cultures that contain a blend of different lactic bacteria strains need extra attention. Before opening or if the packet is already opened, shake the packet well to mix evenly the different strains before taking a small amount from the packet. Do not use a utencil to mix the culture and do not empty the packet into another container to mix it up. After taking the small amount of culture from the packet, fold the foil packet up a few times and place inside a small sealed Zip Lock style plastic bag, placing it inside another small Zip Lock style plastic bag. This will help to insure that outside humidity and airborne elements will not shorten the shelf-life or contaminate your culture.
What does DOSE mean? The dose is noted on some cultures to meet industry standards. A dose is not per gallon of milk, rather per weight of milk. Some culture packs are listed in grams which can be then divided to know how much to use for the amount of milk you are inoculating. Home and small artisan cheese makers can follow the usage rate on the packet once you receive it.
Which starter culture do I use? Cheese making is part science, part craft. Therefore if you are new to the craft, use the culture which is recommended on this web site or email me atsteve(at)thecheesemaker.com. Sometimes there may be more than one recommended. You may want to experiment by adjusting your recipe (make sheet) and use a different starter culture. This way you can compare the flavor, acidity, texture of your cheese. Try not to change more than one variable at a time so you can determine exactly why your cheeses are different. Cultures, molds and yeasts are packaged in a moisture barrier sealed foil packets, keeping them free from air and humidity. After opening, fold over packet a few times and place in one, if not two small plastic bags or Zip-Lock type bags. Store dry cultures, molds, dry rennet powder / tablets in the freezer if you do not plan on using them for at least six months, otherwise store them in the refrigerator where they will have a shelf life of 18 months and more. Store liquid rennet in the refrigerator.
Important Note: When using any of the items listed on this page you should use the amount specified on the packaging, not in the recipe you may be using. Cultures, molds, rennets and additives vary in concentration per manufacturer.