Making cheese is an art. You have specific steps to follow, but there are variations that can alter the results in both good and bad ways. Understanding the general answer to, “how is cheese made?” before you get started can make a huge difference in how well you do with your first batch. With that in mind, here is an outline of the ingredients you will need and the basic process.
To make a basic cheese, you will need to start with the main ingredient: milk. You should aim to get the freshest milk possible, but if you don't have access to a cow, you can use store bought. If you use store bought milk, you will also need calcium chloride, which will help ensure thick curds. You will also need cultures, which are bacteria that increase the acidity in the milk. Cultures can affect the kind of cheese you get and the taste. You will also need rennet, which is an enzyme that separates the milk so you can get the cheese curds. If you buy a cheese making kit, it will usually come with all the ingredients you need to make a specified type of cheese.
The Cheese Making Process
While the actual steps you follow may differ, here is an overview of the general process.
1. Heat milk - follow recipe for temperature, do slowly, use a thermometer
2. Add calcium chloride if using - do not use if making mozzarella or provolone, dilute in water before adding
3. Add cultures - follow recipe, sprinkle on surface, let sit for a minute, then mix in
4. Add rennet - wait for curding
5. Cut curds
6. Cook curds - this removes any remaining whey and firms them up, increase heat slowly
7. Drain curds - use cheesecloth for ease, specific directions will depend on type of cheese
8. Mold or press as desired - a cheese press or molds can be purchased to help with this
10. Dry - according to recipe
11. Age - according to recipe
While these may seem like a lot of steps, the art of cheese is in the tiny variations that allow you to create beautiful cheeses. Make sure to find a retailer where you can trust in the quality of the products you are buying so you can make the best cheeses.