Cheesemaking is a hobby that I have wanted to delve into for a while, but never really had the right set up for. Some cheeses are simple to make, while others are immensely complex. I dabbled in some of the easier fresh cheeses first, before moving into making more complex aged cheeses. The first few cheeses I worked on making, and perfecting my process for, were ricotta and mozzarella.
After I started getting into curing my own meats, I saw that the curing chamber could also be used as a cheese cave to age homemade cheeses. For meat, I keep my curing chamber at around 55F/70-80% RH. Most cheeses require a similar temperature for aging, but a slightly higher humidity that that. Therefore, when allowing cheese to age in my curing chamber, I will either increase the humidity or I will age the cheeses in boxes that can trap some of the humidity, creating a micro environment with higher humidity.
The most important part of cheese making is to have a good source of milk (which can be from cow, goat, sheep, or whatever other source you can find) . Raw milk is my preferred option when I can get it, but when I can’t, non-homogenized pasteurized milk works well too. Raw milk is great because it has live cultures which contribute to the final flavor of the cheese. It also is great, because it hasn’t been homogenized, so it is easier to separate out the curds and whey, a vital part of the cheese making process. Non-homogenized pasteurized milk doesn’t have live cultures, but does have the benefits of easier curds and whey separation.
I will detail the process for each individual cheese on its own page, but here I will just give an overview of the basics of cheese making. Many people use a water bath to heat their milk (aka a pot of milk, inside a pot of water, on the stove). I directly pour the milk into a sous vide (without a circulator), which keeps the temperature constant throughout.
First, the milk is poured into the sous vide and brought up to an elevated temperature, usually around 90F/32C. Cultures, calcium chloride, and rennet are usually added in succession. Curds are allowed to form in variable amounts of time and at variable temperatures. After a certain time, curds are cut and allowed to separate from the whey. The curds are then ladled out, and places into a cheesecloth lined mold to drain. The cheese can either be pressed or allowed to drain freely. It is usually flipped a few times for even drying. It can then be placed in a brine solution or salted. After this has been done, the cheese can be placed in the curing chamber to age. Depending on the type of cheese you want to make, it can either be left alone to allow a mold rind to form, periodically washed with brine to keep off mold, or rind washed almost daily with brine wash/liqueur.
There are many different types of cheeses, and nuances that I have ignored here for the sake the clarity. Individual recipes will be detailed on their own pages.