Basic Cheesemaking Equipment and Ingredients
Other than a decent cooking thermometer, there isn’t much equipment you need for cheesemaking that you don’t already have in your kitchen, I bet.
A good pot, a long knife, a muslin and a colander are all your really need to make the cheeses here. For mozarella, a pair of thick rubber kitchen gloves are handy for the stretching stage.
For making things like feta, a yoghurt maker are handy, but not essential. I have an Instant Pot that I make a lot of cheese in during summer when I don’t want to fire up the stove, but again, its helpful, but not essential.
Ingredients and Sourcing Milk
Like any cooking endeavour, the better and fresher the ingredients, the better the outcome. Using fresh local milk from your local dairy will make better cheese than the stuff you buy at the supermarket. If you live somewhere where Raw milk is available, I recommend using that, as the fresher the milk the easier it is to get cheese to do what you want it to.
Don’t be put off, however, if all you can find is supermarket milk. As long as it isn’t UHT or ultra-pasteurized (more often found in American than Europe), you will be fine. UHT milk has been cooked already, so it simply doesn’t have the structure for cheeses.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized at all - straight out of the mammal, with a bit of filtering in between. We won’t go specifically into working with raw milk in the recipes here as not many people have access to it. However, if you do, as you get started you will want to consider lightly pasteurising your milk (bringing it to 72c for 15seconds). This is to ensure that the bacteria you are introducing has an opportunity to work without competing against the bacteria in the milk. As you become more experienced working with cultures and starters, you can begin to harness the bacteria in the milk for your cheesemaking endeavours.
If you can use raw milk, you can forgo the use of starter cultures and let the natural cultures of the milk to ferment your milk into cheese. However, you don’t often have control over the bacteria that is being used, so it can make cheesemaking unpredictable.
Rennet is an enzyme originally derived from the contents of the stomach of ruminant animals. It acts as a coagulant for milk and also adds some flavour to milk. You can now buy vegetarian rennet derived from a fungus which will achieve the same results as animal rennet.
Whichever rennet you use, it is best used sparingly. Too much rennet can make your cheese rubbery and bitter.
Starter cultures are simply small colonies of bacteria that you will add to your milk to make cheese. Generally there are two types in common use:
Mesophillic starters - work at room temperature and are the most commonly used types of culture for cheese
Thermophillic Starters - work in a warm environment. Used for making yoghurt and feta
If you have bought the kit or are just starting out, I recommend starting with a mesophillic starter. You can easily obtain nice thermophilic starters by using natural and live culture yoghurt from the grocery store.
Mesophillic starters will come in a small packet of freeze dried powder, like yeast. We will cover using starter cultures next lesson when we look at Goat’s Curd.