One of the best hobbies you can try this year is to make cheese at home. If you decide to get started on this journey, there are three essential component categories to consider.
You need to think about the necessary equipment to make cheese, the ingredients you’ll require, and what the overall process is to follow.
This guide takes you through the various items required to start following your first cheesemaking recipe.
1. Cheese Pot
You’ll use your cheese pot more often than any other equipment item. Most people already have one that works well for this process. It should be made of enamel, heat-safe glass, or stainless steel. Reactive metals can create adverse chemical reactions when you start making some cheese.
Choose a size that fits the needs of your recipe. Having a pot that can hold eight liters of fluid is generally suitable for most requirements. If you expect to make large batches of cheese, a 15L pot may be necessary.
A pot without rivets is better to use because it will be easier to clean. Having a lid or a double boiler that works with it is also helpful.
A high-quality thermometer lets you know when the ingredients are at an appropriate temperature. Most products come pre-calibrated to give you an accurate reading right from the box. The best way to verify that it works accurately is to bring water to a boil to see its temperature.
If it is a little off, make the appropriate adjustments. Digital thermometers tend to be the easiest to use. Still, you can use a dialed head or glass model for cheesemaking.
Don’t use meat or candy thermometers for your cheesemaking work. A model made for dairy products will stay calibrated better for you.
3. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Glass is the best option for measuring cups since it is non-corrosive. You can see the levels in the container to create the accurate results needed for a recipe. Plastic and stainless steel are also choices to consider.
Stainless steel measuring spoons are the best choice for cheesemaking. Anything made for the kitchen should work for your recipes. It is helpful to have a set that contains minimal options for the fractional ingredients some methods require.
4. Slotted Spoons or Skimmers
Several steps in the cheesemaking process require a tool that let you skim the surface of liquids. A stainless steel skimmer enables you to mix rennet correctly, stir cultures, or transfer curds.
Although plastic ones can work if you don’t have another option, it takes more work to remove any bacteria that try to remain on the surface.
5. Curd Knife
The best curd knives tend to have a long, thin blade that reaches to the bottom of your cheese pot. Although any stainless steel product would work, this design uses a rounded tip to avoid scratch the bottom of your equipment.
Any time you want to make a large batch of cheese, this tool is going to be your best friend. If you’re going to try cheesemaking first, a standard kitchen knife should get the job done if you’re careful with it.
This tool comes in plastic, enamel, and stainless steel options. Most soft cheese varieties don’t expel the whey until you squeeze it within the colander. Your product must be large enough to hold whatever amount of curds is based on the portion of milk in the recipe.
Hard cheeses don’t hold as much way, which means the colander should contain about 50% of the milk in your recipe.
A proper cheesecloth uses a gauze-like material to line the containers when you start pressing the cheese into them. Butter muslin is a popular choice for soft cheeses because it contains a tighter weave. You should have several available to manage your recipes. When properly cared for, they are reusable almost infinitely.
Cleaning a cheesecloth is what unlocks its full potential. Rinse it in cold water thoroughly before washing it in hot water. Avoid using soap. Hang it to dry on a clothesline before storing it in a sealable plastic container.
Boiling cheesecloth helps to keep it fresh, and that method is the only way to prepare it for a new batch.
Retail cheesecloth is not the same as cheesemaking cheesecloth. Only use equipment certified for working with curds to avoid having your recipe go down the drain.
8. Cheese Forms
These containers work to shape your cheese into a preferred shape and size. Most have perforations that allow for whey drainage, and a few have open bottoms that make it simple to access your product. Only choose items made of food-grade plastic or stainless steel.
Traditional forms were made from wood or clay. You can still use them, although the sanitation process is questionable.
Some cheese varieties require you to use a “follower.” This equipment is a disk you place on the top of the curds to provide even weight distribution. It gives pressed cheese a uniform shape.
9. Drip Tray
This tool goes underneath your cheese forms to prevent a gigantic mess from forming. It directs any remaining whey back into your pot or the drainage sink. Most of them are made from stainless steel, although a few use food-grade plastics to keep costs low.
10. Draining Mats
A draining mat helps air to keep circulating along the bottom of your finished cheese as it rests. This item provides a barrier between the food and a wooden shelf while encouraging aging and ripening. It stops moisture buildups that could interfere with that process.
The traditional draining mat uses reeds to create this benefit. You can also use a food-grade plastic mesh to accomplish the same goal.
11. Cheese Press
When you follow a hard cheese recipe, curd consolidation must happen by applying weight to the product once you have it in a form. This tool makes that process comfortable and straightforward. The best products in this category are easy to assemble, clean up quickly, and have gauges that let you see the amount of weight being used.
If this tool is out of your budget right now, anything that provides weight can press the cheese. Home cheesemakers have been known to use bricks, books, or massive water jugs to create positive results.
12. Waxing Supplies
Hard cheeses often need a wax layer applied after getting pressed and dried to create a consistent aging process. When you are successful with these supplies, the moisture levels remain consistent in the cheese.
The color of the wax you choose is less important than the style you prefer. Beeswax is an excellent natural choice to avoid any chemical exposure. It tends to be brittle and cracks while aging, but you can fix that issue by adding a small amount of vegetable shortening.
Most cheese wax is a combination of microcrystalline and paraffin wax.
You can reuse wax from cheese as many times as you want. If you melt and strain it through cheesecloth, any particles and impurities will disappear.
You need a waxing pot to get this step finished. You can also use a metal container or heat-safe glass within a pot of water to indirectly heat the wax. Since most cheeses need at least three layers before they are correctly protected, it helps to wear clothing you don’t mind getting ruined until you get used to this process.
A waxing brush is also needed if you choose low-temperature applications. A natural bristle works better than silicone or plastic because the temps remain more consistent.
13. Cheese Wrap
Several different wrapping products help you to store your cheese once it is appropriately aged or ripened. Some items even help with that process by retaining moisture while letting gas escape. Paper, two-ply, and cellophane tend to be the most popular choices for this step of the cheesemaking process.
You might also consider adding a yogurt maker, a pH tester, and a notebook to your list of cheesemaking tools based on what you hope to accomplish.
When you have all of the necessary ingredients and equipment for making cheese, you can start following whatever recipe seems tempting. Whether it’s a 30-minute Mozzarella or something that requires several weeks of storage, you’ll find that cheesemaking can be a fun individual or family hobby to try.