I prefer to get 'farm fresh' milk, but when that isn't easily acquired, I buy it in the organic section of my local super market. Please keep in mind that you can't get 'raw' milk as easily as you could years ago (unfortunately, it is illegal to sell in a lot of states). Most of us have to settle for pasteurized, farmer's market milk and/or what is available for purchase organically.
This recipe, when followed correctly, will yield about 10 - 12 ounces of semi-soft cheese. If this is your first time making a cheese of any kind, resist the urge to flavor it up. Wait to experiment with flavoring a cheese after you can make a good cheese. A good cheese (for this type) is soft to semi-soft, sliceable and/or easily crumbled.
a 4 quart stock pot (not copper or cast iron as these are reactive metals that will turn your cheese bad colors)
medium - large colandar
new package of food grade cheese cloth
candy thermometer or meat thermometer
large bowl (2 - 3 quart bowl is okay, but you want to make sure that the colander will rest on top of the bowl (so the bowl opening need to be at tad smaller than the top of the colander. The collection bowl should also be significantly deeper than the colander so it can collect the whey.)
large spoon - wood, bamboo, plastic
ball of cotton string or yarn (binder's twine would be ok, too)
place to hang your cheese from while it is draining
kitchen timer (or other timer that you can hear or see)
1/2 gallon raw or pasteurized sheep milk (goat milk will work too) *NOTE: DO NOT use ultra-pasteurized or double pasterized milk!!
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (and/or 1 tbsp of white cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp freshly ground sea salt (table salt will do if you don't have a mill or sea salt)
optional: 1/2 pint of fresh cream (again, pasteurized ok, but NOT ultra-pasteurized) This is optional because the sheep or goat milk you're using will not always have an optimal amount of cream. Also, some people prefer a lower fat cheese.
optional: brand new pair of rubber gloves that have been scoured and set aside
about 3 - 4 hours of time
Step 1: Slowly Heat the Milk and Salt.
Add the 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of sea salt.
Turn heat up to about medium to medium high. It should take about 1/2 hour to slowly heat the milk to 185F.
Watch over it so it does not boil and periodically check the temperature.
Do NOT leave the thermometer in the pan.
Turn off the heat when the milk has reached 185F.
Step 2: Add Lemon Juice.
The milk has reached 185F and you have turned off the heat. Add the 1/3 cup lemon juice and gently stir in.
Let the milk and juice mixture sit for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Checking for Curd (or Milk Solid Separation).
If it's still creamy and not showing separating milk solids, add 1 tbsp vinegar. (Sometimes the lemon you may have bought is not sour enough to make the milk curdle.)
Do NOT add more than 1 tbsp of vinegar as this may adversely alter the flavor of your cheese. I personally don't like sour cheese (unless is cheddar).
Step 4: Prepare the Cheese Cloth for Draining the Whey From the Cheese.
(The benefit to keeping the whey is you can use it to cook just about any recipe that requires milk or buttermilk. You can also freeze it for up to 60 days. It will give your recipe a bit of tanginess. You can bake bread with it; you can make potato soup with it, etc.)
Line the colander with 4 sheets of doubled cheese cloth. (A lot of your internet recipes tell you to use 2 sheets. This will cause you much pain and suffering as it can/will burst when you're squeezing the whey out of the cheese ball and possibly burn you.) Always use a brand new, unopened package whenever you are making cheese.
Place the colander over the bowl. You can see in the second picture that mine rests in the bowl just right allowing for a good drip to be maintained.
Step 5: Pour the Milk Solids & Whey Into the Cheese Cloth Lined Colander.
Step 6: Tie Up and Continue Draining the Cheese Ball.
Do the same with the other 2 opposite corners, leaving space for to slip over whatever you're going to be suspending the cheese ball from.
Please take note of the nicely forming cheese ball in the picture.
Step 7: Hang the Cheese Ball.
Set the timer for 30 minutes.
Step 8: Press More Whey Out, Re-tie and Re-hang the Cheese Ball.
Cut 3 feet of cotton string, yarn or twine and double it. Pull the cheese cloth tightly around the cheese to form a stem. Tie the string tightly around the stem of the cheese ball. Wrap it around and tie it again, ending with a knot. Make a knot in the rest of the string near the end of it so you can hang the cheese.
Continue to check the cheese and squeeze whey from it every 15 - 20 minutes.
This step will take the longest amount of time. I leave the cheese hang over the bowl for up to 3 hours in the winter because my kitchen is relatively chilly.
However, if you live in a warm climate or it is summer where you are, pour off your whey for storage and place the colander - bowl set up in your refridgerator to finishe draining. Do not leave in the fridge for longer than 3 hours as it can cause your cheese to dry out and you don't want a crusty cheese.
Step 9: Cutting Down and Cooling the Cheese.
Cut the cheese cloth just under where it's tied with the string (towards the cheese ball side), place the cheese in a glass container with a lid loosely fitting lid over the container and set it in the bottom of your fridge. An empty fruit drawer will do fine as this won't cause the fridge to run harder and the cheese will cool more slowly.
A plastic container is fine, too, so long as you remember to use a larger lid for it.
Discard all of the cheese cloth and string. This cannot be re-used and it cannot be composted because the cheesiness of it will attract rodents.
Step 10: Enjoy the Sheep Cheese!
I recently topped my dinner with some crumbled sheep cheese. It was very delicious!!
The cheese in the third picture is 3 weeks old and has developed very nicely.