Homemade cheese can be made without rennet, without a cheese press, and even with your kids. This instructable walks you through the process of heating the milk, pressing the curds, preparing the cheese, and storing it. Cheese prepared in this manner can last for upwards of a month in the refrigerator or a cool pantry.
What is cheese?
Cheese is pressed milk fat (curds) separated from its liquid (whey). The trick is how to separate the fat from the liquid without completely breaking the curds down and instead keep them in tact.
How long does this take?
This recipe can be made in a few hours, left overnight, then finished quickly on a second day.
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
� 2 quarts WHOLE, RAW milk. (see second photo)
� 2 cups fresh buttermilk
� 2 tbsp FRESH lemon juice
� 1 pt cream
� Stirring implement
� Ladle for curds
� Stainless Steel pot
� Cheese cloth
� A candy thermometer or submersible temperature gauge. THIS IS A MUST
Step 2: Getting Started
1. Put the milk into a heavy stainless saucepan. Heavy is the key because you want the milk to heat evenly as to avoid scorching.
2. Stir the buttermilk and lemon juice together thoroughly then add to saucepan.
3. Make sure your thermometer is below the surface of the mixture but do NOT let it touch the bottom.
Step 3: Warming Up
Set the pan over very low heat and heat it slowly. Make sure you can see the thermometer or have something ready for frequent temperature checking.
Stir the milk very gently. During this time you're trying to coax the curds out and they need to stick together. If you heat the milk too much you're pasteurizing it. If you stir the milk too much, you're homogenizing it. Kinda defeats the purpose of buying raw milk, doesn't it?
Keep an eye on your cheese mix and once that readout hits 175F cut the heat and let is cool undisturbed for about 10 minutes. Note that I had to change a poopy diaper and my milk got almost up to 200F, so the process can be forgiving. Remember though, the target is 175F (75C). At this point it should be easy to distinguish the curds from the whey.
Step 4: Becoming Cheese
At this point you're going to begin pressing the curds into an actual cheese-like substance.
First, line a fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheese cloth. Don't worry about over-doing it with the cheese cloth, no matter how many layers you put the cheese will still drain- it will just be harder to knot up.
Ladle the curds into the strainer and let drain. Place a bowl under to collect the whey, as it is high in protein and can be used in recipes. I separated mine into 1c measures in ziploc baggies and froze it to use in baking recipes later. Try to get all the curds into a single mass, and if they don't fit then you should use a bigger strainer. At this point multiple cheeses doubles your workload.
Bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and tie into a bindle. Let this hang from a cabinet knob or faucet for 2 hours, again collecting the whey underneath.
Step 5: Drain-on!
Now that your cheese has had plenty of time to drain it's time to.... let it drain some more.
Remove the cheese from the cheese cloth, being careful not to tear. I used the same cloth both times, so you don't run through an entire pack of cheesecloth (You already paid big $$ for the milk, economize where you can).
At this point you have a fairly soft, spreadable cheese. If you want you can simply salt what you have and spread it on whatever you like, even season it with garlic. This cheese will keep for weeks in your refrigerator.
IF, however, you want to keep going to the bitter, cheesy end then after mixing in a few teaspoons of salt or even PEPPER (taste as you go), then bundle the lump up and let it drain again. The salt will pull out more liquid and help to firm up your lump of cheese.
Step 6: Pressing Matters
If you don't have a cheese press don't worry - neither do I. You'll be firming your cheese up in this step and getting it ready for final preparation.
At this point you should have a very round cheese ball. You could season it and serve it as-is, or go the distance for those delectable herb cheeses.
You ready? Then let's do this.
Remove the lump from your cheesecloth bag and place it on a level dish. Wrap your cheese in a clean piece of cloth, single wrap, to prevent it from sticking to the plate or the press. You want it to be about one (1) inch thick, as you're going to wind up with one-inch cheeses. Flatten by hand or with a rolling-pin, it's still pretty forgiving at this point.
Once it's flat place a cutting board with a weight on top and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours).
Step 7: Cheese at Last
After waiting overnight with breathless anticipation you can finally yank that sucker out of the fridge and get to work on fulfilling your dream: eating cheese you made yourself.
Prepare 1/8 c. of dried herbs to your liking. I chose basil, garlic, some red pepper flakes, and fresh peppercorns. Also lemon is awesome at this step.
Get your cheese out and place it on a large cutting board. I was surprised at this point that "hey, this actually looks like a cheese now!" Pat yourself on the back, you're doing well.
Slice the cheese into 1-inch cubes, trying to handle them as little as possible. The more you touch them, the mushier they'll be.
Take each cube and roll as quickly as possible into a rough sphere. Don't worry about getting them perfect, or even uniform. The perfection is in the imperfections at this point. Drop each one into a 1-qt bowl with the herbs. Try to work quickly.
Once the bowl is full, add enough olive oil to cover as well as 1 tbsp of white vinegar.
Step 8: Finale
At this point you can stick the cheeses in your fridge, or even store them in a cool dry pantry. They'll keep for a couple of months without opening them, but once you're eating them keep 'em in the fridge. I do lots of home canning, so I put mine in a one-quart ball canning jar with enough oil to cover the cheeses completely.
These make a fine addition to any food stores you may put up and they taste awesome. Let them marinade for 3 days to let the flavors take effect.