I love easy, home made cheese, especially when I can get the milk for it.
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
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Step 1: Slowly Heat the Milk and Salt.
Place the 4 quart pot on the stove and pour the 2 quarts of sheep or goat milk into it. Make sure to use a rubber scraper to get all of the cream into the pan as well.
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.
Juice the lemons and measure the juice while you're waiting for the milk to heat up (make sure there are no seeds present in your 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).
You've waited 10 minutes. Stir the milk - lemon juice mixture.
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.
Clear the counter off and make sure it's scoured clean. Set the colander on the counter or in your sink if you don't plan on keeping the whey.
(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.
Carefully pour the milk solids & whey into the cheese cloth lined colander. This is very hot, so be very careful and pour slowly. You do not want to be scalded.
Step 6: Tie Up and Continue Draining the Cheese Ball.
When you have drained enough whey off to begin forming the cheese ball (reference the first picture) you can carefully press more whey out of the cheese (be very careful it's still hot and it's okay to wear rubber gloves that have been scoured before use). Now take the 2 opposite corners corners and tie them together loosely, then loosely knot.
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.
Find a place where you can hang the cheese so it will be suspended over the whey bowl or your sink so the rest of the whey may drain from the cheese.
Set the timer for 30 minutes.
Step 8: Press More Whey Out, Re-tie and Re-hang the Cheese Ball.
After 1/2 hour, take the cheese ball down, place it back into the colander and untie everything. Squeeze the a bit more with your hands (or hands with your scoured rubber gloves on). Please be careful, it may be still too hot for some people to handle.
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.
The cheese is almost ready to cut down and cool. This will also take several hours.
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 recommend you cool the sheep cheese for 4 - 6 hours before you begin carving into it to eat it.
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.