3 Easy to Make Cheeses

If you do not have goats or cows or sheep or camels--it can be tough to justify making some cheeses on the homestead in terms of time and expense. Cheese molds, cultures and moulds, refrigerator(s), cheese press, and so forth along with cultures can get expensive quickly. 

There are some cheeses that I consider a good bang for the buck using purchased milk. Cream cheese, cottage cheese, paneer, feta, ricotta, quark, and chèvre come to mind as both easy and economical. Fresh cheeses are relatively easy to make at home without a bunch of special equipment. 

Some of the easy cheeses rely on lemon juice or vinegar to coagulant heated milk. The curd is drained in cheesecloth and quickly there is fresh cheese! Go buy that gallon of milk!

a basic cheese mold is an inexpensive way to make a homemade cheese look wonderful. this is a homemade feta which is a terrific cheese to make after you are comfortable with added-acid cheese.


Farmer Cheese and it's firmer cousin Paneer

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • Fine mesh cheesecloth
  1. Simply heat the milk slowly over low heat until it boils. Or for those of us who like exact numbers: 195 to 200 degrees. Do not scorch the milk folks! Stir frequently--heating nice and gentle is best.
  2. Remove from the heat.
  3. Next add the vinegar slowly. Add a teaspoon at a time and stir a bit after each addition.
  4. After you've added all the vinegar let the pot stand uncovered and undisturbed for 5-20 minutes.
  5. Remove the curd from the pot with a slotted spoon and put it in cheesecloth lined colander.
  6. Drain.
    • Less firm variation, farmer cheese: Allow to drain in the colander until it's the texture that you desire. 
    • Firmer variation, paneer: Gently mix in 2-3 teaspoons of salt (and maybe some herbs if you like) and allow the curd to drain in the colander. At this point you could hang the cheese by the cheesecloth on a hook over a bowl or sink for a bit to allow more moisture to drain out. Or what I do is use two cheese baskets: place half the curd in one basket and half in the other basket. Then one is placed on top of the other to drain. After an hour or so I switch the baskets and drain for another hour. Cover with a dish towel to keep any winged friends off the cheese.
  • Wrap tightly and refrigerate. The cheese will become firmer with refrigeration. It keeps for about a week in the fridge.

Ricotta

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Follow steps 1 through 6 for the Farmer's Cheese and use the less firm option to drain.
  • If you like you can add 1-4 tablespoons of cream to after draining to create a richer cheese.
  • Refrigerate. It keeps for about a week in the fridge.

Queso Fresco

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Follow steps 1 through 6 for the Farmer's Cheese and use the firm option to drain.
  • Wrap tightly and refrigerate. The cheese will become firmer with refrigeration. It keeps for about a week in the fridge.

Resources

There are many terrific cheesemaking books out there! What's unique about Gianaclis' book is that she focuses on understanding the different styles of cheesemaking and what makes each lovely in its own right. The focus isn't to mimic what you might find at the market but rather to have a solid foundation to make each cheese your own by understanding what makes type of cheese tick. So, if you really want to get into cheesemaking and find your inner curds & whey voice, I only have one recommendation:

Gianaclis Caldwell (2012). Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers. Chelsea Green. ISBN: 9781603583329.