Cheesemaking isn’t as difficult as you might think–but there are some limitations. Here’s the skinny on homemade cheese, plus a recipe or two you can try this weekend!
What Kind of Cheese Can You Make at Home?
Hard cheeses, like cheddar, have to be aged in very specific conditions. Unfortunately, that means homemade cheddar or gouda is out for home cooks. In fact, even soft aged cheeses like brie need specialty tools and precisely monitored aging.
So what does that leave us with? Sweet, delicious fresh soft cheeses including ricotta, mozzarella, and mascarpone. You can also make a simple farmer’s cheese that can be flavored in countless ways.
How Long Does Homemade Cheese Last?
Well, in my house, fresh cheese lasts about twenty minutes… But provided you don’t eat the whole batch right away, you can expect the cheese to last for no more than a week in the refrigerator. Remember, you aren’t using preservatives, so homemade cheese can–and will–go bad quickly.
It’s a good idea to label your cheese with a “born on” date. You can store it in plastic or glass containers. Reusing old ricotta tubs is a thrifty and environmentally conscious option.
How to Stock Your Cheesemaking Kitchen
You probably have most of the tools to make cheese already! You’ll need a stove, a heavy saucepan or double boiler, a food thermometer, and plenty of cheesecloth or muslin. You’ll also need a colander to drain the whey from the curds.
For the milk, you’ll want to choose one this is not ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurized. If the milk’s expiration date is more a month or more away, it’s probably UHT. You can use whole or 2% milk as the base for most cheeses.
You’ll also need salt and some kind of acid to create the curds that will form your cheese. Some recipes use common white vinegar, but others need citric acid or rennet, which you might have to order online.
Quick and Easy Homemade Farmer’s Cheese Recipe
Farmer’s cheese is wonderfully versatile. You can flavor the crumbly, creamy cheese with herbs and spices, if you want, or enjoy it plain. Farmer’s cheese is a tasty homemade alternative to cream cheese, but you can crumble it on salads or tacos, too.
1/2 gallon of whole milk
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1 tsp salt
Optional fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, or dill all work), red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, etc. Any flavorings should be finely minced.
Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan to 190 F and then remove from the stovetop.
Add the vinegar and start stirring! The milk will immediately start to curdle–don’t worry, that’s what you want to see.
Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes and then gently stir in your flavorings.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and whey into it. If you want to reserve the whey–which you can use for smoothies–place a bowl in the sink and drain the liquid into it.
Lift up that cheesecloth and twist it into a little bag, squeezing as much liquid as you can.
Dump the drained curds into a bowl and stir in the salt. You can either use the crumbles as-is or shape the cheese by wrapping it back up in cheesecloth and using a heavy plate press the cheese into a disc.
Enjoy your homemade cheese!