We're going to create 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of hard cheese, much like a Colby or a mild white cheddar (actually, all cheese is white -- orange and yellow cheeses have color added). Simply stated, we're going to warm the milk, add an enzyme called rennet (an enzyme either from the stomach of a cow or goat or, for vegetarian cheeses, from mold), and press the resulting milk goo into a block.
Here's what you need to begin:
*Sterilize with boiling water
- Plastic or metal mixing spoon*
- Thermometer*: Should be able to read temperatures up to at least 225 degrees F (107 degrees C)
- Large bowl
- 4-6 quart stainless steel pot and lid*: Aluminum won't deal well with the acid in the cheese
- Cheese cloth*: Available at a cheese supply store, or use a handkerchief or old pillowcase
- Simple cheese press: Available at a cheese-making supply store; the super handy can attempt this complex homemade version; or make a simple press from a large can, with ends removed, about 5 inches (13 centimeters) tall and 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter, one end of the can, a rubber band and a mason jar.
- One gallon whole milk
- 3 teaspoons buttermilk or 1/3 cup plain yogurt (this is the starter with the active bacteria that will ferment the milk)
- 1/4 tablet rennet: Find this at a cheese supply store or a natural grocer
- Salt (non-iodized)
Once you've got all of this within reach, you're ready to make some cheese. The first step is an easy (and sort of counterintuitive) one: Let the milk sit out.
1. Inoculate and incubate: Pour the gallon of milk into the sterilized pot. Warm on the stove to 68 degrees F (20 degrees C). Stir in buttermilk or yogurt starter. Blend well and cover. Remove from heat. Let sit for an hour (or up to several hours).
2. Warm: Return the pot to the stove. Warm milk to 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) and keep it there.
3. Coagulate: Dissolve 1/4 tablet of the rennet in 1/4 cup cold water. Add the diluted rennet to the warmed milk and stir well, about 30 seconds. Let sit undisturbed for one hour (don't move it around), keeping the temperature at 86 degrees F.
After the hour is up, it's time to go in and see if your milk is ready to work with.