Make Your Own Cheese, Yogurt and More

Whether you're experimenting with homesteading skills or just looking for ways to use up milk before it goes bad, these tips can help you start making cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. Also find tips for curing hams and bacon.


| March/April 1974



Making Cheese At Home

Homemade cheese is a useful and delicious project for self-sufficiency.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ LILYANA VYNOGRADOVA

Note: All material here reprinted from Grow It! The chapter title for this excerpt is The Larder. Copyright 1972 Richard W. Langer.  

Ways to Use Up Milk

Most of what you grow in a time of plenty can be stored as surplus for future use in bleaker days. But what about milk? Refrigeration will hold it for two weeks, but not longer effectively. And the ancient tiller of the soil had no refrigeration. His milkers were dry many more months of the year than today; yet milk, by necessity, was a major part of his diet. Somewhere along the chain of agricultural development, probably not too far after the discovery of yogurt, came cheese. Solidified milk that not only lasted months but improved in flavor as the days passed. With a little practice and knowledge, you can make your own cheese at home, along with yogurt, cream cheese and clabbered milk.

There are countless varieties of cheese in the world, from soft to hard, mild to sharp, white to blue or brown. The French alone make three hundred kinds, although most are simply regional variations on a theme. Almost all of them are produced in basically the same way, their distinctive quality being the outcome of bacterial conditions, means of storage, additives, aging, and, of course, type of milk used . . . skim or whole; from cows, ewes, goats, buffalo, llamas, or even yaks.

For the beginner with a small herd of goats, a variant of "American" whole-milk cheese is perhaps the best. It lends itself well to production from goat's milk, takes no expensive equipment, and is surprisingly easy to make. If you don't have milk-producing animals, you can use store-bought milk or fresh milk from neighboring farms to make your own cheese. The one thing to remember in planning a cheese cellar is that the volume of your yield shrinks considerably as you progress from milk to cheese. Don't think that by starting with five gallons of milk you'll end up with a year's supply of cheese. You're going to nibble up this delicious homemade dairy product faster than you think.

Cheese is made by coagulating milk, removing the whey, or liquid, and preserving the curd, or solid part. Coagulation is through the addition of rennet, a natural salt-brine extraction from the fourth stomach of young milk-fed calves (cows have four stomachs). Rennin is an enzyme that acts upon casein, the chief protein found in milk. Although the chemistry is complex, you really don't have to know all about it to get started making your own cheese. The fact that you can buy rennet readily at the country store is enough. There'll be time for more reading on the subject some long winter's evening when the harvest is in and the chickens are lying low . . . over a hunk of your own sausage and a wedge of your first wheel of cheese. Since cheese is a natural produce, as long as you follow the tried and true methods you'll have good results.

How to Make Cheese at Home

To make your own cheese, you'll need milk, rennet (or cultured buttermilk) and any coloring or flavoring additions you want to add. You will also need a double-boiler set-up to heat the milk, a wooden cheese paddle, slotted spatula or flat spoon, a knife long enough to reach the bottom of your milk-heating pot, a wire cheese cutter or angel food cake separator, and a strainer. For forming and preserving the cheese you will need salt, a cheese hoop (or approximate), cheese cloth and a cheese press (or approximate).





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