Finding Time to Make Cheese

| 11/28/2010 12:21:22 PM

fresh milk and its productsHaving milk from our Dutch Belted cows has really catapulted us along into food independence. We love their milk, and the yogurt, kefir, butter, ice cream and cheese that can be made from it. Making cheese sounds like a sophisticated task until we remember that people have been doing it under all kinds of conditions for thousands of years. No, it’s not making the cheese that’s difficult. The trick is finding the time to make it while juggling other chores.

Mornings at our homestead are the busiest time of the day. The cows, horses, miniature donkeys, and chickens all need feeding and their water tanks filled before being let back out into the pasture. It’s the perfect time of day to work in the garden as well as gather vegetables. If I’m going to scythe the weeds in the orchard, that’s the precious corner of time to do it. But, of course, the milking gets priority.

What doesn’t moo, cluck or whinny usually has to wait until after I deal with the milk. It comes from the cow to the house at about 90 degrees F., the perfect temperature to begin making cheese. Even when sharing milk with others, the two cows give us enough so that I need to carve out time for cheese-making. If I want cheese for that day, I make a “soft” cheese like mozzarella. If I want to have cheese to put aside for the “dry” months (we don’t milk in the winter) then I make a “hard” cheddar cheese. This is the homesteader’s dilemma—the tasks may be enjoyable, but how to get to them all?

stretching mozarella cheeseMozzarella cheese, as defined by Ricki Carroll ( takes a microwave, one gallon of milk and one-half hour. Making a second batch doesn’t take twice-as-long and more importantly, takes the same clean-up time. I flavor it with sea-salt, garlic and herbs and it becomes the protein portion of our light evening meal. I can then be out the door and into the garden before the day gets too hot to enjoy.

Making cheddar cheese takes a wrist watch because it is a dance between cheese-making and other tasks. Ricki cheddar cheese in the cheese pressCarroll has a recipe for cheddar in her book, "Home Cheese Making," but I've been using a "Farmhouse Cheddar" recipe from Lehman's "Basic Hard Cheese Kit," ( No need to heat the milk because as I said, the temperature is perfect to add the bacterial starter. Once it is immersed in its water bath and wrapped in bath towels to hold its temperature, I have a precious 45 minutes to sanitize the milking equipment, hang clothes on the line or gather food from the garden. Then it's back to the cheese-making to add the rennet, wrap it up again and get some other tasks done during the next 45 munute "break."

This timing allows me to focus on the cheese before lunch-time. I cut the thickened curd into cubes, and spend a ½ hour shrinking these curds by slowing heating the surrounding water to 100 degrees. Then it’s time to hang the curds in cheesecloth and distribute the whey to the chickens. We eat lunch during the hour the curds hang and afterwards I put it in the cheese press. Once in the press, the cheese is on auto-pilot until I take it out and turn it the next morning. The second morning, I take it out to dry in time to put the next cheddar into the press. This cheese is precious to us in the winter-time, but we would have to do without it if I couldn’t get other things done while making it.

Melissa Rice
1/2/2012 3:25:26 AM

If you make clabbered cheese do you have to do it right away after milking or can you make it by letting already refridgerated raw milk sit out?

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