Cheese Making FAQs

Cheese may be milk's leap to immortality, but we do need to help it a little!

Cheese may be milk's leap to immortality, but we do need to help it a little!

I do my best to summarize answers to common questions and troubles here. If you don’t find what you need, feel free to contact us with questions and I will address them. Thanks for stopping in!

Here’s the most important tip….ready?
Don’t toss out cheese just because it didn’t turn out as expected.

If it tastes good and smells fine…then rename it and use it! It is probably a legit cheese, just not the one you set out to make. If you love it; note the conditions, milk used, temps. etc. so you can reproduce it! Be creative and resourceful. Most cheeses are happy “mistakes” and discoveries made out of need anyway. If  you don’t know about Fankhauser, check out his clean break diagnosis page HERE. He’s an experienced cheesemaker and scientist chock full of knowledge!

Enjoy the tao of cheese.


Tips & Frequently Asked Questions

Yes.

This is usually due to the curd not being “healed” and cooked enough after cutting. The cubes did not get a chance to release enough whey so the final cheese contains too much moisture.

Lower the heat to the lowest setting when you have a clean break (a very clean slice that fills with whey immediately). After cutting, allow the cubes to sit and seep whey for about 1-2 minutes. Then move them ever so slowly in the whey while checking the bottom of the pot for larger pieces and cutting them as you go if needed. About 90% of the curd pieces should lose their sharp cut edges (they’ll look like scrambled eggs) and a piece should be able to be held without running right through your fingers (like yogurt would). This happens within 2-3 minutes as you slowly move the pieces in the warm whey maintained at 105-110F. It’s a subtle difference but a very important one. Patience pays off here.

Sometimes you can just cover the pot (heat off) and leave it for 15-45 minutes, come back and like magic, you have coagulation! Try a couple of things before you resort to dumping out your milk.

Check that your rennet is fresh- it loses power when left at room temp or kept for a long time. See your kit for a best by date. Visit our shop for fresh rennet.

Check that your thermometer is reading accurately. Without some warmth, your rennet will not activate. Place it in an icy cup of water- does it read 32F? If not, adjust it until it does.

Are you making a fast goat cheese or ricotta from our kits? Small curds are not unusual with fast goat cheese and with ricotta in general. If you use fine cheesecloth to strain, you should end up with nice creamy cheese.

Do you possibly have Ultra-pasteurized milk? If you weren’t after ricotta or goat cheese and your curds never progressed, you probably have ultra-pasteurized or ultra-heat pasteurized milk on your hands. From what I understand dairies are not required to label this milk as such and you should know that even organic dairies are doing this to the milk for longer shelf life. I have found my good milks by trial and error and have actually called customer service phone lines to ask. This has worked well for me. Just a note though, I have found most of my “errors” still resulted in a cream cheese that was nice. Taste yours and use it!

More than likely the temperature wasn’t right when you microwaved it or hot water bathed it. Or some of it stretched and the rest cooled. It helps to do this in batches; split the curds into 4 parts and stretch one part at a time. The curds can even be refrigerated before stretching so there is no need to rush. Aside from using a thermometer, you can test for stretchiness by taking a small marble sized ball and kneading it, if it is rubbery, gets shiny and stretches, you’re on your way!

Fresh cheeses that are not aged are mild in flavor but you can add salt as you like. When we add it at home it may seem like a lot but don’t be shy (add a little, taste, add more, taste etc.). Cheese salt is flaky/fluffy and so it’s not as “salty” as your usual table salt. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, try dry pepper flakes and herbs or spices for more flavor. Smoked paprika and lemon pepper (usually contains garlic) are big flavor boosters. Have fun experimenting!

It can really mess up our cheese if your thermometer reads 60 DF when it’s really 110 DF! Luckily, more than likely it just needs to be recalibrated. I talk about this on the supplies page. All you need are some pliers and a pot of boiling water.

This kit makes an easy, beginners’ goat cheese similar to ricotta or other farmer cheeses. Chevre just means goat in French so it covers an endless variety of cheeses made of goats milk. Don’t expect your results to be like the aged French goat cheeses you may have encountered. This is an incredibly versatile kit however; heat the milk less (185F) and you get a creamy spreadable result you may be more familiar with. Heat it more (200F) and it will evolve into something more like crumbly feta. They can all be shaped with the molds with slightly different outcomes. Check out the photos.The aged goat cheeses take a bit more experience, more time, rennet and sometimes cultures. I may offer more advanced kits in the future but for now, this is a great start. As you will see there are endless varieties you can make if you incorporate different spices, herbs and shapes. Have fun experimenting!

ps. if you have made other fresh cheeses with cow milk you may be expecting the curds to look like the same with goats cheese (big and chunky). For me, with pasteurized goat milk at least, the curds are tiny. You can still see the curdling happen when you add the acid but it is a lot more subtle. Just drain in the fine cheesecloth I include and you will end up with wonderful chevre. Just wanted to include that so you don’t dump it out. Always, always follow through, cheese has a magical way of transforming!

For success with the butter muslin/fine cheesecloth you get in your kits (90# if you’re curious) follow these simple tips:

  • First time, wash in warm water
  • Rinse curds off with cold water immediately after you finish using it.
  • Wash as you would your dishtowels
  • Soak for a few minutes in baking soda to refresh after a couple of uses
  • Soak in boiling water for 5 minutes to sterilize or as some do, bleach in a weak solution.
  • Handle gently and it should last you a good while before it develops holes.
  • It may look very wrinkly right out of the washer but if you rinse and wring it before lining your colander, it will stretch back out nicely. As a bonus, won’t slide as you pour curds and whey through it.