Last summer my mom and I took a cheese making class at a Seattle home brew supply store. We took a quick field trip to downtown Seattle first to stock up on spices and get dinner, then headed for what ended up being a shady-looking cinder block building. If we hadn’t been high on the metropolitan farm-y feel of Pike Place Market, Penzey’s, and Beecher’s Cheese, maybe we wouldn’t have been expecting a stainless steel and subway tile teaching kitchen with pots of herbs in swing-out window sills. It was a nice enough place once we got inside and the class itself more than made up for the location.
Before we started, everyone went around and gave their names and said why they were interested in cheese and cheese making. There was a guy way in the back who was there to learn about making non-traditional milks into cheese. He had a baby at home who was lactose intolerant, which he and his wife discovered after she had pumped a freezer-full of breast milk that she had been consuming dairy during the production of. Rather than toss the milk, you guessed it, he wanted to make cheese out of it. Breast milk cheese. Yeah.
Anywaaaaay . . . Since the class I’ve made fresh mozzarella a couple times, but I haven’t made anything else. I’ve had several packets of chevre (goat cheese) starter in the freezer for a number of months now and I finally decided to use it. There are only about four steps to making goat cheese, it’s a pretty simple fresh cheese. The hardest part it tracking down some goat milk. The local food co-op stocks goat milk, but it’s expensive. As in, $16 per gallon expensive.
The other thing you need is something to curdle and set the milk. You could use a combination of rennet and cheese cultures or you could just buy the chevre (goat cheese) starter packets sold by the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. that already have the culture and rennet mixed in the right amounts. You can get five packets, plus shipping, for about $8 and one packet sets on gallon of milk, so that’s a lot of goat cheese. Alternatively, New England Cheesemaking sells supplies at a lot of home brew supply stores, so there’s probably one in your area and you could just buy the starter there.
The other specialty “supply” you need is chevre molds. You can get these online from New England Cheesemaking as well, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t really need to. I saved some yogurt containers and poked holes in them with a candle-heated nail. You’re going to want to use an oven glove to do that and make sure to poke from the inside so there aren’t any plastic lumps to scrape up your cheese as you unmold it. I also have a couple ceramic berry baskets that I lined with cheesecloth (these ended-up being the ones I liked the best). Actual (plastic) berry or tomato containers from the grocery store would also work great.
So here’s what you need to do:
- Sterilize your equipment. (Yes, we’re adding bacteria to milk, but we want to be in charge of the which bacteria are there. Salmonella does not make good artisan cheese. Just saying.)
- Heat the milk.
- Add the culture.
- Let the milk ripen.
- Salt and mold the curds, let drain.
- Eat the curds (which are now goat cheese!).
You may not have been around at Christmas when I was talking about my cheese press (my mom made me this gorgeous wooden cheese press for Christmas), but the day that I will first use it is looming large in the horizon. My shipment of cheese cultures arrived the other day, so homemade Parmesan is just around the corner. If you could make any cheese you wanted, what would it be?