Make Your Own Cheese

Why not try your hand at homemade cheese. It’s not hard and the good news is you can use milk purchased from the shop to make cheese, as long as you have calcium chloride to re-calcify it.

FETA

Feta is a Greek cheese, traditionally made out of sheep’sor goat’s milk, but in Australia it’s commonly made from cow’s milk.

Ingredients:

  • 4 litres full-cream milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon of calcium chloride diluted in . cup of un-chlorinated water
  • mesophilic hard curd cheese starter culture (see the packet direction for the amount to add)
  • ¼ rennet tablet or . teaspoon of liquid rennet dissolved in . cup of un-chlorinated water
  • 1 tablespoon of cheese salt

Equipment:

  • two large stackable stainless steel pots that fit one inside the other, to indirectly heat the milk
  • dairy thermometer
  • stainless steel curd knife
  • stainless steel perforated spoon
  • stainless steel ladle
  • loose weave cheese-making cloth
  • large stainless steel or enamel colander.

Instructions:

  1. Place the milk into the smaller pot and then place this pot into the second, larger pot with water in it to act as a water jacket. Add the calcium chloride to the milk and mix in well.
  2. Using indirect heat, slowly heat the milk to 32 C. Remove from the heat and add the starter culture and mix in well. Leave smaller pot in the larger pot of water and leave to incubate at 32 C for 1 hour. The temperature should be maintained by the water jacket, which acts as a thermos.
  3. Add the rennet solution and stir it in gently using an up-and-down motion for one minute to ensure the rennet is evenly distributed. Allow to rest undisturbed for one hour, maintaining the temperature at 32 C.
  4. Check for a ‘clean break’*. If the curd is not firm enough, leave it for another 5 minutes and check again.
  5. Once the curd is firm enough, cut the curd into 1.5 centimetre cubes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Gently stir the curds for 20 minutes, being careful not to break them down too much by being too rough.
  7. Gently ladle the curds into a colander lined with your cheesecloth. Tie the corners of the cloth together to form a bag and hang to drain for 5-6 hours. The curds will knit together into a solid mass.
  8. Untie the bag and cut the curds into 2.5 centimetre cubes and place them in a storage container.
  9. Sprinkle the curds with salt to taste and store in the refrigerator and allow to age for 3–4 days before eating. Alternatively, prepare a brine solution with 1/3 cup of cheese salt and 1 . litres of water and store in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. Increase or decrease the salt to taste. Storing your feta in a brine results in a stronger flavour.

HALLOUMI

Halloumi is a salty cheese from Cyprus that has the unique quality of not melting when heated, making it ideal for grilling. Traditionally made with sheep’s and goat’s milk, it can also be made with cow’s milk.

Ingredients:

  • 8 litres full cream milk
  • ¼ teaspoon of calcium chloride diluted in . cup un-chlorinated water
  • mesophilic hard curd cheese starter culture (see the packet direction for the amount to add)
  • ½ tablet of rennet or . teaspoon of liquid rennet diluted in . cup of un-chlorinated water
  • ¼ cup of cheese salt
  • Brine solution (450g cheese salt in 2 litres of un-chlorinated water)

Equipment:

You will need all of the equipment used for your feta, plus a few extra items including:

  • additional loose weave cheese-making cloths
  • cheese basket and follower
  • cheese press and spring

Instructions:

cheese
Halloumi with a squeeze of lime. Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt
  1. Place the milk into the smaller pot and then place this pot into the second, larger pot with water in it to act as a water jacket. Add the calcium chloride to the milk and mix in well.
  2. Using indirect heat, slowly heat the milk to 30 C. Add your starter culture and mix in well.
  3. Add the rennet and stir in gently using an up and down motion for one minute, ensuing that the rennet is evenly distributed throughout the milk. Cover and allow to rest undisturbed for 45 minutes, while maintaining the temperature at 30 C.
  4. Check for a ‘clean brake’*. If the curd is not firm enough leave for another 5 minutes and check again. Be patient and wait for a clean break.
  5. Once the curd is firm enough, cut the curd into 1.5 cm cubes.
  6. Again using indirect heat, gradually increase the temperature to 40 C. This should be at a rate of about one degree every five minutes, for a total of approximately 50 minutes. Stir every few minutes during the heating process and also while maintaining the temperature at 40 C to prevent the curds from matting together.
  7. Once the curds and whey have reached 40 C, continue stirring occasionally for an additional 15 minutes.
  8. Gently ladle the curds and whey into a colander lined with your loose-weave cheese-making cloth, being sure to catch the whey in a pot for later use. Allow the curds to drain for several minutes, or until the whey ceases to run freely.
  9. Lift the curds in the coth out of the colander and place them, still in the cloth, into the cheese basket. Pull up the sides of the cloth to avoid any wrinkles and fold the cloth carefully over the top of the curds. Place the follower on top of the covered curds.
  10. Press the curds for one hour at 14 kilograms using a cheese press and spring.
  11. Remove the cheese from the basket, carefully peel away the cloth, turn the cheese over, redress with cloth and return it to the basket. Press again for 30 minutes at 22 kilograms.
  12. Remove the cheese again from the basket and remove the cloth. Cut the cheese into 7centimetre cubes.
  13. Using the whey you saved earlier, heat it to 80 C to 90 C. Place your cubes of cheese into the hot whey to soak for one hour.
  14. Remove the cubes from the hot whey and place them back into the colander to drain and cool for 20 minutes.
  15. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of cheese salt onto the cheese, while it is still in the colander, and leave for a further 3 hours.
  16. Place the cheese into the brine solution in the refrigerator and soak. Halloumi can be eaten right away or kept in the brine for up to 60 days. The flavour will continue to develop and become stronger with time.

Checking for a clean break:

Once the rennet has set the milk it should be a solid mass of curds that looks like thick yoghurt. To check for a clean break insert the curd knife into the centre of the curd and make a small cut. Slide the knife under the cut in the curd and gently lift the curd. If it is ready, the curd will split along a clean line and not be too soft or milky. If the curd is still too soft, leave it for another five minutes and then check it again. Continue to do this until you achieve a clean break. Be patient and wait for a clean break before moving onto the next step.

Valerie Pearson is the director of Green Living Australia. For equipment, ingredients and advice on cheese making please go to www.greenlivingaustralia.com.au or call our helpline on (07) 3808 2576.

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