Cheesemaking Without Benefit of Mail Order


Post by community member:


Now that I have tasted success in my early cheesemaking adventures, I have been trying to assemble useful or at least interesting information on the processes involved.

One of the more “back-to basics” set of instructions I have come across is an excerpt from an out-of-print cheesemaking book that was sent to me by a long-time goat person. I don’t know the title or author, but I thought I’d share in this post a bit of information on how my grandmother might have made cheese (had she been so inclined). I have paraphrased much of the info for the sake of brevity.

If I had to name this book, I would call it something like “Cheesemaking Without Benefit of Mail Order”.

  • Milk:
  • Raw whole milk from goats or cows makes the richest cheese but partially skimmed milk may be used. Preservatives are often added to milk that is labeled “pasteurized” so only raw milk can be used, otherwise the milk may not form curds.

    The book goes on to stress the importance of antibiotic-free milk so that the bacterial action that acidifies the milk will proceed unhindered.

    Milk must be warmed, and held at room temperature until it has ripened, in other words, until the lactic acid begins to develop and the milk tastes slightly acidic. They suggest it is best to use a mixture of evening and morning milk. The book instructs the cheese maker to warm the evening milk to 60 degrees and hold it there overnight then to cool the morning milk to 60 degrees and mix with the evening milk. If you use only morning milk it suggests to cool the milk to 60 or 70 degrees and let it ripen for 3 or 4 hours to develop the acid.

    They stress only using your very best milk because poor milk makes poor cheese.

    Plan to use 4 quarts of milk per pound of cheese.

  • Starter:
  • (excerpted directly from the book)

    “Some type of starter is necessary to develop the proper amount of acid for good cheese flavor.

    You can buy buttermilk, yogurt or a commercial powdered cheese starter or you can make a tart homemade starter by holding 2 cups of fresh milk at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours until it curdles or clabbers.

    A more complicated, but much more mellow starter may be made by adding 1/8 cake of yeast to 1 cup of warm milk and letting it stand for 24 hours. Then pour out half and add 1 cup of warm milk. Every day for 7 days pour off half the mixture and add 1 cup of warm milk. Keep it in a warm place. After a week, add the mixture to 2 cups of warm milk and let it stand for 24 hours. This is a cultured starter and is now ready to use.”

    I think this starter will store in the fridge for a week and is reusable by saving some clabbered milk made at the start of each cheesemaking session but the instructions seem a bit vague.

  • Rennet:
  • We are all familiar with “store bought” rennet, but you can make cheese without any rennet as described in the first step of making hard cheese below.

    Step 1. Ripen the milk: (excerpted directly from the book)

    “Warm milk to 86 degrees and add two cups of homemade starter and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes to be sure it is well incorporated into the milk. Cover and let sit in a warm place, perhaps overnight.

    In the morning, taste the milk. If it has a slightly acid taste it is ready.

    If you are not using rennet, let the milk set for 18 to 24 hours more or until the curds have formed and the whey is separating.”

The remaining basic hard cheese-making steps in the book are similar to those in other books, so I won’t cover those.

The book does, however, have some interesting recipes that I can’t wait to try using the homemade starter once fresh milk on our farm is more plentiful come spring. Some of the more interesting sounding recipes include Teleme, Sweet Cheese, Krautt Cheese, Schmierkase, and Gaiskasli.

Shelley blogs at Twiggity Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats.

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  1. Leah's Mom says:

    “A more complicated, but much more mellow starter may be made by adding 1/8 cake of yeast to 1 cup of warm milk….”

    I’m really surprised at that recommendation… I would DEFINITELY NOT use the yeast idea to make a starter for regular “hard” (presses) cheeses. Yeast is something you want to avoid like the plague if you’re making that type of cheese. The introduction of yeast into a batch of cheese will have much the same effect as using it to raise bread. As it multiplies it creates gasses that actually create a “spongy” texture and pretty bad flavor to a cheese making them pretty inedible.

    That being said, however, I’m wondering if they were using the yeast recommendation for a SPECIFIC type of cheese such as one of the mold-ripened cheeses (camembert, blues, etc.) I’d be interested to know if there was a specific recipe that goes along with the use of the yeast in the book?
    My guess is that the propagation of the yeast was to try to create a mold similar to the pennicilium roqueforti (and others) used for the mold-ripened cheeses.

  2. Cassie says:

    Fascinating!! I think it’s so fascinating to read old books and see what is left out. Meaning, it was so well-known back then that it wasn’t worth mentioning. Hence the vague references. I see this in old novels too. It goes a long way to show how much we (as a society) have forgotten or lost along the way.

  3. lisabetholson says:

    I hope you are going to share some of the recipes with us. No fair teasing us.

  4. Shelley says:

    Leah’s Mom, I thought the yeast cake idea was a bit strange as well. I wonder if it sort of dilutes after all that fermentation? I have to admit I haven’t tried it. I can tell you that this was a way to just make the basic starter and wasn’t associated with any particular cheese. I did find a scientific abstract that talked about yeasts in the culturing of cheddar but it probably wasn’t bread yeast. For the geeky among us here is the link: “Yeasts as adjunct starters in matured Cheddar cheese”

  5. gocatcody says:

    Long time reader, first time poster but this is right up my alley of interest. I am always trying recipes that would be practical in a grid down situation with no mail order supplies or grocery store items. There was a past recipe by Cindy P (I think!) for quick cheese. This is a velveeta style cheese that is made only with milk and vinegar. It is great! I halve the recipe by using one gallon of milk and 3/4 C white vinegar. There were some comments about low yield and that a recipe for lactic cheese might be better but I find the quick cheese recipe easiest! It even works with store bought milk as long as it’s not ultra pasturized. Try it and see – it also makes divine cheese dip.

  6. Leah's Mom says:

    Well…I must qualify for geeky! I tried the link but it wouldn’t take me to the right place?

  7. Shelley says:

    Oops! Leah’s Mom try this one.

    There are also listings of related microbiological articles about cheese starters. I think you can see the abstracts for free but not the articles 🙁

  8. Shelley says:

    I’ll try to submit another post that contains some of the recipes after the holiday. I’ll be peddling rustic furniture this weekend out of town with no internet 🙂

  9. fieldfare says:

    I wrote the following in a note to Suzanne about this reference to the old, out-of-print book, when I was having difficulty signing up for this site, earlier today. Since it’s sort of generic information, I’ll include what I wrote here, in case anyone wants to look up this fine -if strange- old book. -published, by the way, in 1974. “…I do believe that the out-of-print book, mentioned in the Recipes section, under a title, like, ‘Cheesemaking without benefit of Mail Order’, is a small Garden-Way Publishing paperback, entitled, ‘Making Cheese and Butter’,
    by the late Phyllis Hobson [who was, herself, as I recall, something like a ‘Lifestyles’ editor, when she started out]. The author of the article on your site suggests that the ‘instructions in the book are
    vague’. TRUE, and More than that, in my opinion, but, strangely, in this case, it doesn’t detract from the book’s value -at all. Whenever I use this book -which is frequently- I am moved that it’s really a VERY VALUABLE RESOURCE, NOTWITHSTANDING THIS UNUSUAL FACT: YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW
    HOW TO MAKE CHEESE, *BEFORE* YOU USE IT. AFTER THAT, IT’S A GOLDMINE. -AFTER YOU KNOW CERTAIN THINGS, IT TEACHES YOU NEW THINGS, ALL THE TIME…” The recipes are very brief, and are like…out of someone’s grandmother’s ‘shorthand’-like ‘receipts’, but once you know the ‘territory’, they’re great. and incidentally, the ‘yeast’ starter does work, but you may have to re-start the process, more than once. It’s tedious, but once you ‘get the feel for it’, yes, it works. It’s like everything else in ‘the home dairy’; there’s nothing like working with milk to educate a cook as to what is ‘wholesome’, and what isn’t, by developing, on their own, with time and experience, that inexplicable *thing* called, Instinct. I think that’s the main lesson of this little book.

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