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I'm getting kind of worried that I am starting threads where people are going to think I am some kind of expert.  I am not.  Mind you, I am not a complete dill - I do know some things about, well, some things!  While I am sharing my alcohol recipes (and causing havoc), my greater love is my cheese making.  But, I am no expert here folks!  I hope this becomes an unfolding thread where people feel free to add their own knowledge. (I hope that for both threads actually.)

Post number 1:

My beginners advice on how best to start:  buy a kit.  It will get you the basic equipment to start - crazy little measuring spoons, a couple of molds, a few cheese starters etc.  What I like about the kits is that you get some instructions that are pretty simple. I started on a Fresh Cheese Kit that cost me around $90.  Really simple, and I was producing feta in a day or two.  Yes, you can use shop bought whole milk.  Most of the equipment can be found in every kitchen, but you still need to start with a kit. 

Where can I get a starter kit?  Most home brew places have them.  Brewers Choice are a certainty but you can get them on line, green living at Underwood do kits and are also on line - a kit is as far away as a google search.  

I confess to a degree of impatience.  So, I didn't start with really soft cheeses.  I went straight to feta.  I confess that I am also not a genius.  From cheese number one, it worked out fine.  Um... it's follow the recipe guys.  Best of all, almost no ageing time.  You make, you eat.  And it is damn fine cheese. 

Next post, I'll talk about huge improvements to the base recipe, especially for feta. Umm.. I will if anyone is interested.  I don't know this community very well as yet, but I figure if nobody comments, this thread is a loser (that's how most forums work).  I'm no expert, and you don't have to be either.  

Actually - after a quick re-consider, the next post will be an explanation of the basic process to make something like feta.  It's a good mid-ground complexity that will help you decide if you want to bother.  

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Andrew, it's great that you've taken the initiative! We don't hear from most of our 1500 plus membership.

My introduction to cheese-making was with a one-day course by Elisabeth Fekonia. I've never actually made cheese though. She uses the cultures and equipment from Cheese Links in Victoria. Your use of locally-available kits for the beginner sounds like a fine idea.

At the time I was able to buy raw whole milk and thought about making cheese with that ... at $4-odd a litre, 1 litre of milk doesn't make a lot of cheese. Add the time and a lot of messing about and it didn't seem such a great idea for me. I have made a kind of soft cheese using Kefir.

I hate to admit it Elaine, but I use the $1 per liter milk from Coles and it seem to work pretty well.

I made a ricotta using vinegar once, but I haven't tried the Kefir.  You can make a paneer using lemon juice as well.   

What a great subject - I have made cottage cheese and ricotta.  I love feta and think that is what I want to try next.  i have just started making kefir and have it in a  smoothie - how do you make cheese?  just drain off the whey?

Yes, essentially that's it - Susanne on this forum has a recipe which sounds delicious. The most comprehensive resource for Kefir is Dom's site just don't buy from him. If you search 'Kefir' on this site you will come across good info too.

Pretty much all I do is drain off the whey, after adding some salt to the Kefir. Then I store it in a small container in the fridge.

Gillan, we started a group for this if you are interested.  Check the "groups" tab. 

Okay, the actual cheese making process.  

Bear in mind, these change quite a bit, depending on which recipe you use.  Also, soft cheese is different to hard.  We'll start with feta as a good middle ground.  This is the Mad Millie recipe.  I am also simplifying the hell out of this to keep it understandable.  Most people would want to see it done first, but you can do what I did and use the recipe straight out of their book with a little care. 

Heat 4 litres of whole milk to 37 degrees.  Add 2 ml of calcium chloride (puts more calcium back in our pasturised milk).  Add starter culture.  (1/8 of a teaspoon of mesophilic or low heat bacteria). Stir it in.  Then add 1/2 tablet of rennet (the thing that makes the curd split from the whey).  

Keep it at 37 degrees for 90 minutes or until you get a clean break (you can see the curd comes away from the side of the pot - or it is rubbery when you put your finger in).

Cut into 1/2 inch bits (there's a fun art in curd cutting) and let it rest for 1 hour, maintaining the 37 degree temperature. 

After the hour, stir gently each 5 minutes for 30 minutes, maintaining the 37 temp.  

Line a mould with cheese cloth and scoop curd into it.  Let drain for 3 hours.  Flip it over and leave drain overnight (or for 12 hours).

Soak in a brine (60 grams of cheese salt to 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar) for 5 hours.

I take mine out and rinse it.  They say it lasts for 5 weeks in the fridge but I wouldn't know.  

You can also cut the feta in cubes and put it in olive oil.  Throw some rough chopped garlic or rosemary or whatever takes your fancy and leave for 2 weeks.  Yum.  So long as the cheese is covered in oil, it will store in the bottle fine.  I've done another version where I chop chives and shallots and bell peppers and put it into the mould as I am adding the curds (a layered effect).  Really nice. 

You have now made some very fancy feta!

Thanks for the post Andrew. Cheese making is something I've been wanting to try for a long time. Even if you're not an expert it's great to hear from someone who's given it a go and can share their mistakes and successes.

Cheers for that!

Vanessa, we started a group for this if you are interested.  Check the "groups" tab. 

Hi Andrew and others,

I too am on the cheesemaking journey and after several false starts was given one of the mad millie kits last christmas. They really are a very good way to go. I make ricotta every week and yogurt. I usually try to make one other type as well. So far feta (great in jars in olive oil herbs sundried tomatoes etc ) and as you said Andrew as long as the cheese is covered it seems to be fine; cottage cheese, not so happy with that I think I will stick to ricotta; mozarella which was fun;and now have 2 rounds of camenbert just about ready to be wrapped and popped in the fridge to mature...should be ready for THIS Christmas.  Yay!! 

You have motivated me  Andrew. Am going to buy some milk to make feta this afternoon. Thanks!

I am new to this group too and have been reading the posts with great interest. I have a tiny but vigorous vegie garden.  Living in Toowoomba this has been a challenge. We have a very definite cold season here.

Vicki in beautiful sunny Toowoomba

 

Welcome on board Vicki.  Hope you got the feta done.  I cut my first Jarlsberg and tasted.  Fantastic!  It uses two bacterium - a thermophillic (high heat) and a proniamic shermanii (to make the holes and give the nutty flavour).  Man, that stuff is good.  Having said that, I am gunna make a feta on Friday. 

Your camenbert sounds impressive!

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