Cheesemaking: The Basics

Learn the fundamentals of cheesemaking and try out these simple, tested recipes.

A Cheesemakers Journey

“A Cheesemaker’s Journey” is a practical guide to cheesemaking at home.

Cover Courtesy Hoegger Supply, Inc.

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Whether you are just beginning or want to improve your technique, A Cheesemaker’s Journey (Hoegger Supply, Inc., 2013) will help you master cheesemaking at home. Author Mary Jane Toth provides more than 50 beautifully illustrated, easy cheese recipes with that will ensure success. Learn the basics of cheesemaking in this excerpt taken from the introduction.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: A Cheesemaker’s Journey.

A Cheesemaker’s Journey Cheese Recipes:

Ricotta Cheese
Garlic Cheese Recipe With Chives
How to Make Colby Cheese


How to Make Parmesan Cheese

Cheesemaking reminds me of high school science projects — just tastier and without the written report. You begin with one product, milk, and depending on what you add and the steps you take, you end up with a specific cheese. It is pretty amazing!

Each cheese recipe in this book calls for different cultures, mold spore powders, or enzymes. Each of these have specific bacterium which affect the flavor. Once these ingredients are added, the milk is taken through a series of steps; it is heated, the curds are cooked (or not cooked in some cases), and then held for varying lengths of time. Some are pressed; some are not. Each variation in ingredients and process impacts the final result.

Ultimately, you will gain the ability to predict how changes in the ingredients and process will impact the flavor and texture of your cheese. However, this skill can require years to develop, which is why it is crucial to start your cheesemaking journey with the best and most dependable recipes and instructions available.

Understanding Cheese Cultures

Throughout this book, recipes will call for different cheese cultures. There are two primary types of culture: mesophilic and thermophilic. The most common question for new cheesemakers is probably “How do I choose a culture?” This decision can be a daunting task, but it’s made much simpler when you have a basic understanding of how and why the cultures work.

The purpose of the culture is to raise the acidity of the milk, also known as ripening. Acidity helps the rennet to coagulate the milk into curds. Too little acidity and the curds will be weak, too much and the cheese can become rubbery or bitter. In addition, acidity is important for preserving the cheese and developing its flavor.

Milk is a perfect medium for good and bad bacteria. The culture inoculates the milk with the good type of bacteria, which multiply by consuming the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk. The result raises the acidity, and, once the good bacteria have taken hold in the milk, they help prevent the bad bacteria from gaining a foothold. It’s like a war between the good and bad. The good win the war when they can quickly outnumber the bad. When you are raising the milk to a specific temperature or maintaining a temperature, you are actually creating the environment required for the culture’s good bacteria to thrive.

Cultures can be broken into two types: mesophilic and thermophilic. The type of cheese you are going to make will determine which of these you choose.

Many varieties of these two types are available with names such as flora donica, lactococcus bulgarius, etc. No matter what types of fancy names a culture has, it will still fall into one of the two types. The variety in names simply means that they have different strains of bacteria which can produce slight differences in taste. I have used several of these varieties with pretty much the same results and with no significant (or noticeable) difference of taste in the end product.

For a complete list of culture substitutions for the cheese recipes in this book, go to the cheesemaking section at Hoegger Supply Company.

Reprinted with permission from A Cheesemaker’s Journey by Mary Jane Toth and published by Hoegger Supply, Inc., 2012. Buy this book from our store: A Cheesemaker’s Journey