Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cheese making

I've been doing the research on running a dairy for a few years now,  and raised and milked my own heifer  and I've been slowly growing my cow herd; a few cows for beef, but the majority for use in a dairy.

So now I'm at 24 head, with the majority of those being dairy heifers.  I'm milking 4 of them twice a day right now - one holstein, two jerseys, and a holstein-jersey cross.   Most of the milk is being used to feed calves, and I'm diverting 3 gallons a day to cheese making.

Why cheese making?    It's a way to sell milk, and it's a way to deal with surplus milk in a more shelf-stable way.  With fluid milk you've got to sell it relatively quickly; with cheese, a few months of aging often improves it.

If you're interested in the mechanics of cheese making, I'll talk about the stuff I'm using to make the cheese at the bottom of this post.

So I'm working through the process of making various kinds of cheese, and it's been pretty fun.  Here's my first two attempts:

camembert-style cheese
 I'm concentrating on fresh cheeses, that is, cheeses that are consumed relatively quickly, because that's what the market appears to want.  I've talked to a couple of cheese makers and recently took a 3 day course in cheesemaking offered by the local agricultural extension, and what is selling for local cheese producers are these sorts of farmstead cheese.

Plus I like to eat them.  I've made 40 wheels of this type of cheese and kept careful notes about the ingredients and handling of each.  Each batch of 3 gallons of milk made 3 or 4 cheeses (I varied the size a little so that I could see how they ripened if they were a little bigger or smaller) and so I'll get to try each batch at 3 ages.  one relatively young (2 weeks) one midrange (4-5 weeks) and one ripe (6+ weeks).

The natural rind is forming nicely.  I can't wait to eat them
 The actual cheese making process is a lot like baking crossed with brewing beer.  You're dealing with live cultures, and the trick to it is to provide the right conditions for the culture you want to encourage and have that culture crowd out all competitors.

Farmstead feta cheese
The farmstead feta is one of the favorites.  It's relatively simple to make, doesn't have to age very long at all (fresh it's very mild, two weeks old it's got a little bite, at 5 weeks it's sharp) and it has become the household snack item.

This is what I use for my cheesemaking:

To heat the milk and maintain the temperature on cultures or for cheddaring, I use a sous-vide water oven.  You can do the same thing with a couple of pots and a thermometer, but the sous-vide makes it pretty easy to get fairly precise control over your milk and culture temperatures, and in a pinch, can be used to pasturize  your milk if you'd like.  (set to 145 degrees and maintain at temperature for 30 minutes).  For my cheese experiments I'm using all raw-milk.

I'll warm the milk to temperature and then transfer to 3 gallon plastic totes for incubation of the culture and for curd formation.

I started with this recipe for the camenbert because by the time that it's all said and done, my mostly-jersey milk produces either a double-cream or a triple-cream cheese.  Plus that's one of my favorite types, so why not make something you like to eat?  Who says experiments have to be all work!

With the feta cheese I used a recipe supplied in the cheesemaking class.  The basic ingredients are whole milk, culture, lipase, rennet, salt.  

Both of the recipes assumed pastuerized milk ; for raw milk I was able to eliminate calcium carbonate
and use a little less rennet.

On a flavor note, there is a distinct flavor difference between raw-milk cheese and pastuerized milk cheese; having grown up with pastuerized milk, I'm finding that the raw milk cheese is particularly delicious.


grasspunk said...

I like this move. Out here cheese making is one of the few small farm businesses that can be profitable. Certainly better than dairy alone. Although cheese might be a more important market here than in WA. :-)

Anonymous said...

That's awesome you are making your own cheese!
I'm living in America's Dairyland which is mostly becoming large dairies with the milk tankers backed up to the milking parlor, but its fun to look around and see the remnants of how it used to be done.
Still a lot of old dairy barns. We live in an area with many springs, and most of the dairy farmers cooled their milk in the springs, sometimes you can see a little house built over a spring, or an old foundation. The countryside was inundated with small cheese factories as the farmers couldn't transport their milk very far. Many of the old cheese factories have been converted to just homes, as they were homes even when they were cheese factories, with the living quarters usually above the cheese-making.

Bill Gauch said...

Around here, we have to age raw milk cheeses for a minimum of 60 days. Every year, they make a couple arrests/citations of a shop owner for selling fresh, soft, un-aged cheese. You can't even buy raw milk retail.

Hostetter said...


Its not about the cheese.... You just want the whey to feed the pigs.. come on tell us the truth..

ellie k said...

Can you use your milking machine with all four cows? Sometimes it is not easy to train a cow to accept the machine. How will you sell the cheese, farmers market, flea market or mail order? The cheese sure looks good.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...


Bruce King said...

hostettor: you found out my secret. All of this dairy activity is for the whey!

Hostetter said...

Seriously, looks great. Whats the plan for aging the cheese. Are you building a special room or area?