culturing

Homemade Spreadable Cheese

When you have dairy goats like we do, one thing you really get a chance to enjoy making and eating is cheese – lots and lots of cheese! Now, I do know a few goat parents that don’t make cheese, but for me, it was the first thing I wanted to do when we rescued our doe who was in milk, but wouldn’t let the rescued (unrelated) bucklings to nurse on her. We opted to milk her out, and fed them several times a day, but even then, she was producing way more milk than they were drinking, so we started using the milk in place of store-bought for our consumption, and cheese-making soon followed.

Both in our cooking and the soap and lotion products I make, we live in a symbiotic relationship with our goats, never taking more from them than they want to give, but knowing we all contribute to this small farm in our own way, and that includes our goats. That said, we do tend to spoil all our goats – males and females alike – with the best grains, seeds, forage, and hay/alfalfa options we can muster. At this point, we milk our does every other morning, which is unlike most goat dairy farms, who milk twice daily. We just believe in letting them rest and relax more, and feel it makes for happier lives all the way around. They’re our business partners, not our employees, after all ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s Make Fromage (Cheese!)

Before we start, know that you can use the milk with which you have access, which for most people is grocery store milk. Here’s what you should gather, so you can get what you need ahead of time:

  • Half gallon of organic milk (cow or goat)
  • Cooking thermometer (I prefer digital) and stirring utensil
  • Fromage Blanc culture – I have used this kind
  • Half gallon mason jar, or similar vessel
  • Butter muslin (or a tight-woven muslin/cheesecloth) I’ve even used flour sack towels!
  • Colander

Warm the Milk, Add the Culture, Wait 12 hours

culturing
Culturing the milk takes about 12 hours, so best to start in the late afternoon or early evening before you want cheese!

The first step is to warm your milk to 86-90 degrees. I use an Instant Pot for this because it’s really easy to manage, plus if I’m in a pinch, I can leave the milk in the pot to culture (which is the fancy word for letting the Fromage Blanc culture do its bacterial thing!) Key here is to pull your milk from the heat once it reaches the right temperature, because letting it get too hot will kill your culture!

Once 86-90 degrees is achieved, pitch your culture in, but leave it to re-hydrate for a minute or two before stirring. Give it a good and thorough stir, and then move your culturing milk to a quiet space and keep it covered, so it retains some of it’s warmth. There is no exact temperature you need to keep it, other than trying not to keep it in an area that gets below 65-68 degrees, as this will slow the culturing quite a bit. Your cheese would be just fine, but maybe not quite as tasty ๐Ÿ™‚ Leave your cheese to culture for 12-14 hours, undisturbed. For most folks, this process is best performed overnight, so you don’t have to fuss with it until the next day!

Drain, then Drain Again

Here comes the final stretch! See how your cheese is a bit more solidified, and whey surrounds it?! Yes, this is the curd! It’s like magic, right?!

draining-curd
Draining the whey off your curd helps get it drier and prepares it for seasoning!

Now, you’ll be transferring your cheese into a cheesecloth-lined colander for draining. Ladle it or simply (and carefully) pour your cheese gently in the colander. If you want to retain the whey for use in other stuff, put the colander over another pot to catch it.

Gather all the corners of your cloth, and create sort of a hammock for your cheese curd, tying it into a nice bundle you can hang. I use a long-handled spoon to suspend it over a pot for final draining, but I have also used a yogurt strainer instead of the colander. I think it’s just personal preference. Regardless, you’ll drain to the consistency you desire, meaning, if you drain for only 2 or so hours, your cheese will retain more liquid, or as many as 4-6 hours, it will be much drier. Again, it’s all about personal preference. Keep in mind your cheese is ready to eat, and will basically remain so for another 5-7 days, refrigerated.

Tasty Adventures Await!

Once you reach the moisture level you like best, it’s time to season your cheese. You can experiment with fresh and dry herbs, mix in fruits or jams, or even stir in cream cheese and some roasted veggies. It’s all up to you, and I divide mine

ready to season curd
A curd all ready to be seasoned, then devoured!

in quarters or thirds, so I make up a few different spreads from the same batch. Some things I’ve stirred into my cheeses include: roasted onions and tomatoes, hatch chilis, cranberries, a medley of fresh-cut herbs, basil/tomato, blackberry chipotle jam, toasted pecans, and the list continues.

Let me know if you try this cheese making thing out! It’s super fun and really, there are no limits to what you can create, and it’s so satisfying to bring to a party. Your friends will be blown away that you made this yourself, and also that you shared it with them! I’d love to have your comments and experiences below, so we can all learn more from one another.

 

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