May 26, 2009

Where to start?

I received an email this morning from Bonnie, an aspiring cheesemaker:
I was looking at your "I make cheese" website and think it's awesome. I wanted to ask you - when you first started making cheese, what equipment did you start out with? I am a bit reluctant to shell out the money for cheese presses, etc. unless I know I want to become serious about making cheese at home. I'd love to get some insight from you and would be very appreciative if you'd be willing to share your knowledge with me.
...and here's my (rather rambling) answer:
I'd definitely suggest you start with some of the softer cheeses that don't need a press...that way you can try your hand at it, see if you like it--and eat the cheeses a lot sooner!

Are you familiar with Ricki Carroll's book? If not, it's worth starting there. It's a bit daunting at first (especially when you see how many steps are involved in the recipes), but when you break it down into the individual steps it's actually fairly easy.

I'd say go for a 30-minute mozzarella first. The only things you'll need:=
  • 5-quart (or larger) pot (Stainless steel is best, but any pot should be okay)
  • large microwavable bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • dairy thermometer (gotta read accurately between 55 and 88 degrees)
  • citric acid
  • rennet
  • cheese salt
Make sure you also check out Ricki's mozzarella starter kit.

By the way, the mozzarella is an AWESOME party trick. Show up at a friend's house with a gallon of milk and the other ingredients (make sure you bring your thermometer), and spend 30 minutes in the kitchen and voila! fresh homemade mozzarella. Can't beat it!

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