So you want to make home made cheese?

Cheese has always been part of my life while growing up in Switzerland. Fondue is one of the best known dishes in Switzerland and has been part of Switzerland’s culture for many years. What is it that makes Fondue special? It’s actually not about the cheese itself, although it’s yummy of course. But the best cheese fondue of course would be made with my own home made cheese I suspect.

Fondue is much more about sitting around the family table and sharing a meal. It’s a great opportunity to have a conversation with the whole family while having a satisfying meal. If you want to add some fun you make the person who loses a piece of bread in the mixture buy a bottle of white wine. Why white? It’s good for your digestion, after all, fondue can sit in your stomach like a piece of concrete.

So all my life I had dreams of one day making my own cheese. Of course these thoughts come and go as life takes it’s course. But life has brought me to New Zealand and one of the things I miss the most is CHEESE!

This is not to say that New Zealand does not have good cheese. It does! Just mostly not in the two major super markets you find around Auckland. What a far cry from Switzerland where you can go into mostly any supermarket and find good quality cheese.

So yesterday, after signing up for my first “Make your own Cheese” class I decided that I wanted to give it a go before attending the class. I decided on Ricotta, since this is one of the only cheeses that you will not need to have Rennet or a starter for. But of course on a Sunday I was hard pressed to get the ingredients I needed if I wanted to attempt to make some fancy cheese. So off to the local hardware store I went and to my surprise they had what I was looking for: Cheesecloth. The rest of the ingredients I had in my cupboard, all I needed was pasteurized whole milk (of course raw milk would be better) and a little bit of white wine vinegar.

After heating up the milk in a stainless pan to about 90 degree Celsius and adding a little bit of vinegar I pulled the pan off the heat and stirred very slowly until the curds formed. Amazingly they did so within minutes after which I fished them out and put them into a sieve lined by the cheese cloth. The longer you drain the mixture the harder your cheese will become. After about 10 minutes I decided to stop draining it and below is what I had created:

My first Ricotta

The recipe I followed was very easy, courtesy of Jean Mansfield from Make Cheese. I was amazed how easy this was. Who knew that cheese could be made in about half an hour.

My Ricotta reminded me of Mozzarella Cheese which is of course a little bit harder to make. After draining it I added a little salt, but am now wondering whether the salt should be added right after taking the milk off the hot plate. This of course will be discovered with my next experience.

Give it a go! It’s fun, it’s easy and you end up with a great starter that you can proudly say you made yourself. Over the next couple of days I’ll go ahead and post the actual recipe.