Cheesemaking: Basic Farm Cheese

This is wonderful fun to make. Its something thats so different from the usual cooking and is so rewarding and delicious!

Something that we have had great fun with is learning to make cheese – in very small quantities and only in its simplest form – but its real CHEESE!!

Farm Cheese – or Plaaskaas as we call it in South Africa.

I think officially you’re supposed to add a bacterial culture to give it a specific flavour – but we just make it with salt – simple and delicious! Takes some good concentration but once you get the hang of it its easier than you think – and its easier than making mozarella, I think.

1. Equipment:

  • Thermometer that goes up to 110C (225F)
  • Wooden slotted spoon
  • Whisk
  • Sharp Knife
  • 2 Stainless Steel Pots – 1 large, 1 medium
  • Large sieve or strainer
  • 2-3 pieces of cheesecloth
  • Sterilise all equipment by boiling it for 5 minutes
  • Home made pressing equipment (not as fancy as it sounds!)

2. Ingredients:

6-8 litres of the freshest cow’s milk (raw unpasteurised milk is best)

3t Buttermilk or 1/3 cup plain yoghurt

3. Process:

PART A: The evening before (1/2 hour)

1. Remove the cream from the top of the milk and store separately

  • 2. If your milk is unpasteurised you’ll need to add calcium chloride to get it to coagulate (go solid).

2. Pour your milk into the large sterilised pot.

3. Warm the milk to 20C (68F).

4. Add 3tsp of buttermilk or 1/3 cup plain yoghurt. This bacterial starter helps to start the fermentation process and lowers the pH so that the rennet will be effective.

5. Store in a warm place overnight.

PART B: The next morning (2 hours)

Make sure you have 2 hours available to do this – some parts are critical and the first time you need all your wits about you.

1. Warm the milk to 30C

2. Add 3 ??? drops of rennet to 2T water in a small bowl and mix well with the wooden spoon. Pour the rennet into the milk when it reaches 30C and stir well. In the USA you can buy rennet tablets (here you would use 1/4 of a tablet dissolved in water. In South Africa I ordered the rennet solution from here?? LINK.

3. Cover your pot and leave to sit for at least 1 hour. Do not disturb. It is coagulating!

4. After an hour test for a clean break (if you insert your finger into the mixture and lift it, it should be gel-like and break cleanly around your finger. If there is no clean break, leave for a further hour.

5. Cut the curd (I love this part!!!) Begin on one side of the pot. Cut all the way down to the bottom of the pot – all the way across the pot – drawing parallel lines with your knife about 1cm apart.

Turn your pot 90 degrees and repeat,

then again 45 degrees

and 90 degrees the other way.

Cut each time till you have small cubes.

6. Set the curd by placing the pot over low heat and stir with your clean hand by gently lifting the cubes. Cut any large ones as they appear. Continue stirring for at least 15 minutes so that the curds don’t clump together. Heat the curds to 38C(100F).??

7. Maintain this temperature stirring continually until curd looks like scrambled eggs in your hand. I know this isn’t easy to imagine – you kind of have to try it. You’ll know it when you see it. Rather go too long than too short. The curds should sink in the whey.

place the curds in the cheesecloth lined sieve or colander to drain off the whey. Keep the whey to make ricotta or give it to your dogs as a treat!

Add 2t salt and mix in.

place curds into your homemade press

fill it up and press overnight

the next morning remove the cheese and the cloth and

rub the outside of the cheese with salt.Rewrap it in fresh cheesecloth and place in the fridge.

Replace the cloth daily if it is wet. This cheese improves with time – you should leave it for about a month to cure. We left it for about a week (you can wax it after two), we generally eat it after one 😉 We don’t bother with waxing it as we eat so quickly.

Delicious!! Some day we’ll take it to the next level and make a LARGE cheese.

“And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that [were] with him, to eat: for they said, The people [is] hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.” 2 Samuel 17v29