Say cheese

Canning buddy over at Alliums to Zinnias is always several notches ahead of me in terms of Doing Stuff, so when she suggested we punctuate my visit to her part of the world with an attempt at making cheese I wondered if a new era in my culinary life was suddenly opening up.

I made kefir for a while a couple of years back, but never quite managed to keep up with the ever-growing kefir culture and ended up pouring more kefir away than I put on my morning cereal. But cheese is different.  This had to be worth a try.

It turns out that making cheeses involves all sorts of specialized equipment, which canning buddy acquired after a cheese making class in Missouri over the summer. There were containers with holes so the cheese could drain, mini colander/strainer thingies with more holes as well as strong, fine-mesh cheesecloth (well duh) and little packs of fairy dust (rennet and other cultures) to make the milk go sour. It was actually quite fun.

We started by gently heating our gallons of milk (special low-temperature pasturized milk) and then adding the fairy dust until it curdled on us, looking pretty gruesome in the process (this was the heat-the-whey picture, of which more below).

Then we slopped it into cheesecloth, and hung it up to drain, knotting our bulging bags of will-be cheese to sturdy kitchen spoons.

Instructions suggested adding salt or herbs at this stage, before stashing it away in one of the containers-with-holes for more draining and firming up.

Ok, it doesn’t look perfect, but it disappeared pretty damn quick on home made no-knead bread.

The whey from the first batch, heated gently until it curdled, and then strained, turned into super creamy ricotta, while canning buddy was converting our second gallon of milk to feta cheese as I left for the airport. She reports that it shrank significantly in the multi-day salting process, but refused to come out of the container in a single chunk. More practice is clearly needed.

Now I need to figure out if it’s even possible to buy low-temperature pasturized milk here in Toronto, let alone order all the special pots and fairy dust. Any ideas?



  1. Cheese is still disappearing at a rapid rate!
    I’ll report on our skill level as we practice some more.

  2. Feta is awesome! Is everyone else just shaking their head at this, or is anyone tempted?

  3. Did you really turn the whey into ricotta? Not the curds?

    Anyway, it looks pretty good, like those mounds of ricotta we used to buy at various markets in Moscow in the 90s.

    • Yup, it was from the (rather milky) whey — we slopped some of the cheese into it as we tried to drain. It was like magic. One minute it was cloudy, grey liquid, and the next it was lumps and liquid. Fun.

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