Cheese is a simple thing to make from the milk of cows, goats, sheep, or yak, llama and horse if you're feeling a bit adventurous! It's best to start simple and get the steps of the fresh cheeses mastered before jumping in at the deep end, unless you have chooks or pigs who would appreciatively eat your mistakes. Fresh cheeses, or cheeses which are not cooked or aged, are very simple to make, and you can be eating your delicious results in as little as 12 hours from paddock to plate.
Once you've made your queso blanco cheese, you'll want to make more complex cheeses. To really get going with more advanced cheeses, you will have to find a source of starter cultures. You’ll also want to extend your basic equipment so that you can dedicate some exclusively to making cheese, especially if you are using raw milk.
Named for the Manchega sheep, this popular traditional Spanish cheese can be adapted easily for goats' or cows' milk. There are three varieties of this delicious cheese. Manchego fresco is only aged for 2 weeks. Manchego curado is aged from three to six months. And Manchego viejo is aged for one year
In many places of the world, cheese curds of many flavours can be found in the supermarket, and are a nice change to the bland block of cheese. Cheese curds retain a squeak that aged cheeses lose, because for the first few hours and even days, the binding proteins in the curds are still very elastic and squeak when you bite them, releasing some of the moisture that remains. To make them may sound complicated, but once you get going, you may find that it's a nice change of pace to create in your home kitchen.
The easiest recipe to make can hardly be called a recipe. Just about every culture has its own version of it. It's just fresh milk and food acid. Using lemon juice or vinegar is the most basic, about ¼ cup juice or vinegar to 2 litres of milk. You may have to adjust the amount of acid you use, as acidity will vary. Heat the milk slowly to 85C, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.
Now that you've had a chance to practice on some of the basic cheese making techniques while perfecting your feta, here's another recipe to try. Cup cheese is a Pennsylvania Dutch creation, credited to both the Amish and the Mennonites from that area of the United States. There are some variations to the recipe, but it was from being sold in cups that it got its name.
Cheesemaker Andrea Gauland shows us how to make feta cheese. Feta cheese was developed in Greece, and is traditionally made from sheep milk. Goat milk is now commonly used for a good feta, and cow's milk is an acceptable stand-in which is readily available for most. It's a good starter cheese, not as 'fresh' as a chevre or vinegar cheese. Since it is stored in brine, it keeps for up to 2 years if properly refrigerated.
Strictly speaking, it's a cheater's cheese, as there's not even any culture added. But it's a big hit for when you're short of time or wanting to impress your friends by making your own cheese for the homemade pizza or summer salad of fresh mozzarella, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and basil leaves, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt and a dash of freshly ground pepper.