Making Cheese at Home

Making cheese at home

If you love cheese as much as we do, you've probably entertained the notion of making cheese at home. After all, once you taste the bite of a blue cheese, the silkiness of swiss, or the crystalline crunch of an aged cheddar, who could blame you for wanting to recreate that magic in the comfort of your own kitchen?

Making cheese at home is both incredibly easy and amazingly difficult. It's fairly simple to mix up a fresh batch of farmers cheese or cottage cheese. Queso blanco is a breeze, and you can make reliable ricotta with a little effort. But making a perfect parmesan, a champion cheddar, a great gorgonzola, or a luscious limburger takes a lot of time, a great deal of skill, and considerable room to store your cheesy masterpieces. And there's the whole question of food safety – after all, when you're making cheese, you're dealing with lots of mold and bacteria.

In Wisconsin, we know that making cheese at home isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's why, when it comes to feeding our need for cheese, we trust our 1,200 cheesemakers to hook us up with the tastiest, highest-quality, most award-winning cheese on the planet. It's just one of the many benefits of living in the State of Cheese.

Want to meet some of our finest residents? Check out the many championship cheeses on our website. Search our recipes for cheesy inspiration for dinners, snacks, and game day spreads. Or if you're really interested in making cheese at home, scroll down for our top tips and tricks.

Tips for making cheese at home

Here are some of our top tips from our cheesemakers for anyone interested in making cheese at home.

  1. Start with the easy stuff. Try making a mascarpone, cottage cheese, quark, or cream cheese before you attempt a more complex recipe for gouda, emmental, romano, or cheddar.
  2. Ingredients are everything. With so few ingredients, everything you put into your cheese will have a huge impact on flavor and texture. The quality of your milk is everything. Avoid ultra-pasteurized or micro-filtered milk – the high heat used to treat this milk will interfere with its ability to coagulate. And be sure to use filtered, non-chlorinated water when mixing the rennet.
  3. Cleanliness is next to cheesy goodliness. All the surfaces, utensils, cheesecloth, cookware, and even your hands must be scrubbed clean. You can use a bleach and water solution for utensils, or you can boil them in vinegar and bicarbonate soda to kill any unwanted bacteria or mold spores.
  4. Follow a recipe. Making cheeses is more science than art, especially when you're starting out. Following a tried-and-true recipe that specifies temperatures and timings will yield the best product for novice cheesemakers.
  5. Invest in utensils. A dairy thermometer, good stirring spoons, a long knife for cutting the curd, and the right pots for cooking your milk will make cheesemaking easier and more successful.
  6. Get some guidance. There are lots of opportunities to learn more about cheesemaking online or through courses in your community.

Videos: Discover Your Next Favorite Cheese

FAQs on making cheese at home

How is cheese made?

Cheese is made by adding a starter culture and rennet to milk. The starter culture helps convert lactose in the milk to lactic acid which gives the cheese its flavor. And the rennet enzymes in cheese help to coagulate the milk and separate the liquid whey from the solid curd which will eventually become cheese. The curd may be salted, brined, pulled, stacked, pierced with steel rods, or cut into pieces to create different kinds of cheeses. Finally, the curd is shaped, formed, or pressed into a cheese mold to dry and age.

Why do some cheeses have rinds?

Cheese rinds are formed by bacteria or mold that grows on the exterior cheese, or by exposure to air that forms a thin crust on the outside of the cheese. Most rinds are edible.

How is parmesan cheese made?

Parmesan cheese is made like other cheeses, where milk is coagulated to separate the curd from the whey. The parmesan curd is broken up into small pieces to extract more moisture and then pressed into large wheels and immersed in a salt brine for several weeks to give it its signature flavor. The cheese is aged for 12 to 36 months to allow the flavor to develop.

How is feta cheese made?

Feta cheese is a fresh cheese that's traditionally made from sheep's milk or from a combination of sheep's and goat's milk, though many cheesemakers today use cow's milk as well. After separating the curd from the whey, feta cheese is cut into small blocks and salted and dried for several days. It's then submerged in a salt brine for several weeks before it is ready for consumption.

Is it safe to make cheese at home?

Cheesemaking at home can be safe if you follow proper food safety guidelines. It's important to do your research here, as allowing the wrong kind of bacteria in your cheese can harmful. That's why, in Wisconsin, every cheesemaker is required to be licensed, ensuring that they understand and follow the highest standards of food safety.

Wisconsin cheesemaking: don't try this at home

In Wisconsin, making cheese at home isn't much of a thing. This may seem surprising, given that we are known as the State of Cheese. But when you're home to the best cheesemakers in the world, it's only natural to take advantage of their expertise. After all, who would choose a homemade havarti of questionable quality over a world champion gouda, gorgonzola, parmesan, or alpine-style cheese?

See, Wisconsin cheesemakers have been perfecting their craft for 180 years – since before we were even a state. It takes a mile-long mantle to display the 5,500+ awards we've won for our cheese – more than any other state in the nation or country in the world. And with 600+ styles, flavors, and varieties to choose from, we can always satisfy our constant craving for the salty, tangy, creamy goodness of cheese.

So, next time you're thinking about making cheese at home, we say "More power to you – the world always needs more cheese." But if you can't wait a day, a week, a month, or a year to lay your hands on some amazing cheese, Wisconsin cheesemakers will be happy to hook you up with some championship cheese today.

Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?

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