Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DIY Dairy ~ What You Need To Know To Get Started

I must start this post with pointing out that I am no expert in the field of DIY dairy, but I have been making some of my own dairy products for a while now, and I have recently jumped into the world of cheese making. There are a couple reasons I have chosen to do this: the first is that dairy products are insanely expensive in Ghana, and the second is that I can. I do not like paying $20+/lb. for cheese {and I am not talking specialty cheeses here!}, and there is something extremely satisfying about making food from scratch that my whole family will enjoy.

First Step ~ The Milk
All dairy products are made from milk, and what kind of milk you use is important. Our first two terms on the field, we looked off and on for a source of real milk but could not find anything. We used both UHT (ultra-heat treated) milk and powdered (filled ~ skim milk powder with soybean oil added for fat) milk. We finally found cow's milk last year when we returned from furlough. We just had not asked the right people, I guess!
If you have a TRUSTED source of real milk, use it as is! It makes the best dairy products possible.
If you are unsure of your source {like us}, then you will want to pasteurize it. It is quite a simple process that I outlined here.
If you are very new to your field and your body is still adjusting to the different foods and such, or you or your family members struggle with sickness, I would advise reading this article and using the teaspoon test to determine if your source of milk is safe for you.
If you must use UHT milk or powdered milk, you are running a chance of the dairy products not setting up at all, not setting up properly, or having an off taste; but then again, they may set up beautifully and taste delicious! You will just have to try it and see!

Second Step ~ The Cultures
Almost all dairy products need a starter culture of some kind. These can be purchased online through Amazon {offers little info and usually most expensive of all the options}, New England Cheesemaking Supply Company {lots of helpful information and good prices}, or Cultures for Health {offers much more than cheese supplies and has lots of recipes available}.
Beware of two things when buying cultures: if buying a product on the field, make sure it is food-grade {such as citric acid, a common cheese supply}; and if shipping, make sure it is not a product that needs constant refrigeration {like liquid rennet}.

Third Step ~ The Supplies
To make your own dairy products you will need a few out-of-the-ordinary kitchen supplies.
You will need a food thermometer, butter muslin {very finely woven cheese cloth} for certain kinds of cheese, a large pot, cheese salt {also called Kosher salt ~ CANNOT have iodine in it!}, and a bit of an adventurous spirit!

Fourth Step ~ Cultured Dairy
The easiest dairy products to make are cultured dairy ~ yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and creme fraiche. They are all quite simple to make, especially if you can buy your first supply from the store. If you cannot purchase these products, you will need to buy yogurt starter {yogurt makers are nice, but not necessary unless you live in a really cold place} or buttermilk starter. If you purchase starters, they will come with extensive instructions on how each should be specifically used.


If you can purchase plain yogurt, it can serve as your starter.
2 Tbsp. yogurt
2 c. powdered milk
4 c. very warm water
2 Tbsp. yogurt
4 c. very warm milk

Put milk in mixing bowl.
Add water and mix well.
Add yogurt and stir to distribute the yogurt throughout the milk.
Cover bowl.
Set in a warm place, such as the top of the refrigerator or near the back of the stove while cooking or baking.
Let sit for 4 hours.
When set, put in refrigerator.
When ready to use, reserve 2 Tbsp. yogurt for next batch.
If thinner yogurt is preferred, add 1 c. sugar, 2 tsp. flavoring/extract of choice or diced fruit and eat.
If thicker yogurt is preferred, it can be strained by pouring into muslin lined colander and left to sit until desired thickness, adjusting sugar and extract to taste.


If you can purchase buttermilk, it can serve as your starter.
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 quart milk

Place milk in quart jar and add buttermilk.
Screw on lid and shake vigorously for 1 minute.
Leave in a dark, warm area for 12-24 hours until desired thickness.
Reserve 1/4 c. buttermilk to use as next starter.

Sour Cream

If you can purchase sour cream or buttermilk, it can serve as your starter.

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sour cream/buttermilk/white vinegar/lemon juice

In a screw-top jar or mason jar with lid, combine the heavy cream and sour cream/buttermilk/white vinegar/ lemon juice.
Shake the ingredients up a bit to thoroughly mix and let stand, covered, at room temperature for about 24 hours or until it becomes very thick.
You can store your sour cream in the refrigerator in the original jar you mixed it in (or use some other resealable container) for up to one week.
Make sure that your sour cream is well chilled before using.
If you want to make a lighter sour cream, substitute whole milk for 1/2 cup of the heavy cream.

Creme Fraiche

If you can purchase buttermilk, it can serve as your starter.
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1 pint cream

Fill pint jar with cream and add buttermilk.
Stir together and then cover.
Place in dark, warm area for 24-36 hours, depending on desired taste.

Fifth Step ~ Italian Cheeses
If you have stayed with me this long, you must really want to make cheese! We will start with the easiest ones. Italian cheeses that are easily made at home include mozzarella, whole milk ricotta, ricotta salata, and mascarpone. These require citric acid, tartaric acid, vegetable rennet tablets, cheese salt, and butter muslin {all of these products are included with an Italian cheese kit}. Some may also require draining baskets {which can be purchased from any of the cheese supply shops}. You may also opt to add lipase powder to the list, as it adds a bit more of the traditional "tang" to your mozzarella.

When making any cheese, it is important to use perfectly clean stainless steel, glass, or enamel containers and utensils. There must be no soap, grease, or food residues that may taint the final product. The butter muslin can be reused. Simply rinse it off after use, launder, and dry. Be sure all soap is removed during the laundering process.

At this point, I am gonna pass you on to the professionals. I figure it is kind of silly of me to just copy their recipes and everything they have to say when they have already said it so well themselves!

Recipe for Mozzarella in 30 minutes {with a microwave}
Recipe for Mozzarella in 30 minutes with a microwave {with more pictures}
Recipe for Mozzarella in 30 minutes {without a microwave}
Recipe for Ricotta and Ricotta Salata
Recipe for Mascarpone

Sixth Step ~ Fresh Cheeses
Fresh cheeses that are fairly simple to make include Quark, Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Halloumi, and Feta. They will require butter muslin, cheese salt, mesophilic culture and rennet {again, all would be included in a fresh cheese kit}. Some may require basket molds and brining containers also.

As stated above, always use properly cleaned pots, containers, and utensils.

Recipe for Quark
Recipe for Cream Cheese
Recipe for Cottage Cheese
Recipe for Halloumi
Recipe for Feta
Recipe for Feta {with lots of excellent pictures}

Seventh Step ~ The Sky is the Limit!
Once you have mastered all of these cheeses, I am pretty sure you can tackle anything!
Hard cheeses are the hardest to make as most of them require a cheese press and extensive drying/ripening times in dedicated cold storage. If you are interested, take a look through this huge list of cheese recipes; maybe you will find another kind you want to tackle. Makes me wish I had a cave in my backyard.....

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments or on the Baptist Missionary Women Facebook page.

Next week, I am planning on giving you lots of ideas of what to do with all these different, delicious cheeses!


Jen said...

These are going to be so helpful to people. Great idea!

Carole said...

Awesome post! Thanks so much!!!

Julie Moore said...

Bookmarking for later! :) Hopefully I will get to try this out some time soon!