The basic ingredients necessary to make cheese are milk, culture and  rennet

The basic ingredients necessary to make cheese are milk, culture and rennet

First off, let’s give cheese some mad props before diving in on the how-to instructions. Because of its long shelf life, portability, and high content of fat, protein and calcium, you could survive on cheese if you had to.

Cheese is so ancient (and awesome) that it predates recorded history. It even predates the Roman times. The estimated time of its inception is around 8000 BC when sheep made their appearance. It is even thought that cheesemaking was stumbled upon accidentally, from longterm storage of milk in an animal stomach (the method of storage in ancient times). The acid from the stomach transformed the milk into curds and whey. This is just one story of how cheesemaking may have begun. Without documented history, does anyone really know the true origin of cheese?

Today, however, we are fortunate enough to indulge in a vast array of soft and hard cheeses – traditional blue cheese, feta, Gouda, Manchego, aged cheddar, brie, the list goes on to include hundreds of varieties of cheese. And, no matter how the practice of cheesemaking transpired, all that matters now is that we do know how to make cheese and can easily make it at home.

The basic ingredients necessary to make cheese are milk, culture and rennet (or vinegar). That’s it. Obviously there are specific ingredients for specific cheeses, but your basic cheese requires only the above ingredients.

Equipment you will need:
Kitchen equipment you need includes: two stainless steel or glass pots (one should be able to hold 10 quarts or more), a stainless steel knife (long enough to reach the bottom of the pot), a floating thermometer, a colander, ladle, a sterilized cheese cloth and a cheese press (homemade or manufactured). Keep your glass measuring cups on hand, in addition to some towels and hot water.

Note: It is important to use stainless steel, enamal or glass containers when acidifying milk.
Get started:
Make sure your countertops are clean before you start the cheesemaking process. A sanitary work area is important to prevent contamination.

The most important step of making cheese is separating the milk into curds and whey, which is accomplished by souring the milk (yes, on purpose!) and adding the acidic component, or rennet (usually vinegar or a starter bacteria like plain yogurt). 

8 quarts of whole milk
2 ounces of cheese starter (cultured buttermilk, plain yogurt)
1/4 tablet or 1 tsp. of liquid rennet (you can find this at the store)

How to make cheese:
1. Heat the milk to 86 degrees (F) and stir in the starter. Cover and allow to ripen for 45 minutes, maintaining the temperature
2. Dissolve the tablet in a 1/4 cup of warm water and then add to the milk (or add the liquid rennet), stirring gently. Stir the top quarter inch of the milk for 60 seconds, cover and let it sit for 45 minutes.
3. Cut the curd into 1/4-inch squares and set them aside for 5 minutes.
4. To cook the curds, warm the milk to 100 degrees, increasing the temperature no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Stir to keep the curds separated.
5. Once the curds reach 100 degrees, continue stirring at this temperature for 30 minutes.
6. Let the curds settle for about 20 minutes. Now you can stop stirring.
7. Use the cheese cloth to line the colander. Place the curds into the colander to drain.
8. Replace the curds into the pot for 15 minutes.
9. Place the curds on a cutting board and cut into 3-inch slices. It is important to keep the curds 100 degrees during the process by placing the slices in a pot in a sink of 100-degree water. Keep the curd in the pot for 15 minutes. This is the cheddaring process.
10. Next, break the cheddared cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Leave the cubes in the pot and put it into a sink of 100-degree water. Make sure to stir the cubes every 10 minutes for 30 minutes. It is recommended to stir using your fingers.
11. Take the pot out of the sink and add 4 Tbsp. of cheese salt. If possible, use your hands to gently stir.
12. Press the cheese for 15 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. Flip the cheese and press for 12 hours at 40 pounds. Lastly, flip again and press for 24 hours at 50 pounds.
13. Remove the cheese cloth, wipe down the cheese and let air dry for 2 to 5 days (until dry).
14. Wax the cheese with three layers (using a small kitchen or paint brush), allow it to age in a 55-degree environment for three to 12 months.
15. Voila! You have successfully made cheese. Now enjoy it!