Answers to Readers Questions on Home Cheese Making


Q: I need to make sure that everything I use in cheese making is lactose free. I react to lactose, even in milk such as Lactaid or cheese with mild cultures. Can I be assured that the enzymes, cultures, and other ingredients suggested for making cheese are indeed not derived from cows? I understand that I will have to use sheep or goat's milk. What do you think? Any products I should steer away from?

A: I am not a medical professional, nor do I profess to have the limited knowledge required to play one on TV. I can only explain what I do know. When making cheese, the majority of the lactose in the milk remains in the whey. What is caught up in the curd is mostly consumed by bacteria during aging. As a rule: the older the cheese, the less residual lactose. As for the cultures and additives we sell. I can’t attest to a lack of milk products in their composition or production. After all, they are mostly lactose loving organisms. That is why they are used.

Q: Can I use lactose-free milk to make cheese? If so, would the culture add a significant amount of lactose?

A: Lactose (milk sugar) is the source of food for lactic acid producing cheese starters and cultures. Lactose free milk is highly processed and it is unlikely to make cheese.

Q. Can I use ultra-pasteurized milk for making your cheese recipes?

A. You cannot make cheese with ultra-pasteurized milk. The casein in the milk will not form a curd because it has been denatured due to the high heat involved in ultra-pasteurizing.

Q. If a cheese recipe calls for the addition of cream; can I use ultra-pasteurized cream?

A. You may use ultra-pasteurized cream if it’s used in small amounts relative to the total amount of milk called for in the recipe. A good example of this is using a combination of 7 parts reconstituted nonfat dried milk to 1 part ultra-pasteurized heavy cream to imitate whole milk.

Q. Can I make cheddar cheese from raw goat milk?

A. In the book, “Goats Produce Too!” it is recommended to pasteurize your milk unless you are making an aged cheese, 60 days or longer. If you choose not to pasteurize, you have to be extremely diligent with your sanitation practices and make sure you can chill the raw milk very quickly. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and thus produces a softer curd than cow’s milk so the addition of calcium chloride is recommended. Goat milk cheddar will be white, if you want color we have cheese coloring available.

Q. I want to make mozzarella with raw cow’s milk…do I need to alter the recipe at all?

A. You may not need the calcium chloride depending on the lactation schedule of your cow. In the winter months it may be beneficial to use ½ teaspoon per gallon of milk to compensate for the lower protein to fat ratio.

Q: I just made a wheel of Jack cheese and over the days that it's been drying prior to waxing it has severely cracked. Why did this happen, and is it still safe to wax? I appreciate any insight.

A: It sounds like the cheese is drying too quickly. This can be a problem in the winter. If you have forced air heat in your house the humidity level is going to be low, making the air into a wick which draws the moisture out of everything. You can try making a drying control box by placing a dish of water next to the cheese and then covering both with an empty box. Better yet is a small refrigerator with an external thermostat control you can use as a cheese cave. The cheese you have should be cut into smaller pieces along the cracks and then waxed.

Q: I’ve been using your recipe for one hour mozzarella and using fresh milk that has been separated. I find my mozzarella gets hard and has a greenish tint after it cools. If you microwave it, it softens up and stretches just like when it is first made. Is this normal? I would like a soft mozzarella that I could store in the refrigerator and shred a little easier.

A: It sounds like your separator may be too efficient. Try adding back one cup of cream after removing one cup of milk from the original gallon. As for the green tint, I believe it might be caused by pasture feeding the animals. You can make shredding easier by allowing the cheese to become partly frozen. It is normal for the cheese to stretch when reheated.

Q: Last week we made 4 batches of mozzarella and 2 ricottas. All ingredients were identical including the expiration dates for the milk. The first batch worked fine and we had good results. The other three did not turn out at all and we had to throw it away. They did not come together and form a smooth ball after microwaving as instructed. At first we thought that maybe the liquid whey had not been removed satisfactorily, so the third batch we were extra careful. Still didn't work.

A: There is a list of things that could be wrong. I have experienced the same results. The first is the milk. I understand that the dates all matched but, did the lot numbers? When I see results like you describe, it is almost always the milk. The cartons may all look alike but off brands and supermarket brands may actually come from more than one dairy processor.

Other factors that result in curd not massing together are: not using distilled water, heating the milk too fast in the beginning, using skim, reduced fat, supermarket brand, specialty milk, low watt microwave or rushing the process.

Also, if your rennet tablets have not been stored in the freezer they will lose their strength. I hope this helps. Don’t become discouraged. Let me know if things improve.

Q: Is the MM Mesophilic Starter the same as direct set Mesophilic-m culture?

A: All our cheese making cultures are pure direct to vat inoculants referred to as DVI. The “Direct Set” cultures you mention contain fillers like malto dextrin and some may contain rennet in an attempt to shorten the time required to set the curd gel. I have used these “instant” cultures with limited success. You will find that using the standard dairy processes of standardizing your milk then ripening with a DVI Culture prior to adding rennet will be worth the extra steps.

Q: Any tips to make larger quantity, say 40 to 60 liters of yogurt based on your recipes?

A: You will need a device large enough to hold the milk and keep a constant temperature for about 24 hours. A stainless steel, heated, jacketed holding tank may work as long as it has an adjustable and reliable thermostat. It may be necessary to gently stir the milk every few hours to distribute the culture during fermentation and maintain the consistency of each batch.

homemade cheese tray

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