Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses

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Just a century ago, cheese was still a relatively regional and European phenomenon, and cheese making techniques were limited by climate, geography, and equipment. But modern technology along with the recent artisanal renaissance has opened up the diverse, time-honored, and dynamic world of cheese to enthusiasts willing to take its humble fundamentals—milk, starters, coagulants, and salt—and transform them into complex edibles. 

Artisan Cheese Making at Home is the most ambitious and comprehensive guide to home cheese making, filled with easy-to-follow instructions for making mouthwatering cheese and dairy items. Renowned cooking instructor Mary Karlin has spent years working alongside the country’s most passionate artisan cheese producers—cooking, creating, and learning the nuances of their trade. She presents her findings in this lavishly illustrated guide, which features more than eighty recipes for a diverse range of cheeses: from quick and satisfying Mascarpone and Queso Blanco to cultured products like Crème Fraîche and Yogurt to flavorful selections like Saffron-Infused Manchego, Irish-Style Cheddar, and Bloomy Blue Log Chèvre. 

Artisan Cheese Making at Home begins with a primer covering milks, starters, cultures, natural coagulants, and bacteria—everything the beginner needs to get started. The heart of the book is a master class in home cheese making: building basic skills with fresh cheeses like ricotta and working up to developing and aging complex mold-ripened cheeses. Also covered are techniques and equipment, including drying, pressing, and brining, as well as molds and ripening boxes. Last but not least, there is a full chapter on cooking with cheese that includes more than twenty globally-influenced recipes featuring the finished cheeses, such as Goat Cheese and Chive Fallen Soufflés with Herb-Citrus Vinaigrette and Blue Cheese, Bacon, and Pear Galette. 

Offering an approachable exploration of the alchemy of this extraordinary food, Artisan Cheese Making at Home proves that hand-crafting cheese is not only achievable, but also a fascinating and rewarding process.

Featured Recipe: Brew-Curds Cheddar
Makes: 2 pounds

Milk: Pasteurized whole cow’s milk

Start to Finish: 4 to 6 weeks: about 5 hours to make the cheese; 13 hours to press; 1 to 2 days to dry; 4 to 6 weeks to age

2 gallons pasteurized whole cow’s milk
1/2 teaspoon Meso II powdered mesophilic starter culture
1/4 teaspoon liquid annatto diluted in 1/4 cup cool nonchlorinated water (optional)
1/2 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool nonchlorinated water
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool nonchlorinated water
One 12-ounce bottle dark ale or stout at room temperature
1 tablespoon kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand) or cheese salt

1. Heat the milk in a nonreactive 10-quart stockpot set in a 98°F water bath over low heat. Bring the milk to 88°F over 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

2. Sprinkle the starter over the milk and let it rehydrate for 5 minutes. Mix well using a whisk in an up-and-down motion. Cover and maintain 88°F, letting the milk ripen for 45 minutes. Add the annatto, if using, and gently whisk in for 1 minute. Add the calcium chloride and gently whisk in for 1 minute, and then incorporate the rennet in the same way. Cover and let sit, maintaining 88°F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the curds give a clean break.

3. Still maintaining 88°F, cut the curds into 1/2-inch pieces and let sit for 5 minutes. Over low heat, slowly bring the curds to 102°F over 40 minutes. Stir continuously to keep the curds from matting together; they will release whey, firm up slightly, and shrink to the size of peanuts.

4. Once the curds are at 102°F, turn off the heat, maintain the temperature, and let the curds rest undisturbed for 30 minutes; they will sink to the bottom.

5. Place a strainer over a bowl or bucket large enough to capture the whey. Line it with damp butter muslin and ladle the curds into it. Let drain for 10 minutes, or until the whey stops dripping. Reserve one-third of the whey and return it to the pot.

6. Return the whey in the pot to 102°F. Place the curds in a colander, set the colander over the pot, and cover. Carefully maintaining the 102°F temperature of the whey, wait 10 minutes for the curds to melt into a slab. Flip the slab of curds, and repeat every 15 minutes for 1 hour. The curds should maintain a 95°F to 100°F temperature from the heated whey below and continue to expel whey into the pot. After 1 hour, the curds will look shiny and white, like poached chicken.

7. Transfer the warm slab of curds to a cutting board and cut into 2 by 1/2-inch strips, like French fries. Place the warm strips in a bowl and cover completely with the brew. Soak for 45 minutes. Drain and discard the brew. Sprinkle the salt over the curds and gently toss to mix.

8. Line an 8-inch tomme mold with damp cheesecloth. Pack the drained curds into the mold, cover with the cloth tails, set the follower on top, and press at 8 pounds for 1 hour. Remove the cheese from the mold, unwrap, flip, and redress, then press at 10 pounds for 12 hours.

9. Remove the cheese from the mold and cloth and pat dry. Air-dry on a cheese mat at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, or until the surface is dry to the touch.

10. Wax the cheese (see page 28) and ripen at 50°F to 55°F and 85 percent humidity for 4 to 6 weeks, flipping the cheese daily for even ripening.

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