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This post was originally shared on my short-lived homesteading blog.
Things have changed for us since I originally wrote this post.
Did you know that it is believed that cheese making may have started when dairying started? Milk was put in animal bags (usually made out of a ruminants stomach) for storage and transportation. The natural rennet in the bag caused the milk to separate into curds and whey and somewhat preserve it. Next came pressing and salting to further preserve the milk. Ta Da! Cheese making.
When we move to our new homestead we hope to have a few dairy goats. We have been planning to add those goats at our current location but have a few neighborhood issues that have prevented us having goats. If those issues are resolved we’ll add goats while here. Shortly after I wrote this post in early June our neighbor’s goat issues mostly resolved and a small herd of Dwarf Nigerian goats fell in our lap. At the end of June we were the ‘proud parents’ of four does, a doeling, a wether (castrated male) and a buck. You can meet our goats here. We didn’t realize when the goats came to live with us that three of the does were pregnant. At the end of September/early October we added six more goats to our little herd. We’ll be re-homing three of the males and will keep the two females and one of the males (we’ll wether him as a companion to the other boys). It’s been quite an adventure! We’re now milking the three girls each morning and getting just over a quart of milk. We’re super happy with this since they had never been milked and we’ve never milked. Each day goes better and we get a little more milk. We’re sharing the milk with the babies and only milking one time per day. We do have a small hope that someday we could have a dairy cow but we’re not sure the land would support a cow. Currently we do have a cowshare. Essentially we own a share (actually 3 1/2 shares) of a dairy cow. We own the shares of the cow and we pay a monthly fee for room, board and management (milking, caring for, etc). We get 3 1/2 gallons of milk each week— Edited: Actually, starting in November we are only getting 2 gallons of milk each week. We dropped our share due to the goat milking. With 2 gallons of cow milk and right around 2 gallons of goats milk each week, we have plenty of milk.
3 and 1/2 gallons of milk each week usually leaves me enough milk for making yogurt and cheese. While yogurt was something I had started doing before we had a cowshare (back in the days when we used powdered milk and I make yogurt with that), I have to admit that when we first considered making our own cheese the thought was overwhelming. I had a vision of it being incredibly difficult. I started slow with the help of the my affiliate partner GNOWFGLINS Cultured Dairy eCourse and took it one step at a time.
Simple soft cheeses were easy to start with. I made yogurt cheese, kefir cheese and then soft cheese using a mesophilic culture (these links are to my affiliate partner). Without the need for any special supplies these were wonderful. The next thing I tried was Clabber Cheese which is also super easy. Raw milk is allowed to naturally clabber (the milk and whey separates) by sitting at room temperature. Then the clabbered milk is strained through a cheese cloth (I often use a cotton napkin). The end result is very much like a cottage cheese. My husband really enjoys the clabber cheese topped with a little honey and fruit for breakfast.
Once I was comfortable with the soft cheeses I ordered a few cheese making supplies including a tome mold and started learning about hard cheeses. I haven’t actually ventured far.
We love Queso Fresco so that tends to be the cheese I make. It is super simple and works well with my limited equipment. I really should buy a nice heavy bottom pot for cheese making but for the meantime use my canning pot. It is not heavy enough and I struggled the one time I tried to make cheddar cheese but for the Queso it works fine. My weight system also leaves a bit to be desired. To press the cheese the instruction say to start with a 10 # weight, after 30 minutes flip the cheese (redress) and then press with 20# for 1 hour, then 35# for 6 hours or overnight. My weight system consists of a couple of buckets of honey and a cast iron skillet. The resulting cheese isn’t nearly as pretty as it could be but it does taste wonderful! Over the summer, I also attempted making gouda cheese. The process was pretty involved but the end result was wonderful. I’m going to try gouda again.
Preserving milk is something that will become even more important for us when we move to our 20 acre off-grid homestead in a few years. If we can have a cow on that land, it would be wonderful but cows do produce more milk than goats. We won’t be in a hurry to add a cow and will focus on goats while here and when we move up there. We figure that having four to six goats (Dwarf Nigerians) in milk at once would give us a decent amount of milk for drinking, baking, cooking and cheese making.
Have you made cheese? What is your favorite type to make?
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