I started making cheese more than thirty years ago. It started with blackberries. The acreage we lived on was overrun with years and years of healthy blackberries. Think twelve to fourteen foot tall thickets. 'Goats,' people told me. 'Get goats. They eat blackberries.' So I did, and thus began about two decades of dedicated goat-keeping. But then there's all that milk. Dairy goats produce lots of milk. I didn't want to raise pigs and you can only drink so much milk. My chickens were happy but I could drown them in the stuff. So I turned to cheesemaking.
Back then, nobody made cheese at home. It got made in big factories, buttercup orange and packaged in plastic. I searched and searched and finally found mail-order rennet tablets. Found a couple of old books on home cheesemaking, one of which was just flat wrong, and started learning by trial and error. Lots of error! My chickens ate well. But hey, it used the milk, eh?
Slowly I filled in the many blanks, got good at it. I helped Harlan and Esther Peterson of Tall Talk Dairy start making commercial goat cheese....back before anyone thought goat cheese was gourmet or the idea of 'artisnal food' had even begun to glimmer to life. They sold it in the health food stores -- soft spreadable cheese, monterey jack type, and feta. They sold the dairy finally and that all ended years ago.
Now, of course, it's all about local, sustainable, artisnal foods and people want to do things for themselves. Yahoo, I hope it lasts! I'm now teaching cheesemaking classes at least monthly as well as other classes in sustainable, local living. I've been feeding myself and my kids entirely off my two plus acres for over twenty years, so I've had lots of practice and learned from all kinds of creative mistakes. Mostly I make 'experimental' cheeses, trying out interesting cultures and methods to see if I can't create something fun and wonderful. My chickens eat well on the 'not quite'. Or I make my favorites, such as blue or brie cheese.
Cheesemaking is no more difficult than making bread, beer, or wine at home. It takes practice and some know how to achieve a consistently high quality product with any of these foods, but you can eat the results of your practice, so why not? The more we can feed ourselves, the less dependent we are on someone else far away.
Warm two quarts of whole milk to seventy degrees in a glass jar or covered enamel or stainless steel pot.
Add 1/3 cup buttermilk or a pinch of direct set mesophilic starter. Do not use yoghurt. Mix in well.
Dilute three drops of liquid rennet in 1/3 cup of cool water. Add 1 tbsp of the diluted rennet to the milk and mix well.
Allow the milk to set at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, until solid.
Stir to break up the curd and drain in a colander lined with freshly boiled muslin (not that loose weave 'cheesecloth' from the store!)
When the cheese is thick and spreadable (from 12 to 24 hours of draining time) mix in herbs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, fresh fruit, honey, chopped nuts or whatever other flavor ingredients you wish.
Refrigerate until used. Discard if mold forms on it.