Home-made Cheese Press

Home-made Cheese

The Versatility of Milk

Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, buffalo milk, camel milk ….. all nutritious food and a wonderful ingredient for cheese-making.

Soft Cheese
A great stand-by while waiting for our hard cheeses to mature is queso fresco, made with unhomogenised cow’s milk.

Straight forward to make, we use leftover home-made yogurt. This is added to heated milk along with rennet diluted in water, then left for an hour to coagulate. When ready the coagulated milk becomes a firm curd mass and can be cut into small segments, thereby releasing some of the liquid whey within it. The curds are then poured into a muslin-lined colander to drain. Mixing a small amount of salt through the curds also helps to remove some of the moisture content.

Queso Fresco

Home-made Queso Fresco

Hard Cheese
Making farm-style hard cheese requires a bit of patience. Using a similar process to queso fresco, the curds are cooked a bit longer to release as much whey as possible, poured into a muslin cloth where the salt is mixed through it, then all lifted into a cheese mould and placed into a cheese press. After 12 hours it is flipped and then drained for a further 12 hours. After that, the drained curd is removed from the press and muslin cloth to be air-dried. Once dried, the cheese curd is prepared for ageing and then placed in a temperature controlled “cave” to mature. In our case, 3 months.

Homemade Cheese

Farm style cheese in homemade cheese cave

And to accompany our cheese – fresh, home-made sourdough wholemeal bread 🙂

Fresh home-made wholemeal sourdough

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Homemade seeded sourdough bread

Fermented Foods

My Journey Down the Bubbly Road

It started with a drive to economise. No, that’s not quite true; it was a serendipitous combination of events. To be honest it started upon our return from countries around the Mediterranean some years ago and our dissatisfaction with the available breads here in Perth, Western Australia. While some of the ‘artisan’ bakehouse breads were of better quality, but outrageously priced, they still didn’t match up to their European equivalent. The ingredients were also a puzzlement – the inclusion of additives that, for a commercial product that is removed off the shelf after one day, seemed quite unnecessary. As were the extractions from the grain itself, some only to be added back as if this were something to be proud of.

Sourdough bread- homemade fermentation

Anyway, my journey started with bread. The first experiment was making Rewena Bread (Rēwena parāoa); a traditional New Zealand Māori sourdough bread made from a potato starter. From there I progressed to a new starter made from Spelt wheat (sourdough, still). From this, hundreds of sourdough loaves and pizzas have been baked in our old gas-fired barbecue. This same starter also makes an excellent base for pancakes, deep fried dough balls, and even batter. When we go away for long periods it is dried off. When we return it is restarted by the simple addition of flour and water. Wholemeal flour (as freshly ground as can be sourced) is now my preferred flour to feed the starter.

Sourdough breadmaking at home

Moving on apace, sourdough’s fermentation process and the digestive benefits of sourdough bread has led to more investigation into a whole raft of fermented products:

Yoghurt – the starter made from chillies from our garden and using non-homogenised milk
Kombucha – from a scoby given to us from a friend
Red Wine Vinegar – from a ‘mother’ in a bottle of commercial RWV plus a bit of home-made kombucha added
Hard Cheese – incorporating home-made yoghurt
Cultured Butter – made from churning the cream topping from a cream-added yoghurt trial – a great success
Cultured Butter Milk – still working on this one 🙂
Olives – harvested from local trees, then prepared for preservation in salted brine

I use the excess whey from my yoghurt, butter and cheese-making in stocks and soups, or for watering our vegetable garden.

home-made-labne-straining-yoghurt

It probably needs saying, that a thermometer has never been used; even our old barbeque only has a ‘hot’ to ‘very hot’ needle gauge. Over time, through trial and error, I have learned to use my fingers, eyes, nose and ears (tapping the loaves) to succeed. A digital scale, though, has been very handy.

But behind all this is a firm belief, backed by historic research, that fermented products aid digestion, allowing the body to better absorb, and thereby benefit from, the key nutritional ingredients. There are, of course, many more traditional fermented products historically made and used all over the world, but my journey thus far, while not finished by any means, is keeping me plenty occupied.

And that classic fermented product, alcoholic beverage? I’ll leave that to my husband who currently is happy enough to leave its manufacture to the experts.