David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
University of Cincinnati Clermont College,
Batavia OH 45103
decanting whey
from the curds
This page has been accessed Counter times since 26 July 2000.

rvsd 14 October 1991, 20 Sept. '94, 23 Sept. '96, 14 Sept 99, 4 Oct 01
 pressing the cheese in a 
home-fashioned press

How to make cheese at home.

This recipe for a basic hard cheese works for any kind of milk. Iprimarily use my own fresh goats' milk, but have made it quite successfullywith cow's milk purchased from the grocery as well as raw cow's milk froma local farmer. I always use rennet tablets becauseof their dependability and availability from many supermarkets .  I usually make 5 gallons of milk into cheese at a time in a 5 gallon Volrath stainless steel pot.  Its thick aluminum bottom pad prevents scorching.  Five gallons of milk produces a 5-6 pound wheel of cheese .
I suggest you try several other simplier cheese related projects beforeyou try making a hard cheese.  I have written a page on Beginning Cheese Making for this purpose.  It might also be wise to master the process for one gallon of milk before making cheese from 5 gallons.  

The following images will show the critical steps in practically any cheese making endeavor.


five gallons fresh milk            (Be sure that it has no off flavors due to bacteria)

1 cup (250 mL) live cultured yogurt     (I prefer Dannon Plain (minimal additives).  Get the freshest available from the store.)
Alternatively, you may use 3 tablespoons (45 mL) active cultured buttermilk as starter.

1 tablet rennet "Junket Rennet Tablets" come in a package of 8 tablets (6.5 g) , by  Redco Foods, Inc., P.O. Box 879, Windsor, CT  06095 (formerly theSalada Foods Division). Here is what the back of the package looks like . They can often be found in your supermarket under the category of "puddings." If they are not there, ask the manager if he would please order them. Most managers are willing to do so. If that fails, you can order them from the manufacturer. I recently  contacted them via email, and they said to call Redco Direct Market at 1-800-556-6674 to order Rennet tablets.  Here is their email response. You may find some cheese makers on the web who prefer liquid rennet,and disparage the use of rennet tablets. I prefer using materials which arereadily available locally.  I have not had problems making cheese associated with Junket tablets.  Here is a whole page devoted to rennet ...

1/4 cup salt

thermometer, reading  -10 to 110C (0 to 225F) (I prefer centigrade, but include Fahrenheit numbers as well)
wooden mixing spoon or whisk
Stainless steel pot (with a heavy thick bottom is best) or enameled pot, 5 gallons, with lid, sterilized. 1
8" strainer (You may use a colander, though the whey does not flow through as fast as a strainer.)
PRESSING FRAME:   (Here is a page on how to assemble a cheese press at home .)
pressing frame (6" x 9" piece of PVC pipe or tin can, with ends removed)
a 'follower': circular block of wood, 5.5 inches diameter
5 gallon canner
large white dinner plate
white dish cloth (non-terry), very clean
rubber band cut from an inner tube
two chop sticks
quart mason jar


1.a.  Sterilize the pot:  The evening before you plan to make cheese, place a small amount of water in your cheese pot, cover, and heat to boiling for 10 minutes to sterilize the pot and lid.  

1.b.  Warm 5 gallons of milk to 20C (68F) in a sterilized pot:  skim the cream off of five gallons of the freshest milk (save for ice cream ).  Warm the milk to 20C (68F) slowly so as to not scorch the bottom).

2.   Add starter Blend 1 cup yogurt with 2 cups warmed milk until smooth, stir into the five gallons of warmed milk to thoroughly mix. 

Alternatively, you can use 3 tablespoonfuls of active buttermilk as starter. Because the bacteria in buttermilk grow much faster at room temperature than those in yogurt, do not incubate longer than 8 hours or warmer than 70 F or the milk may over adicify and begin to clabber. Partially clabbered milk will not yield a clean break.
The function of this inoculation with bacterial starter is to lower the pH so that the rennet will be able to act on the milk protein (casein).

3.   Cover with the sterilized lid.

  Let the inoculated milk sit at room temperature overnight (68-72 F, 20-22 C). (No external heat.)

4.  The next morning, [OPTIONAL: skim off additional cream, if you like, it makes delicious pancakes).]:
Slowly warm milk up to 30C (86F). Take care not to scorch it on the bottom. 

5.  Dissolve the rennet:

Meanwhile, dissolve 1 tablet of Rennet in 1/2 cup cold water
Alternatively, if you have liquid rennet, you add 1 teaspoon per five gallons of inoculated milk (4 drops/gallon). (I have only used tablet rennet, but am assured that liquid rennet works just as well if fresh.)
6.  Add dissolved rennet to warmed milk with stirringto mix. Cover, let sit undisturbed for 1 to 3 hours.

To test for "clean break" (completed action of rennet), probe a clean finger into (hopefully) gelled milk and lift. If the gelled milk is not firm enough to split cleanly as you lift, let milk sit until clean break is obtained. (Do not stir.) This may take as long as 3 hours. Be patient, do NOT disturb the milk.  Keep warm.  Here is a page to help you diagnose the problem of inability to get a clean break.
When the gel is firm enough to break cleanly as the finger is lifted, go to next step.  ( Here is a very large version of the clean break .)
9.  Once a clean break is achieved, cut the curd with a long blade:
Begin the cuts at one edge of pot, cut straight down the side to bottom. Cut repeatedly parallel to first cut, but increasing the angle of the knife until you reach the other side of pot. 
10.  Rotate the pot 90 degrees, repeat series of cuts as before.
Rotate and cut  a total of three more times (four in all), yielding inch cubes of curd. Cover and allow the curds to settle for about 15 minutes. Pour off the whey above the curds, saving for ricotta if you like.
11.  "Cook the curds":  After sitting for 15 minutes and pouring off excess whey, place pot over a low fire, stir curd with thoroughly cleansed bare hand by reaching down to bottom, gentlylifting with an open hand to stir. Cut larger curds as they appear. Do notmash or squeeze. If you want to set aside some for a type of cottage cheese, remove a portion of the curds at this steps and refrigerate before you raise the temperature.  Stircontinuously as you heating (curds will clump together otherwise), until themilk is 34C (95F) for soft curd cheese, or as high as 39C (102F)for very firm cheese. Note:  you need a quality thermometer for this'cooking' step: a small change in temperature makes a great deal of differencein the consistency of the curd/cheese.
12.  Stir and maintain desired temperature until curd has contracted to consistency of firm scrambled eggs. Remove from stove. 
13.  Separate the curds from the whey:

Let the "cooked" curds sit for a few minutes. The curds should sink in whey. [If the curds float , you have a gas-producing contaminant in your starter. It does not necessarily ruin the cheese, indeed, you might WANT bubbles in your finished cheese. Butfloating curds are more difficult to separate from the whey than sinking curds.]
Decant off whey through a strainer (you may line the strainer with clean cloth if the curd is very fine grained). 
14.  Decant (pour off) as much of the whey as you can. Drain well. 
(Save the whey for ricotta if you like.)

15.  Place curds in a large bowl.
16.  Salt the curds:

Sprinkle 1/4 cup salt over curds, working with hands to mix. Pour off accumulated whey.

The salt is necessary so that the cheese will not spoil as it cures. I have tried making cheese without salt and it rotted.  However, unsalted, uncuredcheese may be frozen until use.
17.  Load the press with the salted curds:

Place the still-warm salted curds into a cheese press.  (See separate page for assembly of cheese press .)  

It is necessary for the curds to be warm inorder for them to 'knit' together to form a solid cheese during pressing.
18.  Press the curds:

Let sit in the press for 12 hours or so.

19.  Remove the cheese, wrap in sterile bandage:

The next AM, remove from press, remove cloth, rub outside of cheese with salt and wrap with fresh sterile handkerchief "bandage." 

20.  Age to develop a rind:
Place the bandaged (wrapped) cheese on a non-corrosive rack (plastic or stainless steel)  in the refrigerator. Replace "bandage" daily as long as it continues to become wet. Turn the cheese so that it dries evenly.

21.  Wax the cheese
When the cheese has formed a dry yellowish rind (two or three weeks), dip in melted wax , store in refrigerator for at least a month (if you can wait that long).  Let age longer for sharper cheese.

Here is the finished wheel of cheese two weeks later with a wedgecut out of it.  I did not wax this wheel since we were going to eatit immediately.  [The stains on the outside of the wheel are from beingin the iron ("tin" can) press too long:  it remained in the press for30 hours, and the iron in the can reacted with the curd...  Though Ido not think it to be a problem health-wise, it doesn't look as good as itmight otherwise look.  I have since switched to a pressing cylindermade of PVC pipe].

  Avoid aluminum pots, the acid will dissolve them.   Sterilize the pot just before use by placing inch of water in the bottom, covering, and bring it to a rolling boil, continue heating for five minutes after steam shoots out from under thelid (although the steam is not clearly visible in this jpeg). Pour out the water, replace sterile lid, keep sterilized pot covered until you are ready to add the milk.)

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