Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Making Feta - Intro to Home Cheese Making Part 1

Yep, see that, its cheese and I/we made it.  Too Cool.  My friend, Naomi, and I attended a Feta Workshop with Craig at Edible Gardens in Werribee on Sunday. Lots and lots of information provided in worksheets and verbally.   I would highly recommend doing a workshop.  Nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.  Had i just read about it, i think i would have been overwhelmed and ran straight for the deli dept.  Its not a lot of work, but it is spaced out over quite a few hours and you need to be constantly mindful of temperatures and sanitation.  We also made quite a large quantitiy so do it with some friends and share the stirring, temp checking etc and have a natter and a chat over lunch.  We did. 

Hygiene and Sanitation - this is not a request, it is an order! 

The flavour in cheese comes from the bacteria that is introduced and grown during the cheese making process.  (See Craig - how i cleverly took your sentence and turned it around - its hard work so i might just stick to copying notes - everybody please give all the credit to Craig and not me).  If there are unwanted organisms in the milk or on the equipment, their numbers will be increased during the cheesemaking process.  This may increase the risk of spoiling the final product or worse make everyone eating your prize winning cheese violently ill and then where would you be?  The worst cheesemaker in history and no friends - very sad.

It is super super (X 5) important that all surfaces, utensils, containers, cloths and most importantly (the biggest bacteria carrier of them all) you or at least your hands are sanitised. This will keep the micro-organisms down to a minimum.  This is not a one off thing at the start.  Throughout the process you will have to keep doing it and that's the hard part.  When i get my own kit I'm going to put a sign on the insulating box that reminds me to sanitise me and tools before touching.

OK, so what with?

Sorry for bad photo.
The recommended sanitiser for use during cheesemaking in the home contains hypochlorite.  This sanitiser does not have ongoing sanitising action in the cheese (or it would kill off the bacteria you are growing).  I really wondered about this because we were dipping stuff into the tub and then straight into the milk and i thought it would taste like sanitiser or spoil it, but no it didn't.  The same way that sanitising babies milk bottles doesn't affect the babies milk.  We used Milton liquid sanitiser.  If using the tablets use 1 one for each 2 litres of cool to lukewarm water.  Do not use hot water as this deactivates the sanitiser.  Immerse everything for 2 minutes minimum.  You may as well put everything in that you are going to use right at the front so you don't get stuck having to wait around for 2 minutes.  Time wasted means temperature drops.  Leave everything in the tub until you need it and then return it immediately.  Don't rest utensils on your bench while you are talking.  Use an alcohol based gel that air dries on your hands.  Get use to it.  You are going to use it many times during this process.  Of course, you could use boiling water to sanitise.  That would be the equipment, not your hands.  Do it also for 2 minutes minimum.

When it comes to cheesemaking - Milks ain't all Milks

Un-homogenised full cream milk is used for cheeses with renet.  If you are buying from the supermarket then buy Parmalat Organic pasteurised, un-homogenised milk.  Craig said that its expensive so keep and eye on it and since there is not a huge demand for it, it will usually be on sale close to used by date.

If you are a lucky duck and can access real raw milk then you need to ask some questions.  Homogenised milk is raw milk from many dairies blended.  This mixing changes the properties of the milk so you really want un-homogenised or milk from one source.   Craig was super efficient and this is what we used. 

Pasteurising raw milk kills all known bacteria in the milk.  Not doing this may cause the cheese to spoil or cause disease, illness or food poisoning.    How to do it?  You will need two pots.  One large one with a cake rack inside it, filled with enough water so that when you add the second pot containing milk the water level doesn't go over the second pots rim and allow water into the milk.  Huh?   Remember, i thankfully had all this demonstrated for me.  Or you could buy a pasteuriser.   If you are thinking of buying a cow or goat to milk (as you do)  then this would probably be a good investment.

When the water is boiling in the first pot, place the second pot with milk into it.  Stir the milk constantly until the tetemperature reaches 68'C and hold it there for two minutes before taking the second pot out of boiling water.  Don't overdo it as it will make the curd soft and it wont coagulate properly.  Place the saucepan into sink of cold water and rope in someone else (remember you have already been stirring) to stir until the milk drops to desired temperature.   For Feta it was 32'C.  Don't rush the cooling, just let it come down at its own pace.   You could change the cold water after a while as the pot itself will heat it up.

Use a digital thermometer - remembering to sanitise it each time its used.  Craig used the alcohol to do his hands each time and just run the thermometer though it as well.  You will do this each time you measure the temperature.

Once you have reached 32'C, then transfer milk to an insulated container that will maintain the temp at 32'C.  This container was purchased from Cheeselinks in Little River for $14 and includes an outer foam insulating box with plastic insert.  In between stiring and cutting we put it to bed to help maintain temperature.   

OK, time for intermission - I'm going to have to come back tomorrow - I'm getting up at 5am these days and working like a trojan as we approach year end (financial) and then home to prepping dinner, housework and family stuff.  I've also been working on another project and when its finished or when we are successful, then i will be shouting it from the roof tops.  If we aren't then i will be raging and so you will hear about that too. Stay tuned. 

This is for me - no one else is going to give me one. 
In Part 2 I'll cover ingredients - making and using a starter, rennet, the actual making of Feta, and making brine for storage.  I'll also chat about the joy of having a man cook for you while you sit and munch on pan fried and salted Jerusalem Artichokes (which he also prepared).   I can also tell you that we have already started consuming my portion and its pretty awesome if i do say so myself, as does Hubby.  I've never actually had cheese so fresh and there is a huge difference in flavour and texture.

I've also never split a post before so i hope that's OK.  Its now midnight again, and I promised myself I wouldn't go past 11pm. 

Thanks for visiting Living In the Land of Oz


  1. NOW your talking girl! This is Steve's favourite cheese. I am going to have a go at this using some milk from the dairy over the hill from us. Cheers for sharing and can't wait to get the second half...I am going to post this to my Pinterest board for posterity :)

  2. I too eagerly await part 2. I did wonder why you were up so late. I have a cheese course in a few weeks but we don't get to take home our cheeses unfortunately but I am simply itching to see how it's made as it looks like we might be getting our goat sooner rather than later... More to come on that too. ;)
    See you around lunchtime. xx

  3. I made cheese once with a friend, and once with my daughter - mozzarella both times. I would love to make some fresh white cheese to spread on crackers. I think that will be a school holiday project. I read the posts backwards, so am already all over part two - I love those sneak peaks of Craig's garden - very inspiring as you say. I would love to put in a grape arbour. Next year!

    1. I am eyeing off the front yard. Its fully enclosed by a 1.8m high picket fence and it has full sun. Currently it is blank but hubby has plans for a very modern water feature and maybe small deck bla bla bla. Since I saw Craig's grapes im thinking I could convince Hubby to build an arbour and some living screens. I think my next cheese will be ricotta. Go to Greening of Gavin and look at ebook for cheese. Im thinking there is lots to learn. He told me today about making oil 50% sunflower and 50% olive for bottled feta. Gulp. I have to do mine again. So much information to absorb. Fun isn't it....


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