Brie and Camembert
A bit of history
A cheese is born
The work process
What is milk?
Learn more about making: Cheese
Cheese making is easy and not as difficult as you might think.
If you have not tried it before, it may seem a bit overwhelming at first but...
J Here is a little help for you J
We have made some simple photo illustrations to help you understand how easy it is to make some of the most delicious cheeses at home – amongst them are Feta Cheese and Brie/Camembert.
Click on the sections below to watch them.
Feta Cheese – Photo illustrated recipe
Feta Cheese is one of the most basic and simple cheeses to make at home.
If you use fresh milk, good quality cultures and follow our recipe step by step - nothing should go wrong.
The photo illustrations below will help you understand the process.
Ricotta – Photo illustrated recipe
When you make Feta Cheese, Brie or many other types of cheeses, you end up with not only the cheese but quite a large portion of whey.
Use some of it for baking tasty breads or rolls. This is the perfect ingredient since the lactic acid bacteria contributes with nice flavorings to the bread, whether it is made warm or cold risen.
Apart from lactic acids, the whey even contains some left-over proteins from the cheese making process. When you ferment the whey and afterwards bring it close to a boil, these proteins will separate out and sink to the bottom. Run everything through a cheese cloth and you can indulge in some gorgeous homemade Ricotta too!
Ricotta is a favorite ingredient in the Italian cuisine, in pasta-sauces, with spinach and herbs in tortellini and ravioli. Ricotta works deliciously in veggies pies too. It is a light cheese with its high-water content and the flavor is mild and slightly acidic.
Below is a photo illustrated recipe on how to make ricotta, step by step.
For this recipe, we used only whey but you can add extra milk or cream to the whey for a creamier and richer result.
Brie/Camembert – Photo illustrated recipe
By appearance and taste, a white mould cheese may seem like a complicated piece of art to create at home, but that is not the case. If you have already made feta cheese a few times, all it requires to make Brie or Camembert is a few small adjustments to the recipe and a little bit more patience. If you master making Feta cheese and know which adjustments to make, you will succeed in making delicious homemade Brie or Camembert.
The greatest difference is the maturation. Feta cheese only takes two days to make where Brie and Camembert need 4-6 weeks to mature and develop while you patiently wait.
White mould cheeses are easier to make than the blue mould cheeses. A white mould cheese only matures from the outside in, so to speak - while a blue moulded cheese matures from the inside out, as well as the outside in. When you master to make Brie or Camembert, the next step up is learning how to make blue mould cheeses – or rather the techniques to get blue moulds to develop correctly.
All other steps are the same, except from maturation which you will learn about below.
The maturation process is very important for white mould cheeses, because this is what activates and causes the moulds to grow, given the right temperatures and humidity.
Follow the illustrations below to learn more.
Gorgonzola - Photo illustrated recipe
This is our favorite thing to start with – a nice delicious gorgonzola, but there many other cheeses to choose from such as Saga, Danablue or Stilton.
Scrape a tiny bit of the blue / greenish mold off and use it to inoculate the milk with according to our standard blue mold cheese recipe.
If you followed our standard recipe for blue mold cheese, you should end up with cheeses looking like these - with an open structure.
A close-up of what an opened structured cheese should look like.
Mature the cheese in a thermo-box – see our photo illustrated guide on maturing Brie / Camembert to see how.
After 10-14 days of maturation, the cheese is covered in green-blueish molds.
..And the cheese is ready!
If you do not fancy the outer appearance, simply scrape or wash the molds off.
Why wait until tomorrow, for what you might enjoy today?
Danbo – Photo illustrated recipe
Danbo is a hard cheese with little or no holes in its structure. We do not recommend it as a beginners cheese making project. However, if you are already experienced in making cheeses like Feta cheese or Brie – then Danbo could be the “next step” to take.
Below is a photo illustrated recipe to help you understand each step in the process.
How much you need of each ingredient depends on the mould size you wish to use. We used a large round mould with lid (from our web shop) for this recipe, plus the following ingredients and tools.
Milk: 12 litres of whole milk (non-homogenized).
Starter culture (freeze dried): 6-8 pinches – alternatively you could simply use 1-1½ dl fresh soured milk or butter milk as culture.
Rennet: 3-4 ml.
Tools from our standard cheese kit, plus cheese wax, cheese paper, a couple of buckets and extra cheese mats.
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What is Cheese?
Cheese is processed milk or better said - fermented or preserved milk.
A process that roughly can be described as separating the liquid part of milk from its solids which leaves us with a substance we call cheese.
The liquid (whey) part that is drained off also contains remains of what solids was in the milk. When the whey is heat-processed a special type of cheese can be made from it - whey cheese.
To make home-made cheese is quite simple. It only requires a few ingredients that are easily obtained, tools that are often close at hand in your kitchen and recipes that are easy to follow.
Despite it is so simple to make cheese there are also elements to the cheese making process that involves a great deal of knowledge about the science behind the different processes. To every new cheese maker the process is mostly about learning through experience and get a sense of how to accomplish the best results and that is what makes cheese making into an art.
When you first set out to make cheese you must know it takes time to learn the techniques and master the art of cheese making by getting a good sense of how the different processes work. If you use every experience in a constructive manner to improve your skills, you will be rewarded by the fun of making home-made cheese and the enjoyment it is to savour them.
This document is meant to provide you with recipes that are easy to follow, lots of good advice and easy to understand explanations to every step in cheese the making process. This will guide you on what to do and how – but also why and let you in on the science behind the processes. When you know exactly what to do, when and why, you can ripe optimal results and combine that with your own creativity – cheese making will soon turn into art.
To make cheese in your own kitchen you need some equipment which is probably already in your kitchen – such as pots, bowls, colanders etc. The cheese making process can roughly be explained as the separation of the milk solids such as proteins, sugars, fats and minerals from the liquid part – whey. To make whey drainage easier, Hjemmeriet have developed a complete cheese kit that includes cheese trays, cheese mats, cheese moulds, thermometer, cultures and enzymes. This cheese kit contains practical tools that are very convenient when you make cheese but you can of cause make cheese at home simply by using your kitchen bowls, colanders and tea towels.
It is not only great fun to make you own cheese but there are several reasons that speaks for advantages of making your own dairy products:
If you have any questions you are always welcome to contact us by phone (+45) 23 24 48 00 or write to us at Hjemmeriet@Hjemmeriet.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
You can even join our Facebook group where you are welcome to ask questions and leave comments to us.
We also welcome you at our localities if you want visit our shop - check the opening hours on our website: https://Hjemmeriet.com
The history of cheese
Our everyday lives surround us with things we think of as normal and yet know little of how they came to be, even if they often have some peculiar and interesting stories to tell - and cheese is no exception.
A vast number of books and articles have been written about cheese and if you were to read through some of them, you would most likely find many facts to surprise and enlighten you.
Below is a short recap of some of the stories that can be found on the internet if you google the history of cheese:
The first evidence of cows being milked and cheeses being made, date as far back as ancient times around 4.000-3.000 B.C. to the Sumerian civilization in south Mesopotamian (Iraq). It was the Sumerians that founded the first known urban civilization and with that followed domestication of animals. Before that, there existed only tribes of hunters and gatherers living of wild prey and what food they could gather. Every part of an animal was eaten or utilized by these hunters and gatherers, even the intestines which is thought to have been the first thing they would have relished in, as it was full of nutritious plants and substances.
And so, one day it happened, perhaps 5.000 - 6.000 years ago, a huntsman felt an urge to taste that white substance he found inside the stomach of a young calf he had just taken down – and found it to be cheesy milk! Thus, it is safe to say cheese is probably one of the oldest and natural dairy products known to man.
Many years later, farmers began to make water containers out of dried animal stomachs and calf stomachs were no exception. Much to the farmers surprise, they discovered when they poured fresh milk into the containers made from calves, the milk separated into they and curd. Little did they know that the calves’ stomachs contained and released a substance that caused milk to coagulate and turn to cheese. Today, we know this substance as rennet and still depend on it for making cheese. This animal rennet can only be derived from the stomach of young animals still drinking their mother’s milk, as production stops once the animals mature and gradually begin to eat grass.
A similar story speaks of an Arab tradesman who set out to cross the dessert. To make sure he would suffer no thirst - nor hunger on the journey – in a container made from sheep’s stomach, he carried fresh goats milk.
Since the journey ahead of him was long and troubled, he hasted through the dessert and felt he had no time to eat the dates or drink the milk he had brought with him. He intended to try and make it through the dessert before dark and leave no time for stops but late that afternoon he felt so thirsty and hungry he had to make a halt after all.
When he brought the little leather container out and held it to his lips, he was astonished to realize only a clear liquid poured from it – that was whey! Surprised and curious to know what had happened to his delicious milk inside, he quickly slashed the bag open and was amazed to see a peculiar white lump inside – and this was the first cheese ever discovered.
Since the traveller was hungry - and perhaps a little curious too, he decided to taste some of that peculiar soft white gooey and found, not only was it delicious but very satisfying for his hunger. Little did he know there was a scientific explanation for the transformation that seemed like a God sent miracle. The sheep stomach that lined the inside of his bag had of cause contained rennet and miraculously turned all off that lovely milk into delicious cheese as he rode through the dessert.
Cheese was traditionally made from cow, sheep, buffalo or goats milk but as of the 16th century, cows’ milk has been favoured above other milk types for cheese production - at least in Europe. In other parts of the world people still make cheese as per old tradition from sheep, goat, buffalo, camels, reindeers or other species.
Our modern day dairy cows, all descend from great pre-historic oxen that were huge in comparison with a shoulder height at 2 meters. These large animals were not domesticated and lived in the wild, roaming through grass- and woodlands in northern Europe, Asia and North Africa.
Around 8.000 years ago, people in southern Europe somehow managed to domesticate these giant ruminants and we can only assume how they did it. Maybe they caught the young calves and nursed them into captivity, or perhaps they lured these giants into domestication by putting feed out for them in times of scarcity?
The first domesticated cattle appear in Europe app. 5000 years ago, and farmers have through times picked out the best individuals with the most desirable trait to continue the line of breed. Thus, there are many different types of cattle today, some yield little milk but are highly favored for their fine meats, while other breeds yield large quantities of milk and have little value in terms of meat.
To sum it up it all up, animals were domesticated in Europe around 3.000-2.500 B.C. and we know the milk was already then used to make cheese from – a few thousand years after that huntsman had found curd inside the calf’s stomach.
However, the secrets to advanced cheese making were poorly understood in Europe up until 1000 A.C. Danish Vikings acquired these skills through their countless raids and fares to other countries which were far more advanced on cheese making. Furthermore, skills were brought to Denmark by monks that later came to try and tame the wild Vikings and convince them to be good Christians.
Up until the mid-1800’s in Denmark, a farmer would commonly only own a few cows, just enough to cover the family’s need for dairy products. All the cheese and butter was made by the women in the households and solely intended for the family’s own consumption – nothing was produced for selling. In the latter half of the 19th century this tendency began to shift as science-based experiments to optimize milk production discovered how cows yielded more milk if they were fed a particular diet. This knowledge soon enabled farmers to produce more milk and make larger quantities of high quality butter available for sale and export.
In 1882 the first Danish dairy cooperatives were established and they mainly produced butter for export. Although many small dairies also experimented with cheese production, sales remained low scale until after the 2nd world war. When the war ended, butter production declined while cheese production and export went up.
A man to greatly influence Danish cheese production was the Danish chemist Chr. D. A. Hansen. During his early years as a student in the 1870's, he realized how much the growing dairy industry and cheese production would benefit from a high quality standardized rennet product. From dried calves stomachs he developed a rennet product that became widely renowned in the world – and was the beginning of today’s company called Chr. Hansen – still a major player on the market for enzymes and cultures. Other Danish companies worth mentioning, is Danisco (today; Du Pont) and Novozymes. They too, have played an important role on the market as developers and suppliers of quality products for cheese production.
There are two fundamental ways of separating whey from milk to make cheese, categorizing them into either - acid-set cheeses or rennet-set cheeses. Whey cheese is a third cheese category and as the name suggest, they are made from whey. Whey cheeses are greatly treasured for being nutrient dense and it contains lots of beneficial nutrients.
are the easiest and quickest types of cheese to make and they can often be savoured newly made with no need for aging. These are always made from soured milk – not old milk, but milk intentionally left at room temperature for a particular length of time to ferment and thus acidify. To enhance this process, the milk can be preheated to 20-25°C, then cultured with buttermilk or soured milk and left at room temperature for a while. After 24 hours, the milk has become so acidic it naturally coagulates (curdles) when it is heated to 60°C. By then draining the whey off – either by letting it run off or by lightly straining it, a denser texture forms.
Qvark, fresh cheese, buttermilk cheese and smoked cheese are a few examples of acid-set cheeses.
There are variations of the acid-set cheeses where the milk is not acidified by fermentation but by adding an acidifier like lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or tantaric acid. When milk is heated in combination with adding an acidifier, it coagulates just as well as if it had been acidified by fermentation. However, the milk tends to take flavour after the acidifier and depending on how much you add and how acidic it is, it will impact the texture and hardness of the cheese too. If the milk is either too acidic or heated too much, the texture can become like Halloumi - a semi-hard cheese that does not melt when pan-fried.
Rennet coagulates milk in a different way and by the act of the enzymes contained in Rennet. Rennet is a protein with the ability to change the milk proteins into a new type of protein with different properties. These new proteins can form a tight structure that solidifies the milk – and that is what coagulation is. This protein structure traps and incapsules other milk substances like fats, sugars and also whey at first, but that is expelled after a short while when the structure tightens. Most of the solids like fats and sugar remain trapped within the protein structure.
Just like with acid-set cheeses, acidified milk is important to the process when making rennet-set cheeses. Rennet-set cheeses too, are made from fermented milk but the acidification process is not quite the same. For the coagulation process to happen correctly, the acidifying process must have only just begun when rennet is added. This means the acidification process will be on going and continue even after the milk has coagulated and that too will help promote whey drainage.
The reason why milk can ferment and acidify is its content of sugars (lactose). When lactic acid bacteria in the milk digest lactose, they produce lactic acid and other substances in the process. There is a great number of different species of lactic acid bacteria, each contributing with different types of flavoring to the cheese which is why the choice of lactic acid bacteria matter to the overall flavour. Even other enzymes and bacteria can contribute to the overall taste and texture, with different flavoring substances as a result of breaking down fats, proteins and sugars.
Rennet-set cheeses vary a lot in taste and appearance, just think about the differences between Feta cheese, Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Havarti and Danbo – just to name a few. Even though they are all basically made from the same set of ingredients, small differences in the preparation process, choice of cultures or enzymes, hugely impact how these cheeses fall out.
is made from whey, the by-product you get when you make either acid-set cheeses or rennet-set cheeses. Nearly 20% of the milk proteins are not susceptible to coagulate by the methods we use when making acid- or rennet-set cheeses, thus these proteins remain suspended and drain off along with the whey. Whey protein is a highly cherished source of protein amongst sports people as it is easily digested and supplies building blocks for muscles and health.
When whey is heated to temperatures above 85°C, the proteins fall out of solution and coagulate and this is how cheeses like Ricotta or brown cheese (mysost) is made. To increase the fat content and make creamier whey cheese, they can be made purely from milk or from a mixture of milk and whey.
As described above, there are numerous ways to vary the cheese making process that will impact how a cheese falls out and when considering the many different options for combining methods, ingredients, enzymes and bacteria, it is roughly estimated that nearly 2000 different cheeses can be made. Surely, some of them would only differ slightly but that is what makes cheeses so compelling to many of us.
There are many different types of cheese since the smallest of variances in how the cheeses are made, affects how they turn out in the end. Right from the choice of milk – where it came from and how it was processed - to the choice of culture and the cheese making process itself – this makes all the difference and how very fortunate! Cheeses are like wine. It is the great variety and nuances in flavors that makes it so compelling to us to taste them and make us want to try more – and preferably with wine to make the experience even more pleasurable.
However, fundamentally cheeses can be categorized into these 3 different types; dipped cheese, kneaded cheese and close texture cheese.
Refers to cheeses where the curd is scooped out of the whey, allowed to drip off and then filled into moulds. Light pressure may be added to seal the surface of the cheese or some are briefly lowered into hot water to prevent air, water and bacteria from entering the cheese as this will influence the maturation process. A dipped cheese appears with several irregular cheese holes – examples of such cheeses are Havarti and Esrom cheese.
Refers to a cheeses where the curds/cheese grains are kneaded after drainage to make them evenly sized. This process results in a nice smooth and even surface with regular cheese holes. Salt is often added while kneading the curd to enhance flavours and make the texture firmer. Adding salt also slows the activity of enzymes, hence maturation slows and makes a milder cheese in the end. Once the cheese grains have been carefully kneaded, they are filled into cheese moulds and pressed several times before chilled, salted and left to mature. There are only two Danish examples of kneaded cheeses – Maribo and Fynbo. In terms of taste, they are like Gouda or Cheddar cheese.
Close texture cheese
Refers to cheeses where the curds are pressed while still in the whey. This prevents the formation of air pockets and air from entering which gives these types of cheese a nice smooth appearance with few or no cheese holes. After pressing the cheese, it is cut into smaller pieces and matured. A few irregular cheese holes might form during the maturation phase as lactic acid bacteria produce CO2 while digesting the remaining sugars. Samso and Danbo are examples of Danish close textured cheeses.
In Denmark, the most popular cheese types are the semi-hard cheeses like Danbo, Esrom, Havarti, Maribo and Samso but even Danablu, a semi-soft blue mold cheese – and lastly rygeost which is a soft fresh cheese.
Worldwide, the most famous types of hard cheeses are; Cheddar, Crottin de Chavignol, Emmentaler, Fontina, Gruyere, Manchego and Parmesan. For semi-hard cheeses, it is Provolone, Gouda and Port Salut and for semi-soft cheeses, it is Feta cheese and Mozzarella. There are also a few of well-known blue mold cheeses, these are Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton – and the white mold cheeses, Brie and Camembert. For washed rind cheeses, it is Munster and cottage cheese, qvark and cream cheese are commonly known soft fresh cheeses.
Below is a description of different types of cheeses listed in alphabetic order. This is not a complete list since the world of cheese is quite a large one. Besides, many cheeses with different names covers the same type of cheese made by the same methods - the only difference is where it is made.
Alpes cheese (Green Alpes cheese)
Alpes cheese, as it is known in Denmark, is a cheese spread with granulated herbs, primarily Alpine clover but it even contains species like Melitotus coeruleus, Melilot sap, Trigonella caerulea, Fenugreek too. This cheese was originally inspired by a hard cheese seasoned with clovers, called Schabziger Kräuterkäse.
Appetitost is a semi-soft Danish cheese based on buttermilk and made like a fresh cheese but with a small amount of rennet. The curd is heated to give it a firmer structure and during the course of a few days, it is repeatedly pressed, crumbled and heated to promote whey drainage. The result is a tough yellowish curd to finally be heated with a small amount of milk, kneaded with salt until smooth and then left to mature for a few days. No further maturation is needed, it can be savored as it is.
Brie is a soft white mold cheese with a white moldy rind - a famous French cheese traditionally made from cow’s milk.
The French name is fromage de la Brie - meaning “the cheese of Brie”, a rural district east of Paris with a main town named Meaux. Therefore, the original Brie cheese is called Brie de Meaux. The original Brie is made from unpasteurized cows’ milk and by many considered to the best and only true Brie.
The history of Brie cheese is long but it first acquired world fame in 1814 when European statesmen held a congress in Vienna to discuss the political future after Napoleons defeat. Great luscious banquets and entertainment accompanied the congress and fort sprung the idea to point out the world’s best cheese. More than 60 cheeses competed for the title but Brie cheese took first prize and was honored with the name “king of all cheese” - a title it still carries.
The Brie cheese is thought to be the mother of all white mold cheeses. They mature from the outside and inwards contrary to blue mold cheeses that matures from the inside and outwards. The mold cultures applied to Brie is Penicillium camemberti/Penicillium candidum.
Camembert is a soft white mold cheese with a slightly aired structure and a white moldy rind. It origins from France and is made from cows’ milk.
Camembert cheeses dates as far back as the 18th century where it was sold on the local market in Vimoutiers, Normandie. The cheese is named after the town of Camembert in Normandie.
The recipe for camembert was developed by a woman named Marie Harel in 1790 and said to be greatly inspired by a French priest who took refuge in the house where Marie Harel worked during the French revolution. Together they are believed to have developed the recipe for Camembert, greatly inspired by brie cheese. Marie Harel later passed the recipe on to her daughter who settled in the town of Camembert and began to produce and sell it there. Camembert cheese became such a success, a statue of Marie Harel was made in her honor – unfortunately, this statue was destroyed during the 2nd world war.
Camembert cheese acquired its national fame and acknowledgment when Emperor Napoleon first tasted the cheese after opening a new railway line in Normandie. He was so impressed, he ordered for a delivery to Paris and since French high society followed whatever the emperor did, the fame of Camembert cheese was a given. Today, the original Camembert is sold under the name of “Camembert de Normandie”.
A Camembert contains the mold cultures Penicillium camemberti / Penicillium candidum, and these are important to the maturation of the cheese.
Castello (ble or white)
Castello is a range of Danish mold and cream cheeses, developed in the late 1960’s.
Chester, Leicester, Gloucester
Rich English rennet-set cheeses similar to Cheddar cheese.
Cheddar cheese is made almost anywhere in the world today but was originally made in England. It is a kneaded hard-cheese with some elasticity, light-brown dry rind and is made from cow’s milk.
Cheese has been an important food in England for over a thousand years and it is almost certain when someone English speaks of cheese, they almost always mean cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese has been known since the 16th century and come from area near Mendip Hills, close to the town of Cheddar. There is no doubt the history of English cheeses dates even further back – perhaps as far as the Romans who may have introduced the skills to make hard-cheeses to England.
Shape, size and weight of a cheddar depends on where it is made. Unlike most other European cheeses, “cheddar cheese” is not protected name and may be used and misused by anyone. Today, Cheddar cheese made in the traditional way, is only produced in a few localities across the world.
Crottin de Chavignol
Crottin de Chavignol is a semi-hard, matured cheese with a natural rind. It is made from goats’ milk and originates from the district of Loire in France – by some, this is also called the smallest cheese in the world.
It was developed in the 16th century where farmers in Sancerre herded goats and made their living on selling goats cheese. They developed the Crottin de Chavignol.
The goat cheeses from Sancerre were named Crottin de Chavignol in 1829 and the word Crottin means little terracotta oil lamp which the cheeses take shape after – however, it also means horse-droppings which have sometimes lead to some funny conversations and remarks about this cheese.
Danablu is a Danish semi-soft, creamy, blue mold cheese with marbled rind - made from cows’ milk.
Danablu was developed before the 1st world war where Danish dairy men began experimenting with different mold cultures for blue mold cheeses. Danablu was developed by a man named Marius Boel in 1927 and he was the first ever to make a blue mold cheese from homogenized milk which is the secret behind Danablu’s unique texture and aromatics. Compared to Roquefort cheese, Danablu came out richer, whiter and offered a newness of taste, unlike anything known at that time. Marius Boel used a blue mold culture he had grown on a piece of rye bread to culture and produce the first Danablu. Today, this particular mold culture is made in proper facilities and only a limited number of dairy facilities has the right to make Danablu.
Danablu is a high fat cheese with a fat content around 50+ and it is always cylinder shaped. The even richer Danablu 60+ is always squared. A few light versions exist too (30+) but these are not considered original Danablu due the low fat content.
Danbo is a Danish close textured, rennet-set cheese made from cows’ milk. The texture is semi-hard with regular cheese holes and the rind is dry.
Danbo was developed in 1897 by Rasmus Nielsen at Kirkeby cooperative dairy. At that time, he had a hard time convincing the other members of the cooperative of the sense in producing such a high-fat cheese and it was not until he got the opportunity to lease the entire dairy facility, he was able to set up a production by him-self. A visit to the East German steppes near the Polish/Russian border had inspired him to make this cheese and even though he had also been to Holland to learn how to make Gouda and Ejdammer, it was this cheese inspired by a German steppes cheese that was most successful. It was given the name Danbo.
Today Danbo is the most commonly produced cheese in Denmark and comes in many different variations with different lengths of maturation. Danbo is also made with cumin, better known as ”Christian IX” cheese.
Esrom is a Danish semi-hard and rennet-set cheese, it is a dipped cheese with irregular cheese holes and a thin greasy rind.
Esrom cheese is thought to have been developed by Cistercian monks who lived at Esrom monastery north of Copenhagen although it could have been inspired by local farm house cheeses. Esrom cheese was produced at the monastery which partly exist today, now houses a museum. Since the monks took great pleasure and interest in developing cheese, it is however most likely to think Esrom cheese was solely their invention. After a time of political reformation in Denmark, Esrom monastery fell into hands of the King and the buildings were partly torn down while the cheese was more or less forgotten. Esrom cheese was rediscovered in 1937 when it was first reproduced by the national experimental dairy institute in Hillerod. It is made by a unique Danish method where culture is applied to the surface to promote faster maturation from the outside and inwards as well as the inside outwards. Only four approved dairy facilities produce Esrom cheese today.
Havarti is a Danish semi-hard rennet-set cheese, it is a dipped cheese and made from cows’ milk. The texture is aired and dotted with plenty of little cheese holes and the rind is thin.
One of the greatest cheese makers in Denmark was Hanne Nielsen (born 1829) She developed the Tilsiter cheese, later known as Havarti cheese. The cheese is named after her farm “Havarti farm” near Holte, a town north of Copenhagen.
Maribo cheese is a semi-hard, rennet-set, cheese with a dry yellowish rind. It is made from cows’ milk and is the only kneaded cheese made in Denmark. The kneading process contributes to a smooth texture dotted with quite a few small irregular cheese holes. The cheese is named after the Danish town Maribo.
The production of Maribo cheese is only very small scale today, and it often appear in a rectangular shape. It is very similar to Dutch gouda cheese and went under the name “Danish kneaded Gouda” up until 1952.
Smoked cheese and Knapost
Smoked cheese is a unique Danish specialty. It is a soft fresh cheese with no rind, like a fresh cheese, smoked but not matured.
Smoked cheese is the only cheese with true Danish origin, not inspired by cheeses made anywhere else on the world.
Fresh cheeses are thought upon as the traditional cheese and rightfully so, since they are very easy to make. To smoke a fresh cheese is an old Danish tradition that appeared in the 17th century as a local specialty on the island of Fyn. Smoked cheeses may have been made of much earlier, perhaps as far back as the Viking age where fresh cheeses were already known. However, it was local farmers on Fyn that made it in to a famous national specialty and this is why, it is often spoken of as smoked cheese of Fyn (Fynsk rygeost). Almost all smoked cheeses are produced in small dairy facilities on Fyn, today.
Smoked cheese is made by moulding the curd in into small sized flat cheeses that are placed on a grill and smoked over straw and dried nettles. They are smoked for a few minutes on each side until they become slightly golden with grill marks – some are sprinkled with cumin.
Smoked cheese is also known as Rogeost.
Knapost is made from the same basis as smoked cheese, only it is not smoked but cumin is always added.
Klosterost is also a similar Danish specialty based on a fresh cheese. The texture is hard, flavors are strong but it is never smoked, nor is cumin added.
Elbo is a rennet-set cheese.
Emmentaler is a Swiss cheese named after the Emme Valley in Kanton Bern where it has been produced for many centuries. Emmentaler has a yellow-brownish dry rind and is made from cows’ milk.
For hundreds of years Emmentaler cheese was produced by the Senne-shepherds, herding cattle far up in the Alpes every summer. Not only did the shepherds own most of the cattle themselves but also had they access to some of the best highland grazing. They used their small shelters and cabins to make cheeses from and had them carried down into the valleys by mules and sold on marketplaces.
Emmentaler cheeses were smaller back then and did not weigh more than 4-10 kg. In the 15th century the shepherds acquired the skills to produce larger Emmentaler and how to keep them fresh for longer. This satisfied a growing demand for Emmentaler cheese but it may also have been brought about a French import tax inflicted per piece, regardless of size.
The original Emmentaler cheese is still made in Switzerland and this is printed into the rind.
Feta cheese is a semi-soft rennet-set cheese with high salt content and no rind. It was traditionally made purely from sheep’ milk but today it is even made from cow or goats milk.
The true origin of Feta cheese is unknown but it is thought to be somewhere in the region of Croatia and Iran. Feta cheese has though times been produced in many places and most likely in many variations, however for several decades now, Greece have claimed it to be a Greek specialty with Greece as its true origin.
The countryside in Greece is rough and not very fertile, mainly suitable for low scale farming. Thus, herding goats and sheep was for centuries one of the most well paid jobs because these animals do quite well in dry climate where grassland is scarce and sheep or goats milk has been the sure source of protein in the Greek diet for generations.
In 1996 Greece was granted the sole right to use the term Feta Cheese. Authorities in Denmark, Germany and France protested and took it to the EU Court, pointing out that feta cheese is a cheese type rather than a Greek specialty. They also pointed out that the true origin of Feta cheese is unknown, and so in 1999 the EU court annulled Greece’s exclusive right to use the term Feta cheese.
Cream cheese is made from fermented cream and is usually not rennet-set. To make cream cheese, the curd is heated several times and seasonings is oftentimes added afterwards. For this reason, there is a vast variety of different cream cheeses, some are plain, some seasoned with herbs, some are flavored with spirits, nuts or fruit.
Fresh cheese (Skorost)
This is a non-matured, fresh cheese made from whole milk. Qvark is a similar sort of fresh cheese but this is made from skimmed milk. Fresh cheese is an acidic tasting cheese with high fat and high protein content.
A Fontina is a semi-hard Italian cheese, made from unpasteurized cows’ milk. The texture has some elasticity to it, the development of cheese holes is scarce, the rind is hard but thin and has an orange to slightly brownish color.
Fontina is the oldest known Italian cheese, named after the Fontin mountain near Aosta in the Piedmont-province in northern Italy. An area that boast some of the highest mountains in Europe and provide plenty of lush green highland pasture for grazing. These pastures have been important to cheese production since the 11th century. Back then local cheeses were simply referred to as “caseus” meaning; ”made from cow’s milk”. Fontina cheese is said to be scented and flavored by these rich blooming highland pastures.
Fontina cheeses are matured from 2-6 months, usually 3 months and every maker of the Fontina cheese has his own preferred place to do so – this could be in caves, tunnels, old mines etc.
This is a rennet-set Cheese – see Chester cheese.
Gorgonzola is a semi-soft elastic blue mold cheese with a moist reddish rind. This cheese is always made from cows’ milk and originate from Italy.
Gorgonzola cheese was first produced more than a thousand years ago, in the little North Italian town Gorgonzola. Traditionally it went under the name Stracchino di Gorgonzola. Stracco means tired in Italian - and with good reason was this name given to the cheese. Gorgonzola cheese was traditionally based on milk from cows that had just been herded from the steep highlands into the meadows of the Po valley. The journey made the cows tired and gave their milk a rare texture that was the basis of a Gorgonzola cheese.
A story also speaks of a young man, who once neglected his duties as a cheese maker to spend some time with his girlfriend. When he returned in the morning, he accidently mixed the morning milk with the evening milk – and this is supposedly how the first Gorgonzola was made. Traditionally, Gorgonzola cheeses were matured inside caves in the Valassina valley.
Up until the 19th century Gorgonzola cheese was merely a local specialty but ever since has it been famously known in the rest of the world. Today only approved dairy facilities in Italy produce the original Gorgonzola per strictly regulated standards. Gorgonzola cheese made elsewhere in the world is not considered original and entitled to the Gorgonzola name.
Gouda cheese is a semi-hard rennet-set cheese with a hard dry rind, often coated with paraffin and always made from cow’s milk.
Gouda cheese is a Dutch cheese thought to first have been produced in the town of Stolwijk and later given the name Gouda after a town in southern Holland. Traditionally, Gouda was known in the world as the Dutch farmhouse cheese since this is where it was first produced, on the dairy farms by women that was the precursors to actual dairy facilities.
Today, Gouda cheese production makes up more than 60% of the total cheese production in Holland and is mainly produced on large dairy facilities. Only a small number of dairy farms make Gouda cheese per old times standards on the farms.
Unlike most other countries, Holland has primarily based its cheese production on two types of cheeses – Gouda and Edam. Both have had a significant impact on Dutch economy and almost any other type of cheese seems to derive from these two.
Edam cheese is softer than Gouda and has a lower fat content. It is shaped like a ball and usually has a red wax rind.
Holland have no set standards or regulations for the production of these two cheeses, thus a vast number of non-Dutch reproductions are made across the world. Sometimes Gouda is seen flavored with garlic, nettles or herbs or even smoked.
The Danish Cheese, Maribo is an example of a cheese that was inspired by Gouda cheese and is very similar to it, only it has fewer cheese holes. Previously Maribo cheese went under the name “Danish kneaded Gouda” or “Dutchmen’s cheese”.
Gruyere is a semi-firm-elastic, rennet-set cheese with a golden-brown rind and only few cheese holes. It is made from cow’s milk and originate from an area of France or Switzerland, although it is named after the district of Gruyere in Switzerland.
The history of the Gruyere cheese date as far back as the 12. century to when the duke of Gruyere founded Rougement monastery in 1115. He then claimed a church tax from people of the entire region and cheese was part of these payments – today known as Gruyere cheese.
Gruyere cheese belongs to the same family of cheeses as Emmentaler, although gruyere has fewer cheese holes and the texture is harder and crumbles more but the shape, how it is made and the maturation process, is very much the same. A Gruyere is also known as Emmentaler’s little brother.
Gruyere cheese requires at least 1 year maturation to fully develop its unique flavors and it is only produces in the western part of Gruyere which is also the French speaking part of Switzerland.
Cottage cheese is a grainy cheese, rennet-set and the curd is heated to promote faster whey drainage. Cottage cheese can be mixed with cream and herbs.
Kefalotyri cheese originate from Cypress or Greece where it was traditionally made from goats or sheep milk but today some are made from cow’s milk too.
A Kefalotyri is an aged hard cheese with high salt content and significantly flavored by the lipase enzymes – a flavor that intensifies the longer it matures. Kefalotyri is often used for cooking as it is ideal for shredding, especially the 40+ is whereas the 45+ is lot better for making Saganaki. This is thick cut slices of cheese, pan-fried and served with a salad. This makes a delicious starter for any meal.
Klosterost (Monestary Cheese)
This is an old Danish specialty made like a rennet-set fresh cheese. Rennet adds more firmness to the texture and intensify the flavors.
Qvark is a fresh cheese made from skimmed milk, eventuelly rennet-set. The taste is acidic, it is low fat and have a high protein content. To be savored as it is or scented with vanilla.
A Manchego is a Spanish rennet-set cheese made from sheep milk. It has a semi-hard to hard texture with a dry and yellow / black rind, sometimes coated with paraffin.
Sheep milk cheese is very common in Spain and have a long tradition because of the dry climate being favorable for sheep and provide low quality grazing for cattle.
Manchego cheese originate from La Mancha, the highland region in Spain made famous in Cervantes’ novel, “Don Quixote”. Shepherds here, have made Manchego cheese as far back as the roman times but the landscape has changed since then. Where only sheep used to graze is now vineyards as a result of modern day irrigation.
A Manchego cheese is usually matured for about 3 weeks but flavors will improve by up to 10 months’ maturation. A milder Manchego, Curado, matures for 13 weeks, while Manchegos that mature more than 3 months is known as “Viejo” and for those that matures for over a year, it is “Anejo”. In some parts of Spain, Manchegos are treated with olive oil, a speciality called “Aceite”.
A Danish close texture Cheese – like Danbo.
This cheese has a distinct acidic flavor and a high salt content like feta cheese – and therefore it tastes a bit like it too. It is rarely aged for longer than 3 weeks but flavors certainly improve by leaving it for as much as up to 10 months. Morolique is a hard cheese, pressed in chunks of 50 kg for up to 48 hours.
Mozzarella cheese is a semi-soft elastic fresh cheese with no rind and was originally only made from buffalo milk. Mozzarella di Bufala has a long history that can be traced back to Salerno in southern Italy where it was first made. Today, Mozzarella is widely known accross the world famous for its use as pizza topping.
Mozzarella cheese today can be made from either buffalo or cows’ milk. A buffalo mozzarella has more intense flavors and is the only Mozzarella rightfully entitled to the name Mozzarella di Bufala. The name means “buffalo eye” and refers to the round shape. Italian Mozzarella made from cows’ milk is called Fior di Latte and smoked Mozzarella is called affumicata. There are even Mozzarellas made from a mix of buffalo and cow’s milk. When you buy a mozzarella, it is almost always bagged soaked in its own whey.
Mozzarella cheeses made in Denmark are only made from cows’ milk and do therefore not have the same intense aromatic flavors like Buffalo Mozzarella. However, it is only the milk type and shape that differs, they are produced in almost the same way although the Italian buffalo mozzarella is a fresh soft cheese perfect for salads whereas a Danish mozzarella is firmer and better aimed at cooking.
Munster is a semi-soft French cheese with an orange-red rind and it has few or no cheese holes at all. It is made from cow’s milk and the mold culture Pencillium roqueforti is applied.
Munster is probably the most well-known washed rind cheese. It is produced in Munster valley in Vogeserne close to the French-German border in Alsace-Lorraine. It is believed to be Irish monks settling in Vogeserne in the early middle ages that first developed this cheese, as the name most likely derives from the French word; monastere meaning monastery.
When a Munster cheese is made ready for maturation, it is air-dried before it is stored in cellars alongside aged Munster cheeses. By lying next to aged Munster cheeses, a young unripe Munster get innoculated with the red rind culture that already flourish on the aged cheeses. This require a minimum of 21 days maturation and the rind must frequently be washed with saltwater to promote development of the characteristic red rind culture.
Munster Gerome is another type of Munster cheese. It is also from Lorraine and is like a Munster, only smaller - some can weight as little as 120 g. Munster au Cumin is a Munster with Cumin and is quite a popular variation. French Munster cheeses are produced close to the German border, thus German productions of Munster cheeses exits too.
Mycella is a Danish type of Gorgonzola. It is a creamy blue-mold cheese with mild and aromatic flavors. Mycella is made from cow’s milk and has its name after the Latin word mycelium.
Mysost (Brown Cheese)
Brown cheese is traditionally made from whey and sometimes extra added cream. By heating whey at high temperatures, a brownish firm curd forms and that is the basis of brown cheese.
Parmesan is a hard cheese from Italy made from cow’s milk. It has no cheese holes and the rind is either yellow or dark.
The original Parmesan cheese is called Parmigiano-Reggiano, developed in the 10 or 11th century in Bibbiano in Italy. The name Parmigiano-Reggiano reflect its origin, referring to the two Italian provinces “Parma and Reggio Emilia”.
A strict set of production standards for Parmesan was outlined in 1955, regulating as far as to what feed the cows should be fed, allowing for fresh grass, hay or alfalfa hay.
Italian Parmesan cheese is only produced from April to mid-November and require at least 24 months’ maturation for the flavors and texture to develop correctly.
In Denmark, a Danish variation of parmesan is produced by Ranum Dairy and sold under the name Ranumi Regatto. Grana Padano is another Italian variation of parmesan and the difference is shuttle. The production methods for the two Italian cheese are almost the same, except Grana Pandano is made in larger cheese vats and the morning milk is never mixed with the evening milk, like it is when making original Italian parmesan. Furthermore, Grana Padano matures for only 12 months and is made from pasteurized milk.
Port Salut is a French semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a smooth texture and the bright orange colored rind is eatable even though it not natural.
Port Salut can be traced back to the monastery “Notre Dame de Port-du-Salut” in Entrammes, Normandy. The recipe for Port Salut is believed to have been developed by Trappist monks, returning to Notre Dame having lived in exile under Napoleons reign. They returned to the monastery with cattle and began a production of a magnificent cheese solely meant for their own consumption at first. When they later gained access to more milk supplies from local farmers, they were able to increase production and make it a local specialty for more people to enjoy.
Provolone is a semi-hard rennet-set cheese from Italy, made from cow’s milk. It is a kneaded cheese with few cheese holes, a thin rind and often coated with paraffin.
Provolone cheese has a long history and was already a favorite amongst the romans who preferred it aged and smoked. No one really knows where it was first made just that it was one of the first cheeses known to the romans. Provolone Valpadana is the official name but there are many local names for it - often referring to the shape and size that tend to vary a great deal. Provolone cheese is moulded under hot water and can either pear shaped, flat, rectangular or shaped like a cylinder – it solely depends on the preferences of he who makes it. For example, is the the Giganti-cheese up to 3 meters long but usually they are a lot smaller and often cylinder shaped.
Provolone-cheeses commonly hang side by side from strings in the ceiling while they mature. A mild Provolone is called a Dolce - an older Provolone is a Picante. There are many different Provolones and some of the Italian ones are: Pancettoni, Giganti, Mandarine, Provole, Ragusani, Salamini, Silani, Topolini and Bocini. Some Provolones are smoked.
Ricotta cheese is made from heated whey, sometimes by applying an acidifier like vinegar or lemon juice – and sometimes extra cream is added to make it creamier. When whey is heated, the remains of milk proteins in the whey coagulates and form a new type of curd. Ricotta cheese is a fairly low-fat cheese.
Roquefort is a French semi-soft blue mold cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk. It has no rind but it will often develop a type of yellow greasy coating.
The cheese is named after the small town Roquefort Aveyron, in South-Eastern France, an area that provides optimal conditions for aging Roquefort. It is not so much the sheep milk that makes a Roquefort special, it is the aging process inside grottoes in the Combalu mountain. These grottoes provide unique and perfect conditions for maturing blue mold cheeses, so much so that many have tried to duplicate and establish these conditions elsewhere in the world. The best grottoes are those with the best “fleurines” which is a term for the large shallow cracks in the grotto walls. Some of them can be up to 100 meters high, supplying the grottoes with a constant airflow around 8-9°C with a 95% humidity. This seems to be the perfect natural air conditioning system for aging blue mold cheese.
The roots of the Roquefort cheese can be traced as far back as 79 A.C. but it might be even older than that.
Roquefort cheese is only made from February to august which is the period where sheep lactate and the milk is supplied from all regions of France. In the old days, it was only produced by local farmers but today Roquefort is mainly produced in larger dairy facilities. The original Roquefort cheese is made from sheep milk and aged in the Combalou grottoes, near Roquefort – if not, they are not rightfully entitled to the name Roquefort. This cheese is with good reason spoken of as the mother of all blue mold cheeses.
Red rind cheese / Washed rind cheese
Red rind cheeses have their name because of the culture that smears the outside of them, once applied. This is what gives them their red-orange appearance and helps ripen them from the outside and inwards. It can be applied to firm as well as soft cheeses. The rind is frequently washed in brine throughout the ageing process to make it susceptible to the development of the culture. Thus, these cheeses are commonly referred to as washed rind cheeses. The texture of a red rind cheese is often smooth and creamy and that tends to intensify as it matures.
Melted cheese is what the name indicates – a type of cheese made by melting cheese. It was developed to add prolonged shelved life to cheeses and is made by mixing bits of firm cheese with melting salts (phosphates), citric acid and seasonings and then cooked at high temperatures. When it cools off - ham, shrimps, herbs or other seasonings are often added to flavor it.
Cheese spread (Labne/Labneh)
Cheese spread is made by draining yogurt or cream fraiche, Fromage frais or another fermented milk product, then adding salt or herbs. Sometimes it can be seen stored in olive oil. http://cookalmostanything.blogspot.com/2006/09/making-labne.html
Samso Cheese is a Danish rennet-set cheese, close textured with few cheese holes and appears with a dry yellow rind.
Samso cheese has been produced for generations on the Danish Island Samso. The production began in the 19th century where Danish dairies began to take an interest in producing foreign cheeses for the home marked. Samso cheese was developed when dairy man Constantin Bruun invited a group of swiss cheese experts to Denmark to help him set up a production of Emmentaler. The initial production was a success but the recipe has undergone further development since to become what it is today. This Danish-Swiss invention was officially named Samso in 1952.
Stilton is an English semi-soft blue mold cheese made from cow’s milk and appears with a natural brownish rind.
For centuries, it has been disputed who developed the first stilton but one story speaks of a Mrs. Paulet, housekeeper at Quenby Hall. Her brother in law ran the renowned The Bell Inn conveniently situated by the old roman cause way in Stilton - “The Great North Road”. It is said that Mrs. Paulet supplied her brother in law with cheese for the visitors at inn and this explains why is soon became delicacy across the country.
Thybo cheese is made either as a close textured or kneaded cheese, not unlike Gouda cheese and comes in variations with or without cumin.
Thybo was the most popular Danish cheese during the middle ages and the first Danish cheese to be named a historical name. In the beginning of the 20th century it was changed to Taffelost but after a while it went back to its original name in 1952 – this time spelled; Tybo. The name roots back to the 15-16th century, referring to a time where cheese was part of tax payments from farmers to the local priest.
Thybo-cheese is mentioned as early as the 16th and was even described as the best cheese in the North by Popes household people in Rome.
To produce homemade cheese, you need some essential equipment, high quality milk along with specific enzymes and cultures.
A cheese is born
The Cheese Making Process
The amount of action hours it takes to make cheese only varies little between the different cheese types. To make 2-3 kg of Feta cheese only takes about 2-3 hours spread out over the course of a couple of days. If you work during the week, it is ideal to begin the process on a Saturday morning and finish the last bits on a Monday morning.
A large percentage of the work goes in to cleaning before and after. For this reason, we prefer to use dishwasher safe tools to reduce the work load of cleaning. All we need to do before beginning the process is to sterilize the equipment with boiling water.
To make milk into cheese – these are the basic steps you follow:
The first steps are those that requires most attention for and for the first couple of hours. To make Feta cheese, for example, you spend the first couple of hours mixing ingredients, stirring, checking the temperature and empty the cheese trays from whey. When that is completed, the process become less and less work intensive and you only need to empty the cheese tray from time to time as whey drainage slows and progress until next morning. The next step is salting, and that takes about 2-3 hours on day two. Hereafter, the cheese is ready to be stored and matured for a few days.
Feta cheese can usually be enjoyed freshly made but just know it gets even better if it is matured in the fridge for a week. The longer it matures the more flavours intensify and develops. Maturing it for 3 month usually makes it quite strong.
For cheeses types like Brie and Camembert the cheese making process is quite similar. What makes them differ in appearance is more a result of adding different cultures and enzymes, and different maturation processes than the actual work process. Feta cheese is matured in brine/oil while Brie and Camembert are wrapped in cheese paper.
Making semi-hard to hard cheeses are a little bit different because whey drainage requires more time and effort in comparison because these types of cheeses also require pressing. However, other than that, the cheese making process is not very different. They need longer maturation as flavors only begin to develop after 3–4 weeks of maturation.
The first few of times you try make homemade cheese it probably seem as if it takes much longer but you will quickly learn to master the process and make use of the “off time” in-between. Know the beginning of the cheese making process always requires your full attention while sterilizing equipment etc. but after a while you only need to do something for a few minutes now and then - increasing from every 20 minutes up to days.
It is important you are accurate and stick with the timing in the recipes, especially in the beginning when you are new to cheese making. It is a good idea to always set a timer so you know precisely when to act. Make sure not to begin the cheese making process before you are ready and have sufficient of time to follow through with the recipe without interruptions. Try to plan ahead before you begin and leave enough time to turn the cheese trays and salt the cheese as given in the recipe. It is crucial not to cut the time short or extend it.
However, when you are more experienced, all the timings given in the recipes can be shorten or extended to your preference, as can the temperature be adjusted or cultures be reduced or increased. Just be aware each little adjustment you make will influence cheese acidity, texture, salinity etc. which is why we recommend you do not experiment too much before you have some experience in making cheese. When you are ready to experiment – only make one small adjustments at the time and see how that falls out.
To succeed in cheese making it important to play by the rules. If you do not play by the rules and deviate from the recipes, chances are that parts of the process change too much and may negatively affect how the cheese turns out. Having said that, it is also important to say that making small amendments to the recipes can be used to deliberately improve acidity, texture, salt content etc. to your own preference. This can be done by slightly changing either, temperature, timing or how much culture you add. Play with it once you have gained some experience as cheese-maker and have a feel for how the different phases work. Make sure only to make one little adjustment at the time to see how it impacts the cheese.
Hygiene is alpha-omega when making cheeses for the different phases go the way they are supposed to throughout the entire cheese-making process. If you are not careful about keeping everything clean and sterilizing equipment prior to beginning the process you may risk contamination with unwanted bacteria somewhere along the line and they will flourish during the maturation phase. This could negatively impact the flavor and for how long is stays stable for.
Make sure you use only clean and sterilized equipment to make cheeses – the best thing is to have some you only use for this purpose. Make sure you have a clean dish brush at hand too and do not use your everyday dish brush to clean the equipment. It is advisable to also sterilize the cleaning tools with boiling water before you use them.
The best thing is to use equipment made from food safe plastic or stainless steel.
Avoid wooden kitchen tools or any other tools that can be difficult to clean and sterilize properly.
The quality of all the ingredients must be high not to impact the quality of the cheese.
Not only does it make a big difference if the milk come from cows, sheep or goats – it even matters what breed it comes from because of the fat content.
How the milked animals have been fed and kept also impacts the quality of the milk which means even seasonal variations might influence how flavors and texture turn out in the cheese.
Apart from milk quality, it also matters how the milk been handled and processed. This too may affect how flavor and texture develop.
You can use your ordinary kitchen tools to make cheese at home. It is not necessary to buy Hjemmeriets cheese kits but they do help you through the process. Especially cheese trays, cheese mats and moulds are very nice to have at hand and will ease the process while ensuring good hygiene. They are also very convenient if you want to make mould cheeses as they can help you create optimal humid conditions for the first maturation phase. This is of outmost importance to the correct development of mould cultures.
Follow our recipes accurately to get a successful result. Once you become more experienced and get a feel for how each little step affects the outcome, you can slowly begin to make small adjustments – one little step at the time. When you want to adjust fat content, temperature, timing, starter culture, enzymes or salt – we recommend you only make one adjustment at the time to see how it falls out.
As with anything, sometimes we aim for the perfect result and get it – other times we do not. If something should fail in the process, just remind yourself it was an important lesson to improve future results. Trial and error, is what gives you all the skills you need to become a true master of anything.
Maturing and storage
For cheeses that requires maturation, it is of outmost importance to provide the optimal conditions during this phase for it to develop and mature correctly.
Make sure to mature your cheeses in a cool place with high humidity (or fridge) where germs from the surroundings will not contaminate the cheese.
If the cheese needs to be turned from time to time during the maturation phase, make sure to wear clean food safe gloves or clean your hand thoroughly before touching the cheese.
When maturing mould cheeses in the second phase, wrap them in cheese paper to protect them from bacteria and seal in moisture - this will help them mature.
To make homemade cheese you need some equipment and you probably already have some of it in your kitchen, plus you need some extra tools from a cheese making kit.
Standard kitchen tools
Cheese making kit
To make cheese you may also need a cheese kit with a few special tools, enzymes and cultures.
Hjemmeriet have different cheese making kits depending of which type of cheese you want to make.
With our standard cheese making kit you can make many standard cheeses. This cheese making kit contains: 2 cheese trays, 2 cheese mats, 4 moulds, a thermometer, droppers, cheese cloth, micro spatula, rennet, starter cultures and a booklet with some of our recipes.
Go to our web shop to view the full range of our cheese making kits.
In shops, markets or restaurants we get tempted by the mere sight or scent of a selection of delicious cheeses. Some are smooth – some are wrinkled. Some are bright yellow – others are pale white. Their shape, appearance, the taste of them and their texture is anything from unique to outstanding. Despite these differences, they are all made from the same thing – milk.
What is milk?
Milk is by nature intended to nurture mammals at the early stages of their lives. It is secreted from milk glands containing the nourishment needed to support the growth and maintenance of a new born mammal.
Milk or cheese flavor, highly depends on what type mammal it comes from – whether it is from cows, buffaloes, sheep or goats. Milk from cows generally has a sweet and delicate taste but that can even vary between breeds. There are more than 50 different breeds of milk cows and the taste of their milk differs. Thus, to serve as an example, milk from Jersey cows is more mild and mellow compared to milk from Holstein cows.
Milk – Nutritional values
Links (texts in danish):
Pasteurization of milk
The different phases of the milking process always pose a risk of unwanted bacteria entering the milk, therefore milk directed for sales is always pasteurized (heat processed) to prevent contamination from unwanted bacteria and potential health hazards for consumers.
Since lots of different substances in milk can be subject to damage when heated, pasteurization is performed as gently as possible. Milk is pasteurized by heating it to somewhere between 63 and 80 degrees and then chilled again.
Pasteurization will denature (degrade) the whey proteins (albumin, globulin) in the milk. The denatured whey proteins will interact with the other milk proteins (caseins) in such a way that the rennet no longer has the normal coagulating effect. This will result in a weaker curd structure and this gives a less good cheese and also a reduced cheese yield. However, the denaturation of the whey proteins is of minor significance if the pasteurization is done at low pasteurization or at even lower temperature.
Pasteurization deactivates most of the lipase enzymes that are supposed to break down fats and therefore it is often reintroduce to pasteurized milk to make cheese from it. The denature effect of the whey proteins will however be of insignificant influence if the pasteurization is carried out as
1) Kills off health hazardous microorganisms
1) Reduced nutritional value
Homogenization – or not
When milk is homogenized, it ensures consumers experience the same standard with every carton of milk they buy since homogenization destroys lipid membranes and prevent lipids from forming a layer of cream on the surface which might make the milk less appealing to some.
When milk is homogenized, it is forced through a narrow filter that breaks most of the fat globules into particles that are ten times smaller.
How flavors develop in cheeses highly depends on the break-down of glycerol and fatty acids in the milk, - an act carried out by enzymes like lipase. Homogenization break the fat globule membranes and make the fat molecules more susceptible for lipase to work on thus, flavors develop faster in cheese made from homogenized milk which can be an advantage sometimes.
When making rennet-set cheese, how the texture turns out greatly depend upon what level of homogenization the milk has undergone. Curd made from homogenized milk tends to have less integrity than curd from non-homogenized milk because the lipid membranes are broken. This potentially disrupts the formation of the new protein structure (curd) and the result is a curd with less integrity which however works well when making feta cheese.
By experience, we have learned that the gentler processing the milk has been exposed to prior to using it for cheese or yogurt making, the better flavors and texture seem to develop. We therefore prefer to use non-homogenized milk but it is possible to use partly homogenized milk to impact how the flavors develop.
1) Standardized appearance and taste (?)
1) May induce health consequences
Cheese-milk is the milk you use for making cheese. Most milk types are suitable but there are exceptions and some are better than others.
Cheese-milk must be fresh and come from healthy animals whether it is from cows, sheep or goats.
Animal based cheese milk can never be substituted with plant based milk like soy- rice- or oats milk. You can make Tofu from Soy but that is a completely different process.
From a store
Fresh store bought milk works fine for cheese making.
As fresh milk from a farm has a higher fat content it will therefore often make a better cheese. You may compensate the store bought milk by adding some extra whipping cream to it.
Non-homogenized, with a few exceptions
Most cheeses are made from non-homogenized milk, not only for practical reasons to ease the cheese making process but because it optimizes flavor and texture development during the maturation phase. There are however exceptions where some blue mold cheeses are best made with homogenized milk as this promotes fast flavor development.
For cheeses like feta cheese you could substitute 10-15% of the non-homogenized milk with homogenized milk. The result is a softer cheese with faster development of flavors. The explanation is that the smaller fat globules present in homogenized milk cause curd to pack more densely and slow the drainage of whey. The higher the content of whey, the softer it becomes. The broken fat globule membranes will make the lipids more accessible for the enzymes to work on and this cause a quicker flavor development in homogenized milk, as mentioned above.
You can make cheese entirely from homogenized milk but beware that the curd tends to crumble and have less integrity compared to curd made from non-homogenized milk. On the contrary, curd made from non-homogenized milk is often more structured and easy to work with whereas curd made from homogenized milk can be more challenging and lively due to smaller curd grain size. There is even a risk that some of the small curd grains will flush out along with the whey and leave you with less curd.
Having said that, flavors develops nicely in cheese made from homogenized milk and with a bit of practice it is easy to control the somewhat more livelier curd.
Note: Skimmed milk and whipping cream are always non-homogenized and you can compose your own non-homogenized cheese milk by mixing the two together. Read our guidance later in this section and learn how to calculate the correct mix.
Pasteurization makes cheese making easier in the sense that unwanted bacteria have been ridded from the milk and this enables you to control flavor development optimally by only adding wanted species of bacteria.
A standard pasteurization implies a brief heating to 72°C and does not alter the milks ability to curdle and transform in to cheeses whereas high-pasteurization is heat processing above 140°C under pressure and that will alter the proteins in a way that make them unsuitable for cheese making.
Use fresh milk
We do not recommend you use anything but fresh milk as cheese-milk. It is not advisable to use milk near its expiry date. Despite pasteurization bacteria still develop even in store bought milk and could potentially ruin the cheese you are trying to make. Always aim to get the best and the freshest milk for cheese making.
The most delicious cheeses are those made from high fat milk but there is nothing stopping you from using low fat milk types to make cheese.
The fat content in milk does not affect the initial cheese making process, it only influences the fat content in the cheese. A cheese made from semi-skimmed milk will have reduced fat content compared to a cheese made from whole milk and a cheese made from semi-skimmed milk is normally considered a low-fat cheese whereas cheese made from whole milk is a semi-fat cheese.
Fresh milk from farms whether it is from goats, cow or sheep will produce some delicious full-fat cheeses since this milk is naturally high in fats.
For semi-soft cheeses like feta and brie, as a rule of thumb the fat percentage usually falls out 7 times higher than it was in the milk. This means if a Feta cheese is made from semi-skimmed milk with 1,5% fat the cheese will have 10,5% fat and a feta cheese made from whole milk with 3,5% fat has 24,5% fat.
Since harder cheeses have less water content than softer cheeses like Feta cheese their fat content usually falls out 8-10 higher than what was in the milk it was based on. This means a Danbo cheese made from whole milk (3,5%) has 35% fat.
You can compose your own cheese milk by mixing two types of milk with different fat content.
Use the formula below to calculate the total fat content when you mix two types of milk with different fat content.
We use the following abbreviations:
It follows that:
Fat contents in milk of type 1 + Fat content in milk of type 2
N1 ∙ F1 + N2 ∙ F2 = ( N1 + N2 ) ∙ FO
Note: The percentage of fat in store bought milk is different in different countries. The following is based on the Danish standards where skimmed milk has 0,1% fat, semi-skimmed milk has 1,5% fat, whole milk has 3,5% fat and whipping cream has 38% fat. If you live in a country with other standards for fat content, you must correct for this in the following.
Eksample – A rich Feta cheese
Composing a cheese-milk made from 8 liters of whole milk and ¼ litres whipping cream:
Eksample – A lean Feta cheese
Composing cheese milk for a low fat feta cheese, using 8 litres of semi-skimmed milk with ¼ litres whipping cream:
Making your own cheese-milk
Since both skimmed milk and whipping cream are always non-homogenized you can make your own non-homogenized cheese-milk by mixing them and make it with the fat content you prefer. Just make sure neither of them are high-pasteurized – normal pasteurization is alright.
Use this formula to calculate the correct ratio between milk and cream.
We use the following abbreviations:
It follows that:
Fat contents in milk of type 1 + Fat content in milk of type 2
N1 ∙ F1 + N2 ∙ F2 = ( N1 + N2 ) ∙ FO
Fra dette kan vi beregne blandingsforholdet mellem de to typer af mælk:
If you want to know the fraction of whippig cream or skimmed milk in the cheese-milk
Eksample – Standard cheese-milk for Feta cheese and brie
A cheese milk with 3,5% fat is nice for most regular cheeses like feta cheese or brie and is very close to the fat content in whole milk:
So if you want to make 8 litres of cheese-milk with 3,5% fat you need
Fresh milk from a farm
If you can get hold of fresh farm milk to make cheese from -you are in for an extra bonus. Try asking your local farmer or at a dairy facility. Cheeses made from fresh farm milk turn out deliciously rich with outstanding flavor development due to the high fat content but there are few things to be mindful off.
Cleanliness and safe storage
When you buy fresh farm milk for cheese making it is important to know that the milk is absolutely pure and have been kept chilled ever since it was milked. Should any impurities accidently have found their way into the milk during the milking process, storage, transportation, handling etc. or if it has been kept too warm – this will directly impact the quality of the cheese, and potentially your health. The farmer must handle the milk with care to avoid any contamination from the cows, the stalls, milking staff or the milking machinery – and since milk easily takes flavor after the surrounding air, it should never be exposed to bad smells from surroundings such as stables. Impurities could make the milk go sour and give it a bad taste and this will only intensify when you make cheese from it.
Cows should be milked before they are fed and milk must come only from healthy individuals that are not exposed to any conditions that might be stressful or cause excitement since this affects the milk too.
Test the purity of the milk by performing this simple test:
Add 1 drop of rennet to 1 glass of milk while stirring, then cover the glass and leave it in a warm place preferably at 30°C for 24 hours. If the milk coagulates evenly in to a smooth mass, the milk is alright for cheese making. If it turns out gritty and unevenly coagulated it is not suitable for cheese making.
The same test can be performed with water from a well:
Boil some water - chill it to 35°C and pour it into a glass. Add 1 tsp of cold water from the tap and 1 drop of rennet, then cover the glass and leave it in a warm place preferably at 30°C for 24 hours. If strings appear in the water it is not alright.
Feed and forage
Avoid milk from animals fed onion, leek, bad silage, rapeseed, turnips, cabbage or by products of brewing because it adds an undesirable taste to the milk if is less than 12 hours since the animals have been fed any of these feed.
Milk from animals that have just given birth is not suitable for cheese making. Allow at least 1 week after breading before using their milk. Read more about colostrum milk here.
Lactose - Milk sugar
Milk contains lactose - also called milk sugar.
When producing dairy product like yogurt or cheese, the lactose in milk acts as food for the lactic acid bacteria.
Unfortunaely, a large percentage of the world population can not tolerate lactose.
For those who do tolerate lactose, lactose is broken down by the enzyme lactase which is found in the small intestine. By means of the lactase, the lactose will be broken down into its basic components, glucose and galactose, which will be absorbed in the small intestine.
For those who do not produces sufficient amounts of lactase in the small intestine, the lactose will not be broken down and the lactose continues to the large intestine where the lactose instead feeds bacteria that can cause diarrhea and/or flatulence which causes discomfort and pain.
An important part of the transformation of milk into yogurt or cheese is the lactic acid bacteria turnover of milk lactose into lactic acid. In acidic cheeses such as Feta cheeses and matured close texture cheeses, the majority of the lactose is digested by the lactic acid bacteria and persons with less severe lactose intolerance will often be able to eat these types of cheese. Similarily, long time fermented yogurt (30 hours or more) will also contain only a small fraction of the original lactose.
If you are intolerant to lactose you may add lactase to whatever food you eat in order to avoid the negative consequences of the lactose. Similarly, one can add lactase to the milk used for the production of yogurt or cheese by which you can produce yogurt and cheese with no lactose.
Fat content in cheese
When the name of a cheese is followed by 45+, it refers to 45% of its dry matter being fats. Since most cheeses are almost 50% water by weight, the actual fat content is only 45% of half of what the cheese weighs.
This means the actual fat content of a 45+ cheese more likely to be 20-25% of its total weight provided the water content is somewhere around 50%. Hence, the true fat content for a 45+ Feta cheese is usually only 15-20% of its weight, while 45+ soft cheeses like camembert or Brie usually only have a fat content around 15% because of their higher water content. A 45+ soft cheese will always have a lower fat content than a 45+ hard cheese simply because there its water content is higher.
If you want to calculate the fat content in your homemade cheese, do as follows:
Let us say you use 8 liters of whole milk with 3.5% fat per liter which equals 35 g of fat per liter. The total fat content is then 35 x 8 = 280 g. If the cheese weighs 1300 g and contains 280 g, then the fat percentage is 21%.
The calculation above is a rough estimate as not all the milk fats will be captured in the cheese structure. A small portion of the fats (app. 7%) drains off with the whey along with sugars and whey-proteins. It is more accurate to say that the 21% figure is an estimate of the maximum potential fat content. The actual fat content is more likely to be less, around 19%.
If you use 8 litres of semi-skimmed milk with 1,5% fat per liter that equals 15 g fat per liter milk and the total fat content is then 120 g. If the cheese weighs 1100 g the maximum potential fat percent will be 11%.
If you choose a milk type with lower fat content to make a fat reduced cheese, the net weight of the cheese is not affected very much as the milk contains the same amount of sugars, proteins, vitamins and minerals regardless of the fat content.
In this section we have collected a number of subjects that you can study more closely in order to understand a bit more of the theory behind homemade cheese.
To be able to make homemade cheese it is not essential to know the chemistry that underlies the processes but some of you might like to learn the basics chemical reactions that are involved in the process of transforming milk into cheese. This section is intented for those of you and are therefore way more technical.
To produce cheese, the milk has to be processed by adding an acidifyer and applying rennet as this promotes drainage of whey. The acid and the rennet both causes the milk proteins to cluster together, bond and gradually form a tight protein structure that expels the whey. While whey leaks out, solids such as fats and proteins remain trapped within the protein structure.
Enzymes are proteins with unique properties.
They act as catalyst in the break-down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
The enzymes are not altered in the process, they remain stable and continue to work in the same way.
Enzymes play an important role in cheese making:
A particular type of enzyme will only work on a particular substance and only under certain conditions.
In the process of making cheese, lactic acid bacteria digest milk sugars – lactose – and produce lactic acid as a by-product. The bacteria are only able to do so because they contain enzymes and one is, lactase - an enzyme that breaks down lactose into glycose and galactose by the means of water.
Enzymes are produced by microorganisms and enable them to digest and utilize energy.
Enzymes also play an important role in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients in humans and animals. These digestive enzymes are produced by cells in the small intestine where they break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates into fatty acid, amino acids and sugars that will absorb though the gut wall into the blood as nutrients.
Rennet is an enzyme (the protein Chymosin) with the ability to split milk proteins into new and smaller proteins with entirely different properties. These new proteins will seek to bond and thereby form a tight structure and that is what coagulation is. Other substances in the milk, like fat, sugars and water (whey) will be captured in this protein structure and initially contained in it. After a while, the structure packs so densely whey can no longer be contained in it and slowly separates out while the other substances remain incorporated in the protein structure.
There are 3 types of rennet:
Rennet from animals is naturally produced and derived from the stomach of young ruminants. It is produced by a gland in the fourth stomach - abomasum and enables sucklings to digest the milk they ingest. When milk lands in the abomasum, the rennet lining the gut wall will cause the milk proteins to coagulate, trap fat and separate out whey.
When a calf sucks milk from the udder, it slowly drinks with a lowered stretched neck and a great deal of salivary is secreted. The positioning of the neck ensures that the milk travels to the abomasum first rather than the rumen. In there, the milk coagulates by the act of rennet and move along as curd into the small intestine where the lipids are broken down by lipase.
In old days it was common practice to blow air into abomasums and hang them up to dry until rennet was required to make cheese. They would then be sliced, soaked in brine for a while. To extract the rennet, these soaked slices were then folded into a cloth and firmly squished over the cheese milk. Unfortunately, the stomachs were not only loaded with rennet but also harmful bacteria that oftentimes contaminated the cheese milk and caused cheeses to rod and large portions of milk were wasted.
To this day, rennet is still derived from lamb calves or kid goat abomasums but fortunately by modern methods that avoid problems with unwanted bacteria.
The effect of adding rennet to milk is that the milk will coagulate and turn into curd. Subsequently, by dividing the curd into smaller pieces, the whey will drain from the curd.
All cheese recipes provide an indicative coagulation time - which is the time you usually need for leave the milk to coagulate. Using the stated coagulation time, and checking to see that the curd gives a clean cut with a knife, you will usually get a reasonable result, though with a slightly varying result of structure and taste from one batch to the next.
The following describes a method which you can apply in order to obtain more control over your cheese making - it will enable you to repeat a success. The method is often referred to as the flocculation method and will enable you to determine the optimum coagulation time for the cheese milk.
The optimum coagulation time depends on many conditions: the milk's content and composition of proteins and fats, the pH of the milk when the rennet is added, the activity of the rennet, whether or how the milk is pasteurized, whether the milk is homogenized, if you add calcium chloride to the cheese milk, and more. Maybe you compose the cheese milk yourself by mixing different types of milk, for example whole cream milk with a little extra cream or goat's milk, or you may mix homogenized with unhomogenized milk. All these parameters mean that the optimum coagulation time will vary.
To determine the optimal coagulation time, the flocculation time of the cheese milk must be known.
The flocculation time is the time it takes for the milk to clot after the rennet is added to the milk.
Depending on the type of cheese you want to make, different coagulation times are used, which is calculated as a factor (typically between 2 and 6) multiplied by the flocculation time.
You determine the flocculation time as follows:
Add the rennet to the milk, stir well for 20 seconds and bring the milk to a rest.
Start a timer.
Let the milk rest for 5 minutes. Then take a scalded small round glass and place the glass in the surface of the milk - the glass will float but sink slightly into the milk.
Tap / turn the glass so it rotates slightly in the milk - do this once a minute.
After about 8 minutes, you will notice that the glass will rotate less - then test by tapping / turning the glass every 30 seconds.
After 10 - 15 minutes, the glass will no longer be able to move in the milk, indicating that the curd has formed. Carefully remove the glass and stop the timer.
The timer will now show the flocculation time.
To find the optimal coagulation time, multiply a factor on the flocculation time. This factor is given in the table below. The factor is multiplied by the flocculation time, which gives the total time that must pass before the curd is cut, measured from the time the rennet was added.
Example: If you measure the flocculation time to 12 minutes, and if you are making a blue mold cheese, then the factor is 4 and you have to cut the curd after 48 minutes of coagulation.
The reason that the coagulation time varies with the cheese type is due to the amount of whey drained after the curd is cut will depend on the coagulation time: The longer coagulation time, the less whey is subsequently drained and thus will give a more moist cheese.
For soft cheeses, a long coagulation time and a relatively large curd cutting size are used, which causes less whey to be drained from the curd.
For hard cheeses a short coagulation time and a relatively smaller curd cutting size are used, which causes more whey to be drained from the curd.
The factors shown in the table are just what is normal practice for the different cheese types. Typically, the factor is varied by ± 0.5 to obtain a desired moist content in the resulting cheese.
If you find that the flocculation time is beyond the expected 10 - 15 minutes, you can (in next batch) adjust by changing the addition of calcium chloride and / or rennet (the more calcium chloride and / or rennet, the shorter flocculation time). Likewise, the pH of the milk will have some influence, ie. the amount of added starter culture and the time the starter culture act in the milk (maturation time) before adding the rennet. The lower the pH (i.e., the more starter culture and / or the longer the maturation time), the shorter the flocculation time.
Milk contains different proteins and one of them is the enzyme lipase.
All mammals produce this digestive enzyme in the pancreas, from here it is secreted to the small intestine and help break down fats in the food. The fats are broken down into glycerol and fatty acids, then worked on and transformed by the liver to end up as energy (glucose) and amino-acids.
In the same way, when we add lipase to milk to make cheese, fats will break down into glycerol and fatty acids – and this is what contribute to the significant flavor development in cheese.
The naturally occurring lipase in milk is made inactive by pasteurization in a way that make it unable to function and break down fats. If lipase is not reintroduced to pasteurized cheese milk, these cheeses turn out very mild and flavors rarely intensify much even with long time maturation. To make strong and tasteful cheeses, they must be made either sole- or partly from unpasteurized milk or from pasteurized milk and cultured with active lipase.
Lipase derived from different animals break down fats in slightly different ways and thereby contribute with unique flavors to the cheese. Lipase from lamb or kid goats tend to give a rather mild flavoring compared to lipase from older animals. To make a batch of traditional Feta cheese, lipase from lamb or kid goat is commonly used while mozzarella and parmesan is normally made with lipase from adult goats. A traditional Danish cheese like Danbo, is made with lipase from calves.
Lipase break down fats slower in non-homogenized milk compared to homogenized. This is because the homogenization process breaks the fat globule membranes and gives the enzymes easy access to the break down fats molecules, rather than if the enzymes would have to break the membranes first. Cheese made from non-homogenized milk is therefore slower to develop flavoring compared to cheeses made from homogenized milk.
If you prefer to make a cheese that develops flavor faster, you can accomplish that and speed up the process by adding a little homogenized milk to non-homogenized cheese milk.
Freeze dried lipase culture dissolves in water and 1 pinch mixed with 10 ml water is enough to for 10 litres of cheese milk to ensure a nice development of flavors.
Lactase is a digestive enzyme that helps break-down lactose.
Lactic acid bacteria naturally produce this enzyme within themselves to be able to digest and utilize lactose as energy. This is very important to make cheese or other fermented dairy products where we depend upon the lactic acid bacteria to break-down lactose and produce lactic acid.
The conversion of lactose to lactic acid does however NOT make fermented dairy products completely free of lactose, there is usually small amount lactose left even in well matured cheeses.
A large group of the world’s population do not digest and tolerate lactose very well and are unable eat normal dairy products without having adverse reactions to it.
In people that do tolerate lactose, the enzyme lactase found at the brush border in the small intestine where is breaks down lactose for absorption. In people where there is not enough lactase in the small intestine, the lactose cannot be digested and absorbed in the small intestine and will move along to the large intestine where it is digested by bacteria. This may cause gas and bloating and cause pain to some.
Lactic acid bacteria’s role in converting lactose to lactic is very important in cheese making. In strongly acidified cheeses like Feta cheese or hard well matured cheeses, most of the lactose have been converted into lactic acid and some lactose intolerant people might therefore tolerate these cheese types. The same goes for yoghurt that has fermented for a long time - for up to 30 hours or more.
Lactose intolerant people can however add lactase enzyme to their food to enhance lactose digestion and avoid having adverse reactions to it.
Lactase can also be applied to milk so lactose intolerant people can make lactose free cheese or yogurt from it. We stock a liquid lactase at Hjemmeriets web shop which we have found works well for preparing lactose free milk, and from that lactose free yogurt and cheeses.
… are everywhere …
The presence of microorganisms is essential to life.
Humans hugely benefit from the presence of microorganisms every day – some live on our skin, forming a slightly acidic barrier shielding us from unwanted bacteria. Others live in our guts where they help break down whatever food we have just eaten and supply us with the energy and nutrients we require as bonus. Ensuring our bodies have plenty of these beneficial microorganisms - in the right place and the right proportions – will help us thrive from the inside and out.
Microorganisms are microscopic organisms that also play an important role in cheese and yogurt making which is all about controlling and making use of the presence of lactic acid bacteria, yeast cells and molds.
No microorganisms, no cheese.
Lactic acid bacteria are the most important microorganisms to cheese and yogurt making.
These bacteria categorize into two groups – mesophilic and thermophilic lactic acid bacteria:
You can mix and combine both groups of bacteria even though they have different temperature requirement, it just means they do not develop optimally at the same time. They remain active even if the temperature is out of their preferred range but it slows them down and sugars will not be broken down at quite as fast.
Common for all lactic acid bacteria is their ability to convert carbohydrates (mainly short chain sugars) into lactic. Some species only produce lactic acid and these are categorized as homo-fermentive. Other species, also produce aromatic substances and CO2 in the process of sugar metabolism and these are categorized as hetero-fermentive.
The right mix of bacteria is important when we make cheese or any fermented dairy product as it defines and determines what sort of flavors develop. The cultures we add to make products like yogurt or cheeses are referred to as starter cultures.
When you make cheese or any fermented dairy product you must add a starter culture.
A starter culture is just another word for a culture containing lactic acid bacteria.
A starter culture with lactic acid bacteria are essential to be able to make yogurt, butter, cheese or soured milk.
Similar cultures are required to ferment other types of foods and make things like sourdough bread or fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi.
No lactic acid bacteria tolerate pasteurization which is essentially heating processing to 72°C or beyond. When milk is pasteurized, lactic acid bacteria die off and must therefore be reintroduced to pasteurized milk to accomplish correct fermentation.
Fermented or acidified milk will contain large populations of lactic acid bacteria and a small portion of it can therefore be used to culture a new portion of milk and that can oftentimes be repeated many times.
An starter culture for making cheese could be a powder or something as simple as adding buttermilk or soured milk. Both contain lactic acid bacteria that digests sugars and convert it into lactic acid, causing acidity to rise - pH levels to drop.
Not only are acidifiers important for the fundamental processes in the cheese making process but they are also very determining for what flavors develops in the cheese in the end. This highly depends upon what species we use to ferment the milk and it even affects how fast the process happens.
To make home-made cheese or any other fermented dairy product – you can use buttermilk, soured milk or yogurt to culture the milk or a powdered culture. More advanced cheese makers can develop their own special starter with the purpose of making a cheese with a particular taste - just like those who have developed their own unique sourdough to make a special bread with unique taste and texture.
The amount of fresh starter culture (buttermilk or crème fraiche) required to add to ferment a milk portion is usually from ½ - 2 dl per 10 litres (= ½ to 2%). If the milk is very sweet you can upregulate it to 5%.
Mesophilic and thermophilic acidifiers
Starter cultures can be categorized into two groups – mesophilic and thermophilic.
Mesophilic starter cultures contain mesophilic bacteria that are most active in the temperature range 15°C to 30°C. These make up the larger portion of bacteria in buttermilk and soured milk. Butter, sour cream, soured milk, feta cheese, traditional hard cheeses and blue mold cheeses are typically made with mesophilic starter culture.
Thermophilic starter cultures contain thermophilic bacteria, most active in the temperature range 35°C to 45°C and make up the larger portion of bacteria in yogurts.
Cottage cheese, mozzarella and Brie / Camembert are typically made with a mixture of mesophilic and thermophilic acidifiers.
When you use either fresh buttermilk, sour milk, yoghurt or powdered starter cultures to make homemade cheeses, flavor development is easy to control and the result is likely to be fruitful every time.
Different starter cultures only cause little variance in flavors in the early stages of maturation but will intensify as the maturation phase progress. However different people might experience these differences in unique ways, so nothing can be said about which is the best starter culture to use. Only through experience will you find the best starter culture that match your own preferences.
Professional starter cultures
Profrssional starter cultures contain pure strains of specific bacteria and are usually freeze dried powders with long shelve life when kept in the fridge or freezer. These are very convenient for small scale cheese production at home. A standard starter culture can be implied directly to the milk (but it is best to dissolve them in a bit of milk first) or you could activate the bacteria by mixing them with a small amount of milk and leave it covered at room temperature overnight.
Butter milk and soured milk
Conventional buttermilk today, is made by fermenting skimmed milk and has almost the same nutritional value as skimmed milk. In the old days, buttermilk was merely a by-product of butter production as the name implies. Old fashioned buttermilk and organic buttermilk is however still made the good old way and thereby contain more fats (phospholipids) than conventional skimmed milk and conventional buttermilk. Phospholipids make up our cell membranes and are important building blocks to brain nerve cells and probably why old fashioned buttermilk was a highly favored dairy product.
Traditionally buttermilk from butter production was used as a starter culture to produce cheeses and to make the following batch of butter in the dairies. This of cause caused some variance to the quality of the products. When clean standardized freeze dried starter cultures were developed, it became a lot easier for the dairies to maintain the same standard and produce high-quality products each time.
There are however no risks involved in using old fashioned buttermilk or organic buttermilk for small scale cheese or butter production at home if you aim for fresh products and good hygiene. To use a standard freeze dried starter culture can however be more convenient, especially if you only make smaller portions. If you want to make a small amount of butter, you need only a tiny amount of fresh buttermilk and the rest might be wasted - unless you make it a win-win situation and use the rest for baking or simply enjoy is as the wholesome drink.
Yogurt is often used as a starter culture for making cheeses and used in the same proportions as buttermilk or soured milk.
A super charged starter culture can be made by mixing 1-2 dl buttermilk or soured milk and/or yogurt with 1 liter of milk. Heat it to about 20°C and leave it covered at room temperature until next day, then simply add and incorporate this mix in to your total requirement for cheese milk.
Homemade starter cultures
If you want create your own special starter culture to try and develop cheeses with unique flavorings that is an option too. Take some nice fresh (pasteurized) whole milk, perhaps from goats or sheep. Heat the milk to 32°C and keep the temperature steady there for an hour. Using a scalded spoon, now stir the milk and let it cool off to 18°C (e.g. using a water bath). After app. 24 hours the milk is so acidic it is ideal as a starter culture for cheese making.
What does a lactic acid bacteria do?
A lactic acid bacteria digest and converts sugar into lactic acid by the means of fermentation.
When a lactic acid bacteria digests and converts sugar into lactic acid, energy is released for the bacteria to utilize for its own growth and reproduction and once it has grown and reached certain size, it reproduces in an asexual way by the means of cell division. The mature cell divides into two individual cells that continue to exist and live as two separate organisms. Any bacteria provided the optimal conditions to thrive, will divide and multiply every 15-20 minutes.
Sugar appear in many forms but all forms are made from a combination of 3 basic sugar molecules: glucose, galactose and fructose. These 3 basic sugar molecules are termed monosaccharides and sugar molecules that are made up off a combination of 2 of these basic sugar molecules, are termed disaccharides. The most common type of a disaccaride sugar is sucrose (glucose + fructose) found in most kitchens, maltose (2 x glucose) found in malt for baking and brewing, lactose (glucose + galactose) known as milk sugar. If a sugar molecule is made up of more than 2 of the basic sugar molecules, it is termed a polysaccharide and are often referred to as starches and found in foods like potatoes. All types of sugars fall under the category of being carbohydrates.
Lactic acid bacteria are capable of digesting all types of sugars but they depend upon enzymes to pre-digest and break the more complex sugars into simpler sugars. Fortunately, the lactic acid bacteria are such a clever design, they are able to produce these enzymes with enables them to break even the larger polysaccharides into di- or monosaccharides.
A fermentation process is defined as the complete or partly break-down of organic matter - a process that often occurs anaerobically without the presence of oxygen. There are different kinds of fermentation processes, since some bacteria ferment sugar into ethanol (alcoholic fermentation), or ethanol into acetic acid (acetic acid fermentation) or glucose to butyric acid (butyric acid fermentation).
Lactose is a disaccharide made up of two simple sugar molecules – glucose and galactose. These two sugar molecules have the same chemical formula but the atoms are organized slightly different which gives them different properties. When they bond they make up lactose and that happens in the milk gland in the cow:
C6H12O6 (glucose) + C6H12O6 (galactose) → C12H22O11 (lactose) + H2O (water)
Lactic acid bacteria can be categorized into two groups. Homofermentive and heterofermentive. The homofermentive are only able to produce lactic acid, whereas the heterofermentive produce not only lactic acid but secondary substances like organic acids, alcohols and carbon dioxide, CO2.
There is a great number of lactic acid bacterial species and they all have special preferences as to which conditions they like to thrive under, such as acidity and temperature.
Common for all lactic acid bacteria is their ability to digest and convert lactose into lactic acid in the absence of oxygen (in anaerobic environments) and this process provides the bacteria with the energy they need to live and reproduce. When oxygen is present, other types of bacteria proliferate and digest sugars faster than the lactic acid bacteria. Only in the absence of oxygen do lactic acid bacteria have the upper hand over competing species of bacteria and by secreting lactic acid they make the environment even less favorable to other bacteria and make them fail to thrive.
Even though all types of lactic acid bacteria have one goal in mind - to digest lactose - they like to accomplish it i different ways and this differences determines under what conditions each species like to thrive and what other substances they might be able to produce – apart from lactic acid. So, it is not just a matter of applying a single species of lactic acid bacteria to ferment milk for cheese or yogurt – it is all about getting the mix of bacteria right as each species contribute to the overall complexity and deliciousness in flavor.
Homofermentive lactic acid bacteria converts lactose by this formula:
C12H22O11 (lactose) + H2O (water) + lactic acid bacteria → 4 x C3H6O3 (lactid acid) + energy
Heterofermentive lactic acid bacteria convert lactose in this way (e.g. Lactobacillus leuconostoc)
Lactose + water + lactic acid bacteria → 2 x (lactic acid + ethanol+ CO2) + energy
The same reaction written in the chemical terms:
C12H22O11 + H2O + lactic acid bacteria → 2 x (C3H6O3 + C2H6O + CO2) + energy
Lactic acid is sometimes referred to as lactate, which is really only the base part of lactic acid. Lactic acid is chemically balanced with lactate as follows:
C3H6O3 (lactic acid) ↔ C3H5O3- (lactate) + H+ (acid)
In fresh milk where the pH value is normally neutral (pH ~7) most of the lactic acid molecules that the lactic acid bacteria produce will be split into lactate and acid. As the production of lactic acid increases, the concentration of acid (H+) in the milk therefore rises too and the pH level drops.
The balance between the acid and the lactate – and the rising levels of acidity will slow the splitting of more lactic acid molecules. When pH drops to around 4, a newly made lactic acid molecule will remain a lactic acid molecule and not be split. The pH level will therefore not drop any further and since most lactic acid bacteria are not active under pH level 4, the fermentation process automatically stops. Only a few species remain active even under pH 4, for example Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Cultures for Soured Milk, Yogurts, Kefirs and Cheeses
The unique flavor in fermented produce and cheese is determined by a complex inter play between different enzymes, bacteria, fungus and milk content of sugars (lactose), proteins and fats.
As enzymes, bacteria and fungus break down the milk ingredients, substances such as lactic acid, fatty acids, amino acids, aldehyde and ketones appear as a byproduct of this breakdown. This is what determines the complexity of flavors in cheeses.
Below you will find a list of cultures commonly used for Soured Milk, Yogurts, Kefirs and Cheese.
List of cultures for making Soured Milk, Yogurts, Kefir and Cheese
Use the following to understand your possibilities for choosing cultures and enzymes for the production of butter, soured milk or cream, yogurt and cheese.
Read the introductory explanations first. This explains the basics you need to understand the range of possibilities.
To make dairy products you typically need starter cultures and eventually enzymes and ripening cultures.
Bacteria strains used in starter cultures are classified based on their temperature for optimal growth:
- Mesophilic bacteria strains have an optimal growth at 20-25°C.
- Thermophilic bacteria strains have an optimal growth at 35-45°C.
A mesophilic starter culture contains mesophilic bacteria strains only.
A thermophilic starter culture contains thermophilic bacteria strains only.
A mix starter culture contains a blend of mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria strains.
In addition to the mesophilic/thermophilic classification, bacteria strains are divided into classes (O, D, L, T, Y, A and B), depending on specific properties of the bacteria strains. The O, D and L classes are mesophilic. The T, Y, A and B classes are thermophilic.
The starter culture tables show which bacteria strains each starter culture includes. Additional information is available for the starter cultures:
The starter cultures contain blends of bacteria strains depending on the style of the dairy product being made. Some of the cultures are shown to contain the same strains of bacteria; however, those cultures are not identical. They each have a different ratio, percentage or contains individual sub-spieces of strains in order to give the desired result.
Bacteria strains from class D and L are heterofermentive and will produce lactic acid along with CO2 (gas) and diacetyl and/or other components which will contribute a buttery taste. All other acidifying classes are homofermentive, producing only lactid acid and will contribute a more simple acidic taste.
For ripening cultures, proteolysis specifies in which degree the microorganisms breaks down the milk proteins, which contribute to the development of flavour and texture of the product.
Lipolysis specifies in which degree the microorganisms breaks down the milk fats, thereby contributing to the development of fatty acid flavour and texture of the product.