Skill of the Month: Make Your Own Cheese

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A couple of years ago I was teaching a food storage class to a group of women.  I emphasized storage-friendly foods and mentioned a few that weren’t exactly shelf-stable, such as most cheeses.  One woman asked, “Does this mean I have to say good-bye to cheese enchiladas?”  I thought she was going to cry!

Cheese can be stored in various forms, such as freeze-dried cheese (very good!) and cheese powder (okay for certain recipes), but learning how to make fresh, homemade cheese is entirely possible.

I wrote about Teddi Johnson in my book.  She’s a mom from West Virginia who has taught herself how to make all sorts of cheeses.  According to her, cream cheese is the easiest cheese to make.  So, here is the recipe she uses, and I challenge you to make a batch this week!  I’ll post additional tips and recipes in the coming days.

To make homemade cream cheese, let the milk mixture stand at 85 degrees until it’s the consistency of soft yogurt.

3 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup whipping cream
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine half-and-half and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture is 90 degrees. Stir in buttermilk. Pour mixture into a large glass or ceramic bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Wrap a large towel around entire bowl, and place bowl in an oven with light on or in a warm place, about 85 degrees, for 28 hours or until mixture is consistency of soft yogurt.

Cut several thicknesses of cheesecloth large enough to line a large colander and extend 4 inches over edges. Rinse cheesecloth, and squeeze out excess moisture; line colander with cheesecloth. Place colander in sink. Pour cream mixture into colander, and let drain 20 minutes. Place colander in a container to drain completely. Cover colander and container tightly with enough plastic wrap to make an airtight seal. Refrigerate 12 hours or until well drained. Spoon cheese mixture into a bowl, and stir in salt. If the cheese is to be flavored and molded according to the following recipes, then do so at this point.

If cheese is to be molded unflavored, cut 4 (8-inch-square) pieces of cheesecloth; rinse cheesecloth, and squeeze out excess moisture. Smooth out wrinkles of cheesecloth, and stack layers on top of each other. Spoon cheese mixture in center of cheesecloth. Wrap cheesecloth around cheese mixture, and tie ends securely. Pat cheesecloth wrapped cheese into an oval or round shape. (Cheese can also be shaped in desired mold. Line mold with cheesecloth, and spoon in cheese mixture, pressing with the back of a spoon to smoothly and firmly pack mixture.) Place
cheesecloth wrapped cheese (or invert mold) over a wire rack in a shallow pan. Cover pan with enough plastic wrap to make an airtight seal.

Refrigerate 1 to 2 days or until firm and well drained. Unmold cheese, and remove cheesecloth just before serving. Cheese will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Yield: about 2 cups.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

21 thoughts on “Skill of the Month: Make Your Own Cheese”

  1. Oh Neat!! I’m so excited. We LOVE cheese, of any type, the thought of going without makes me sad. I never thought out making it myself. Any chance you could tackle how to make cheddar?? 🙂

    1. You know, hard cheeses like cheddar can be dipped in a layer of cheese wax and will keep nicely on a shelf for 20 years!

  2. I buy raw milk, and that’s what I’d have available if SHTF. Would this recipe then be 1.5 c milk and 2.25 c cream?

  3. I have been wanting to make my own cheese too. Sounds like fun to me.
    I would also like to make goat cheese. Does anyone have a recipe for it too?
    Thanks for all the GREAT tips!
    P.S. Do you know where I can find the cheese wax? I haven’t saw any in a long time.

    1. If you have fresh raw goat milk, you can leave it on the counter in a glass jar, lid loose, and it will seperate after a day or two, pour off the whey and then drain the rest in cheese cloth for a cream cheese–this recipe is from Nourishing Traditions. To make soft goat cheese, I would recomend getting the kit from New england cheese http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/c/1-Kits.html This is how I first made cheese, with one of her kits, I have made the fresh french cheese twice this week, it uses washable reusable molds and a culture that you reculture yourself, so good for being self sufficient, but you do need to have buy rennet (or learn how to use a piece of stomach from a baby goat if the SHTF) We also routinely make the 30 minute mozarella, and highly recomend that for a first time cheese

  4. Stealth Spaniel

    Making cheese is fun!! Book: Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. She walks you through every step. There is a LOT to cheese making that never occurred to me until I got this book. Her book also has a list of troubleshooting problems and answers, plus several pages of resources. Worth buying!!

  5. Paneer is like cream cheese and is lots easier. Just 2 percent milk and buttermilk. I use the drained whey in bread.

  6. you say ‘If the cheese is to be flavored and molded according to the following recipes’ where are the following flavoring recipes?

  7. Hello Lisa,

    Yesterday or the day before I sent a message with a couple of links to some sites with cheese making tips. Did those get put in the spam folder accidentally or was that not appropriate?

    I figured I better whey in before being ignored makes my blood curdle.

  8. When you say at the beginning of the recipe to let the milk mixture stand at 85 degrees, you’re talking about a step that comes later, right? Otherwise, this looks like fun.

    http://www.cheesemaking.com (mentioned above) is a great cheesemaking resource from dozens of recipes to affordable supplies (though I can’t bring myself to buy special cheesemaking salt when I can use regular).
    Thank you for your site and for sharing this idea!

    1. Oh, you can also put homemade (or any) yogurt through a colander as in this recipe and end up with a fun spreadable yogurt cheese that can be used similar to cream cheese.

  9. NotYetaSurvivor

    I guess I don’t understand how cheese making is a useful prep/survival skill. If the zombie apocalypse comes – where would the raw ingredients for cheese be found for those of us who don’t keep a goat in the back yard?

    Also, zombies would presumably eat the goat anyway.

    1. I successfully use powdered milk for cheese making and I keep lots of it stored away. You can get powdered buttermilk too so even if some of the more complicated cheese making items are not available to you, you can at least make basic cream cheese, paneer, etc.

  10. have you made any cheeses with goats milk (besides the usual feta)? i’m very interested in learning how to make hard cheese, or semi soft with it. by the way, on another note, i find myself coming back to your site very frequently through other people’s pins! you are quite popular!!

  11. Pingback: Survival Skills: How to Make Cheese | TheGearHunt

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