How to Make Farm Cheese (with friends!)

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Cheese makers (and lovers) filled our home this weekend! Several friends and their families joined us Saturday afternoon for a group experiment with farm cheese. We decided to use raw milk from a local dairy. So, the first step was acquiring 9 gallons of milk.

I initially planned to purchase the milk from Rosey Ridge Farm, which I have used as a source for raw milk in the past. However, I wasn’t thinking.

I waited until after lunch to stop by their farm and… they were sold out of milk! I should have called in the morning and requested the milk be set aside. They’re super friendly, and probably they wouldn’t have minded doing so.

But I didn’t have that much forethought.

So, I came up with a Plan B. I drove half an hour to Cleburne, Texas, where I visited the Campbell’s Classic Dairy. I called ahead this time, and Regina told me that I was in luck. Although I didn’t have much time to see the operation, I am excited to go back. Regina and her husband operate the family farm, and they have plans to host cheese making classes in the future.

At this point, I was running short on time. I hauled butt home, and (not gonna lie) it was a pretty beautiful drive.

A smiling gal, a Prius, 9 gallons of raw milk, a NPR TED podcast playing and a cold, rainy day. Pretty close to perfection there. And it turns out my friends were running a little late, too. It all worked out. As one friend put it, we were “a bunch of hippies trying to be punctual.”

Once we got underway with our potluck and cheese making, the process went quickly and smoothly.

It goes a little like this:

  1. Boil the milk.
  2. Add vinegar.
  3. Strain curds and rinse.
  4. Add salt.
  5. Hang to drain.
  6. DONE!

For the full recipe, find it here.

The only mistake we made was not salting the cheese enough. Other than that, the first batches turned out great. Austin and I had some with our breakfasts this morning. We added a little more salt and drizzled it with garlic infused olive oil. Placed beside some eggs our chickens popped out, it was terrific.

The flavor doesn’t have the complexity of aged cheeses but it is a simple, crumbly cheese that can be flavor-boosted with herbs, oils and other spices.

The whey leftover from the cheese making process, I saved. All 5 gallons or so of it. I know that it is great for chickens — ours have drank at least half a gallon so far this weekend. And I’ve seen a few places online that suggest baking with it for added nutrition.

We also realized later that since the process involves boiling the milk (removing the benefits of raw), it might be more cost effective to use store-bought organic milk. At the grocery store today, we did some recon.

Some grocery store prices of organic milk matches the raw milk dairy farm price
Some grocery store prices of organic milk matches the raw milk dairy farm price

Here’s what we found.

Some organic milks cost just as much as the raw milk we bought at the farm! The only difference to cost would be the fuel it takes to drive to the farm.

However, some stores have a store-brand organic milk that runs cheaper than the raw milk at regular price.

And even better than that, sometimes milk at certain grocery stores goes on clearance right before it expires.

Like at Kroger, which is where we have begun shopping more regularly because of their manager’s specials on expiring-soon items and because of their push for organic store-brand items.

Lucky day! We found a gallon of store brand organic 2% milk about to expire for $2.39!
Lucky day! We found a gallon of store brand organic 2% milk about to expire for $2.39!

We ended up purchasing the 2% milk pictured and made another batch of cheese tonight. It turned out well!

The difference in 2% and whole milk appears to be a dryer texture. But, especially if we crumble it on top of food, that won’t matter much in the long run.

And who can beat a pound of cheese for under $3?

I didn’t weigh the cheese ball to see if it was actually a pound but from the weight and appearance, it felt about that much.

Next step? Use vegetable rennet and make cheeses that need to age for more developed flavors.

Also, we need to test the melting ability of the cheeses we made. Nachos — pretty important.

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