How to make yogurt and fresh cheese

My friend M keeps nagging me to write a post on how to make yogurt & fresh cheese 🙂 I have been doing this regularly ever since I started to get my fortnightly raw milk delivery from Hook and Son. It’s easy and delicious!

Yogurt

You will need a thermometer. I use a simple jam thermometer that hooks to the side of the pan, but you can use anything reasonably accurate.

  1. Heat raw milk to 82-83º (* this is pasteurization, read below)
  2. Cool to 40-45º (remove, or stir in, the skin that forms on top)
  3. Stir in some live yogurt, about one teaspoon per pint of milk – use yogurt from your previous batch** or a good live commercial yogurt e.g. I like Yeo Valley plain Greek yogurt
  4. Pour into jars, switch the machine on*** and there is yogurt after 6-8h
  5. Refrigerate and eat within one week

* This step is required if using raw (unpasteurized) milk. Pasteurizing by heating to 82-85º is a gentle way to destroy most microorganisms that would compete with those from starter in milk fermentation (the same, microorganisms cause raw milk to ‘spoil’ faster). You can choose to not pasteurise raw milk (just skip step 1) but yoghurt is less consistent and, in my opinion, not as nice – more watery and a little gloopy.

** Remember to keep some yogurt as starter for the next batch. If, after several cycles your yoghurts turn out weird (watery, granny or slimy) its probably time to return to fresh cycle with commercial live yogurt as starter.

*** I have a commercial yogurt maker which I find very convenient and I like the little glass pots. However all it does is keep the temperature about 42-45º. If you don’t have a yoghurt maker just keep your pots somewhere warm, or wait longer.

If you would like to make a thicker, creamier yogurt, you might want to strain your yogurt – this removes some whey makes a Greek-style strained yogurt. Some people also advocate adding skimmed milk powder to the mixture (when adding starter). I haven’t tried either option yet.

Fresh cheese (from full fat raw milk)

  1. Leave milk to sour naturally in a bowl or wide jar
  2. After 2-3 days skim the top layer of cream*
  3. Keep out for another day or two til very curdled, in my house curdling takes 4-5 days in total, depending on the temperature (longer in cold weather). It takes some experimenting to learn when sour milk is ready for straining – it will will be quite firm and lumpy and start to visibly separate from whey.
  4. Drain for 8-12h through double layered muslin, cheesecloth or nut milk bag by hanging from something tall above a bowl (e.g. hang from the water tap, cupboard handle, retort stand etc). Hanging (not simply laying over colander) is important to enable gravity to drain out every last drop of whey.
  5. Remove cheese from bag, refrigerate & eat within one week.

The fresh cheese is lovely on its own, or mixed with sweet or savory ingredients. Or make eastern European-style burek.

* The reason to skim the cream is because this raw sour cream is quite smelly and will impart the smell into the cheese. If you don’t mind the smell you can keep the cream on (and stir into cheese later), but I don’t like it so I remove it. I keep my sour cream in the fridge separately and use in creamy sauces as I would with crème fraiche – I find the smell disappears when heated and mixed with meat juices or other aromatic ingredients.

removing cream

Whey

Warning: when making cheese from milk, you will NOT get a lot of cheese, you will get a LOT of WHEY. Whey is a very healthy lactic-acid containing drink that can be used in many ways e.g. as drink, in smoothies, for baking sourdough bread, baking cakes and muffins, fermenting vegetables, making ricotta cheese.

Here’s what others say:
What to do with all that whey
More on baking with whey
This looks interesting: making your own ricotta cheese
A good resource on fermentation with (and without) whey

And finally, when I was researching this post, I stumbled on an article about problems arising from excess whey waste created by the ever expanding yoghurt industry. Quite worrying!

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