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Cheesemaking tips from the ancients (laphamsquarterly.org)
73 points by diodorus 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

If you ever read "Le Têtard", a biography of the French best seller author Jacque Lanzmann, you'll learn some very funny things about the 1930 French country side.

One of the details that sticked with me was that, in his village, there was a lady whose job was to pee on cheeses. She'll go from cheese maker to cheese maker, and do her thing on each piece.

Also a windmill gore accident, bestiality with a cow, rape by a grandma and mugging by the police.

But the cheese pee is still my favorite.

There doesn’t appear to be an English translation, is there?

No idea.

There are a plethora of online guides to DIY cheese-making but I'm wondering if anyone on Hacker News has any specific books or websites they would recommend for the first time cheese-maker. I appreciate the guidance.

I only just started, but Gavin Webber's youtube channel [1] is a great demonstration for the techniques.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE31MqUy6nIMJ_f8y4R3_AA

I'm a very novice cheese maker. I also recommend watching Gavin Webber's youtube videos to understand the basics. He's probably not the best cheese maker in the world, but he's refreshingly honest about his mistakes and he shows videos of where things have gone wrong and what he thinks he should have done differently. One thing's for sure, though. He dominates cheese making videos on you tube :-)

But other than that, I think the best thing is just to make cheese. My wife is in charge of the credit card in our family and when I told her I wanted to make cheese, she wisely suggested that I see what I could do with things I could find at the grocery store -- just to see if I would still be interested after 3 days (she knows me well!)

I started with some fresh cheeses -- mostly ricotta. I learned why UHT milk can't be used for anything other than ricotta. I experimented trying to make cheese from yogurt and discovered why that doesn't work. I did many google searches about how rennet works and how acid curds are formed (I believe it is the University of Wisconsin that has a really good page somewhere about how casein micelles knit together in a variety of situations, but I can't seem to find the page right now).

In the end I discovered that you can make a hard cheese by inoculating milk with yogurt (thermophilic culture), bringing the temp to 42C, letting it ripen for 40 minutes, then slowly adding citric acid while stirring slowly with a whisk. The resulting curd will melt slightly (!) and you can ladle that into a camembert hoop (which I fashioned by cutting the ends off of a pet bottle and poking holes in the side with an awl). If you drain for 4 hours, flipping every hour, it will form a delicate cheese that you can brine. It's essentially a lactic cheese (even though the final curd is made with citric acid, not rennet). I let mine age in my regular refrigerator and it eventually formed a rind. I'm still waiting to taste it, but I've done a couple of cheeses that way and eaten them fresh and they were delicious (tart, crumbly, like a Caerphilly or Wendsleydale). I've also tried making a fresh cheese with a butter milk culture (mesophilic) with a washed curd. It was also delicious, but I'm not sure that washing the curd actually did anything -- it's already too acidic at that point.

Anyway, I feel like it's almost like playing a game without reading the spoilers :-) It's super fun just experimenting and by and large you can make a cheese of some description. I need to wait until winter to do some more "normal" cheeses, but my experiments have whetted my appetite (and I've unlocked the "you can use the credit card" achievement).

You ought to throw your hat into the YouTube cheesemaking ring!

My home setup is a hotel buffet warmer with a modifier temperature controller for my vat, plus a small dorm fridge with a temp controller for my “cave”. Pretty good scaled down approximation.

In this (cheese-making) blog there's a link to a PDF of Practical Cheddar Cheese-making by Dora Saker: https://handyface.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/practical-cheddar...

Washington state university (go cougs!) has an excellent short course for the beginner. I believe the University of Wisconsin has occasional classes as well.

Dave at Dairy Connection is a wonderful guy and a great source for supplies and connections: http://www.dairyconnection.com

Also, see cheesemaking.com

I don't know if this is what you need, but Gavin Webber makes videos of him making various types of cheeses (https://www.youtube.com/user/greeningofgavin/videos).

For anyone interested in cheese, I really enjoyed the book "Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese" by Bronwen Percival and Francis Percival

The title alone deserves an award. As a hobbyist cheesemaker, thanks for the suggestion, too.

It's not a hands-on book, though, but more of a detailed history of natural cheese-making.

No worries. I'm as interested in the history as much as any particular recipe. :)

blessed are the cheesemakers

it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

Highly recommend watching Michael Pollan's documentary series "Cooked," especially episode 4 where he delves into fermentation.

He visits a convent where the sisters are making raw milk cheese. It's fascinating.


You just made me want to make my own cheese! Thanks for that!

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