You can make some simple cheeses with the regular stuff most of us have in the kitchen, but for more ‘regular’ cheese making there are some bits of equipment that are a ‘must’ if you’re going to do a good job.
The main pieces needed are listed below, with links to Amazon, where you can buy them if you just can’t wait. There are other suppliers in the UK and USA, which can be found on the resources page.
One note of caution: any metal equipment you buy needs to be non-reactive, so that it won’t react with the acids formed naturally in cheese making. Avoid aluminium, tin or unprotected copper which will all stain or pit over time. Instead, use stainless steel, glass and ceramics.
Cheesecloth – Use this to separate curds from whey. It has a very fine weave allowing the whey to drain through it whilst retaining even the smallest pieces of curd. It is very cheap, but If you’re not ready to invest just yet, a clean, sterilised tea towel will perform almost as well.
Colander or sieve – These give the cheesecloth shape and have the form to hold the curds whilst they are filtered but still allow the whey to drain through.
Large knife or spatula – To cut the curds in the pan. Even for a relatively small cheese we start with a large volume of milk, so the blade needs to be long enough to reach to the bottom of your pan.
Bain Marie – Temperature control is a crucial element of quality cheese making and is made a lot easier if you can use two pans for making cheese: a smaller one to hold the milk which sits inside a larger pan of water. Heat is applied to the larger pan with water, which in turn heats the milk. This arrangement makes it much easier to accurately and steadily control the temperature of your milk, which gives a noticeably better quality of cheese.
If you’re not ready for that yet, don’t worry, I’ve always found that I can make perfectly fine cheeses with a single non-reactive cook pot, like this 11ltr stainless steel pot, so long as the heat applied is incredibly gentle (don’t be shy of using the smallest ring on the hob at its lowest setting).
Bowl – for draining whey into, again keep in mind the volumes that we might be dealing with: using 8 litres of milk to make a kilo of cheddar produces a lot of whey!
Thermometer – Cheese recipes rely on accurate temperature measurement, so you’ll need a thermometer that ideally clips onto the side of your milk pan, goes up to 100C in 1C increments and is easy to read.
Measuring Spoons– Quantities of starter culture are generally very small, and salt needs to be added carefully too, so a tiny set of spoons (down to 1/8th teaspoon) like these is ideal.
Ripening boxes – Not many of us have access to a cheese cave so the next best thing is a food grade storage box with a lid which we can keep cheese in in the fridge as it matures.
Spray bottle – The best way of applying a coat of mould solution onto the outside of a cheese to form a rind, and this one is stainless steel.
Cheese Moulds – Made of food grade plastic, these give shape to your cheese. Put your curds inside them and the whey drains out through the holes in the side. There are various types of forming mould but this set of 5 soft cheese mouldsis ideal to get started with.
Followers – Hard cheese moulds are generally open-ended cylinders. We place a cheese may underneath the curds and put the ‘follower’ on top. This solid piece of plastic fits within the mould and moves down it under pressure from a cheese press to force out whey and tighten the cheese.
Cheese Mats – A plastic mesh mat that sits underneath the mould to allow the whey to drain.
Cheese Press – for making hard cheeses this is a must. They are relatively expensive to buy (and this robust stainless steel one is no exception), although you can improvise your own cheese press using household equipment. Use the press to gradually squeeze out whey and densely pack the curds.
Cheese Wax – Lots of cheeses call for the finished round to be encased in wax. Wax for cheese making is food grade and comes in 1kg slabs. I use an old saucepan to melt it and store it in afterwards.
Cheese Paper – Another material for wrapping cheese which allows it to continue to breath as it matures
If you get all of these pieces, you’ll be equipped to make the majority of cheeses you’ll come across, including the soft cheese in this video.
Pick your first cheese-making kit from this list of winners we’ve selected.
Have fun, and let me know if I’ve missed anything off the list!