The Northwest boasts some of the best artisan cheese makers in the country. But that doesn’t mean cheese shops get to have all the fun.
As the do-it-yourself folks know, it’s not hard to turn out top-notch cheeses at home. The formula for making any cultured dairy product — whether it’s yogurt, kefir, fresh cheese or aged cheese — is less complex than you may think: a few basic pieces of equipment, a bit of patience, and a baguette and some fruit to enjoy your cheese with.
Read on to learn how and why to make your own awesome cheese at home.
The DIY Cheese Basics
In a nutshell, cheese making starts with heating milk, introducing a culture and coagulant, and then cutting the curds and placing them into cheese forms. The specific culture, coagulant and aging process you use will determine the flavor and style of your cheese.
For those who are new to cheese making, it’s best to start with a fresh soft cheese like ricotta or queso fresco, since neither require any special ingredients or expensive equipment. (Making a firm or aged cheese isn’t much more difficult, but it does require some specific equipment and supplies.)
What You’ll Need
To get started, you’ll need a few basic supplies, ranging from a cheese cloth to a colander. Check out Get Culture’s Cheesemaking Basics for a comprehensive list of supplies and ingredients. Or, for some personal assistance from the pros, head to a specialty cheese shop such as Portland’s Homestead Supply Co., or a home brewing shop, which will often carry cheese making supplies. Online retailers such as Seattle’s The Cheese Connection will also provide a one-stop shop for everything you need for your DIY cheese.
The Health Benefits
Not only is making your own cheese a fun activity, but the cheese you make at home can be much healthier than many of the artificially dyed, preservative-packed cheeses sold at the supermarket. Cheese is a great source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, biotin, zinc and Vitamin A. And, by making DIY cheese at home, you can source high-quality ingredients, use local or organic milk from grass-fed animals and control for unhealthy ingredients like sodium and artificial preservatives.
Consider a Class
For those who prefer a bit more hands-on guidance, consider taking a beginner’s cheese making course. There is no shortage of classes offered throughout the Northwest, so odds are you can find a class near you. Here are a few of our favorites:
Seattle: Many cooking schools in Seattle offer cheese making classes, including Hipcooks in South Lake Union, Sur la Table in Kirkland, The Pantry at Delancey in Ballard, and most locations of PCC Natural Markets. In addition, Seattle Community Colleges’ Continuing Education program also offers cheese making courses.
Out on the Farm: For a true farm-to-table experience, you can attend a cheese making class at a local creamery. Check out Monteillet Fromagerie in Walla Walla, Washington; River Valley Cheese in Fall City, Washington; or Pholia Farm Creamery in Rogue River, Oregon, for upcoming classes.
Get Cheesy at a Festival