Sunday, August 18, 2019

Cheese Making Ingredients

Hi Friends,

Today's post is all about ingredients needed for cheese making. For a printable list, click here. Tomorrow I'll post about the equipment I use for cheese making.

I started cheese making in 2017 and was very poorly equipped. This failure to have the proper ingredients and equipment led to a lot of cheese fails, which eventually had me close to giving up. I stopped making cheese for nearly a year because of that. But when Alex made me a cheese press, my passion came back! I bought all new ingredients from a different cheese making company and I started making cheese again! :)

Let's be real. Cheese making requires an initial investment, just like any hobby. But once you make that investment, your only cost is milk. The ingredients really go a long way. Even though I make lots of cheese, I only have to replenish my additives once every year or two.

As you can see from the photo above, the ingredients for the cheese making process requires 5 steps:

1. Mixing your heated milk with cultures.

2. Mixing optional additives like Lipase or Annato to your milk.

3. Adding Calcium Chloride to pasteurized milk to help reverse the effects of pasteurization.

4. Adding a coagulant, a rennet, to help curd formation.

5. Salting the curd mass to prepare for aging.

Here is the list of ingredients required in making most cheeses:

Milk and milk products. Almost all cheeses that I make require whole milk, 3.25% that is. A very few will call for 2% milk. Some call for "heavy cream" - I use 35% fat whipping cream in those cases. Most home cheese makers use grocery store milk.

Cultures. I love my culture collection! :) There is a different starter culture required for each cheese you make.

For the sake of an example I'll talk about Mesophilic cultures. Some companies sell generic "Mesophilic" starter cultures to make things easier on new cheese makers. They will list "Mesophilic Culture" in the recipes they provide and include a pack in their "cheese kits". But once you get more into choosing different cultures and learning about them, you will see that there are several strands of Mesophilic culture - not all are made the same. And the same goes for most types of cultures out there.

Cultures help with the breakdown of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in the milk, which then releases flavour compounds and modifies cheese texture; so it's really important to use the right one in your cheese making. I think that beginner cheese makers will succeed with the generic cultures, but it's good to grow your knowledge as you grow your cheese making skills.

I stopped using the generic ingredients this year. I started to learn about bacterial strains in different starter cultures. I'm still learning, but I'm getting better at it now. I refer to this page a lot: Culture Suggestions and Charts. Any good cheese making supply company will be happy to refer you to the right culture for the cheese you're making.

I HATE to promote this other company from New England because of very bad customer service I got from them, but I have to say that their Cultures page is very good. If you click on each culture, it describes what cheese it's best for.

I've hinted (strongly) to Alex a few books I'd love to have about the entire process of cheese making, including chapters on bacteria and cultures! :)

Lipase. Lipase is one of those optional ingredients that you don't necessarily need. definitely gives a sharp flavour to cheeses like Parmesan.

Cultures and Lipase are powders. A tip that the owner of Glengarry Cheese gave me was "solids (cultures and lipase) in the freezer, liquids (rennet) in the fridge"...this takes the guess work out of how to store some of your ingredients!

Annatto. This is another optional ingredient. Annatto is a natural orange food colouring. It's made from the achiote tree in South America and gives Cheddar, for example, that orange colour. As you can see, I have a bottle of it, but I've only used it once. I decided this year that I don't want to add any colouring to my cheeses anymore, even if they are supposed to be natural and organic! White Cheddar is fine! :)

Calcium Chloride.  This is a MUST for we who buy milk at the grocery store. Our milk is pasteurized and Calcium Chloride helps to reverse the effects of pasteurization by replacing the calcium that was redistributed and damaged during that process. If you don't use Calcium Chloride in pasteurized milk, your curds won't form. If you're lucky enough to have access to raw milk or a nice healthy milking cow, you don't need this ingredient!

Note: I had a chat with Gianaclis Caldwell, the author of many cheese making books, of which I have several. She told me that a lot of recipes you'll find online and in books for cheese making "assume" the reader has access to raw milk. So a lot of the times, you won't see Calcium Chloride as an ingredient. Just remember, if you buy your milk pasteurized, ALWAYS use Calcium Chloride!

Rennet.  A coagulant is necessary in cheese curd formation. The usual ingredient is rennet. This comes in the form of animal rennet or vegetable/microbial rennet. I've heard mixed reviews about the microbial rennet, saying the results are inconsistent when it comes to curd formation. That's all hearsay to me! I would like to try it at some point, but I do use animal rennet for now and I get very good curd formation. I bought a dropper at the pharmacy because I use double strength rennet and it usually calls for only a few drops in the recipes I use. When you're reading a recipe, check to make sure if the recipe calls for "rennet" or "double strength rennet"...if you use too much rennet, your cheese will be terribly sour!

Cheese Salt. Cheese salt is non-iodized salt. Iodine will kill your cultures so never use table salt!

Cool Filtered Water.  Water in cheese making goes without saying. But cool filtered (not tap) water is what is usually recommended. You use water to mix your additives so you want to make sure it's really clean and free of any components in tap water that may contaminate your cheese.

Other Ingredients:

Lemon Juice. I use lemon juice when making Ricotta cheese. It's really the only time I use it in my cheese making.

Yogurt. I use yogurt as my starter culture when making fresh batches of yogurt.

Citric Acid.  This ingredient is used in Bocconcini, or Quick (Microwave) Mozzarella. Because this cheese is meant to be made in under 30 minutes, the addition of Citric Acid mixed in with rennet helps the curds to shrink quickly. High heat added to this mix helps the curds come together to form that quick Mozzarella. I also use Citric Acid to make Sodium Citrate.

Sodium Citrate. I recently started to use this ingredient when making my American Cheese. Please click on the link for instructions on how to make this at home.


There are a TON of books, web sites and videos out there! Each recipe claims to be the best, to work effortlessly. The truth of the matter need to just try. Try recipes, watch videos, ask questions, experiment...celebrate your great cheeses and try not to lament the failed ones. Everyone has their own list of favourite sites, so I'll list mine here for reference.

Cheese Forum - - this is an amateur cheese making forum where you can read articles and ask questions of members. It's free but requires registration. It's a good resource, though sometimes it takes a while to get an answer to your question.

Gianaclis Caldwell - the author of books such as Mastering Basic Cheese Making. Her site has lots of good articles.

Little Green Cheese - Gavin Webber is the author of this blog. He also has a You Tube Channel which I refer to a lot.

You can also do lots of searches on You Tube for cheese making videos. There are so many out there - but remember, just because it worked for them, doesn't mean it'll work for you so keep an open mind!

Where To Buy Your Ingredients (No Promotion):

In Canada: Glengarry Cheese Making - I wouldn't buy anywhere else...back in 2017, I did by at another Canadian cheese making site and really regretted it! Glengarry is a superior supplier of cheese making supplies and I'm happy to support them!

In the States: New England Cheese Making - Not a fan as I say always...I had a bad experience with them, but some people love them. It's all very subjective! They sell all the ingredients and supplies you'll need. I still refer to that web site for information, I just don't want to deal with their customer service anymore.

Ask me any question please! Just remember I'm an amateur cheese maker doing her best to make yummy cheeses!! :)


Leanna said...

I never knew how hard and yet easy it was to make your own cheeses. I checked out some of the sites you posted and my goodness! Just the thought of making cheese sounds like fun but there is a science about it. It's all timing and knowing. It's like you are holding a chemistry class in your own home. I have to say I am so freaking intrigued by the process.

Rain said...

It's pretty awesome Leanna! I'm actually in the process of trying to make another Mozzarella, so I have the PH Meter out today and I'm in a bit of a freak out mode because my PH is taking forever to lower...patience is another key to cheese making, I have to remind myself lol...If you want to start, I'd say start with a Quick Mozzarella in the microwave. Do some Ricottas. Then do a Colby, Cheddar or Monterey Jack...then move into the bloomy whites like Brie. It's a whole learning curve but once you get the mojo going, you'll never want to buy store cheese ever again! You'll want to learn all about cultures and bacteria...when I think about it, chemistry was a favourite subject of mine...interesting! :)

It really is an easy process though it's intimidating at first, there are nuances depending on what cheese you're making, but the process is pretty much the same for every cheese. The cultures and the additives and the aging process are what make the cheeses unique.

For my Jarlsberg, I added a culture called Proprionic Shermanii, it makes the eyes, or holes, in the cheese, which is pretty neat. I don't know the chemical process, but one day I'll look it up!

Magic Love Crow said...

Thanks for another detailed post Rain!!! Again, truly appreciate you taking the time to make these posts! Big Hugs!

Rain said...

I'm glad you're enjoying them Stacy - now you just have to start cheese making too!! :)