How to Make Cheese in 7 Basic Steps

How to make cheese in 7 basic steps with equipment that you can find in your kitchen at home. Cheese making is very satisfying. Just make sure that all cheese making equipment has been thoroughly sterilized before you use it as rogue bacteria will spoil your final product.

cheese rounds on a shelf

The 6 Main Types of Cheese

When you first start making cheese you will probably start off with a simple cottage cheese, as this is one of the easiest cheeses to make. However, despite using the same ingredients, there are 6 different main types of cheese.

Hard : Parmesan
Semi-Soft Smooth : Port du Salut, Taleggio, Munster
Semi-Soft Crumbly :  Blue veined Roquefort
Firm: Swiss, Cheddar
Soft and Ripened: Brie, Camembert,
Fresh and Soft: Cottage cheese, Cream Cheese, Mozzarella

Whatever cheese you make, other than fresh and soft cheese, all the others should stand at room temperature for 2 - 3 hours before serving as it tastes better than serving it cold from the fridge.

How to Make Cheese and What Milk to Use

Raw milk these days is almost impossible to get hold of for cheese making, unless of course you have Daisy in the backyard that you milk twice a day. But for many of us who want to make cheese, we have to rely on making cheese from store bought milk. Where you can, buy whole milk that has been pasteurized as it has a higher butterfat content than low-fat milk, and you need this property in the milk, but don't buy homogenized milk.

If you are buying store-bought milk to make your cheese you will need to add calcium chloride back into the milk as the pasteurization process removes this from the milk. Adding calcium chloride into the milk will help firm up the curd. Having said that, I have made cheese quite successfully with store bought non-homogenized milk without adding any calcium chloride back.

Using UHT milk for cheese making is also never successful as the high heating process it goes through affects the whey proteins and your milk will not form curds.

When purchasing your milk for making homemade cheese, just make sure that it is fresh.

Rennet and Cultures for Making Cheese

Rennet is important for you milk to coagulate. You can get animal rennet that comes from the lining of livestock's stomachs, or you get vegetarian rennet that is made from certain plants.

Either one will work well and comes in either tablet of liquid form from cheese suppliers. 3 drops of liquid rennet or 1/2 tablet rennet are usually diluted in a 1/4 cup of cool water.

See here if you are interested in making your own liquid rennet.

Cultures are either mesophilic or thermophilic. Yogurt is an example of a thermophilic culture, while buttermilk is an example of a mesophilic culture. You can either make your own cultures, or you can buy them from you local cheese supplier.


Cheese making equipment
Traditional Cheese Making Equipment

You will need a large, heavy-based pot for warming the milk in and a colander to assist in draining the whey. You will also need a ladle that has holes in the bottom to allow the curds to drain off the whey. Cheesecloth or butter muslin is required to further help in draining the excess whey.

You will also need a long-handled knife to cut the curds and a thermometer that can clamp onto the edge of the pot. This is important, because if you don't you will be measuring the heat of the pot itself, not the contents.

Finally, if you want your cheese to look fancy you can buy a cheese mold. However, I have made do with round stainless steel cutlery holders, which work just as well, or plastic bowls that have holes to allow the whey to drain off.


To be successful with your homemade cheese making, you will need to bring your milk to room temperature before you start. You can do this by taking the milk out of the fridge for 1-2 hours before hand, so that you can start.


When making any type of cheese the next step is to heat the milk. This is necessary for the sugar in the milk to covert to lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid is necessary for your milk to coagulate and helps the curd separate from the whey.


Your starters are those additives that react with the milk, further aiding the process of converting the sugars to lactic acid.

These starters may be lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or dried cultures from cheese suppliers in the form of mesophilic or thermophilic cultures, each of which when added, will result in a different type of cheese.

Make your own Natural Cheese Starter

You can make your own homemade cheese starter for cheese making. Although not difficult to do, and although the recipe below is an old, traditional recipe, many people stopped using it because a homemade cheese starter didn't give standardized results. As a result commercial starters were then favored. However, for those of you you looking for a homemade cheese stater recipe, here it is.


  • Take about 1 quart of clean, new milk and place in a previously-scalded vessel and allow to stand in a clean area till it sours.
  • If the temperature has been kept at from 70 to 75 Fahrenheit, souring will take place in about 24 hours.
  • The top is skimmed off and thrown away, and the remainder well stirred into 2 or 3 gallons of separated milk, which has been previously heated to a temperature of 185 Fahrenheit, for 20 minutes, and then cooled to 75 or 80 Fahrenheit.
  • This is again put aside for a further 24 hours, and it is stirred occasionally at first.
  • By the next day the starter will be ready for use.
A fresh lot of separated milk is inoculated each day with a little of the starter, and you now have a continuous supply of homemade starter for making cheese.

Sufficient starter should be added to each lot of separated milk to ensure its souring in from 20 to 24 hours. After being in use for some time a starter will need renewing, the length of time it will take to renew will depend on what sort of conditions it has been kept in.

If the homemade stater has been kept in clean conditions, the separated milk properly pasteurized, and the top always skimmed off and thrown away before using, it will last for a considerable time.

However, if the homemade stater is kept under less favourable conditions it will need to be replaced more regularly.

Always keep your starter covered with a piece of thin muslin to keep out dust, etc., without excluding the air.

A fresh lot of separated milk is inoculated each day with a little of the starter, and a continuous supply thus maintained for use.

When you add your starter, make sure that it is well stirred through the milk for even distribution. After that, leave the milk alone and don't touch it so that the coagulation process can take place.


After your milk has been left to ripen, you can start adding your rennet. However, using rennet is a bit of a science as if you add too little, your milk won't develop curds, and if you add too much, your milk will give you curds that are too dense.

Dilute your rennet as above, and when you add it to the milk, stir it thoroughly for even distribution. After the rennet has been added, the milk is again left undisturbed so that the curds can form.


When your curd has formed, and you have the clean break that you are looking for, you will need to take that long-handled knife mentioned earlier and cut the curd into 1-2 inch blocks. When doing this make sure that the knife goes all the way down to the bottom of the pot.

So how do you know when your curd has reached that stage of a clean break? If you put your finger into the curd and pull upwards the curd should break away and whey should pool in the hole that has been left behind. If it doesn't, you will need to wait a little longer. Patience! ...


how to make cheese This part of the process always reminds me of Little Miss Muffet! However, I digress! Back to the job of cheese making. What you want for making cheese is of course the curds. However, never throw the liquid, called the whey, out.

Any excess whey can be fed to chickens and pigs on the homestead. More importantly, as a baker it is like manna from heaven. Substituting milk or water for whey in muffins, homemade bread, pancakes and cakes will result in an excellent finished product, light and moist; you will surprised at the results.

Place your butter muslin, or cheesecloth in a colander and with your slotted spoon, scoop the curds out of the pot and into the colander. Collect the whey at the bottom by placing your colander in another bowl. Leave it to drain like this until all excess whey has been removed.


So you can see, that by making sure that your equipment has been sterilized, and that you have the right type of milk, rennet and cultures, in 7 easy steps, you too could me making homemade cheese. We have a number of Cheese Making Recipes, from the simple to the more complicated if you are ready to start.


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