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February 18, 2013

A Lesson in Cheese Making

I stepped out of routine last weekend. After packing my handbag with necessities, including my camera, I went off to be a Cheesemaker for a day at the New Zealand Cheese School.

There were about ten of us on the Dairy course, and we learned how to make milk ricotta, sour cream, cultured butter, yoghurt, quark and mascarpone.

We listened and learned. We made our own cultured butter and milk ricotta. We tasted samples of every type of dairy product.

It was so much fun.

One of the people who ran the course owns her own cheese company. She took a course much like this one back in 2000 and loved it so much, she started her own cheese company. We tasted several of her cheeses (ranging from cow and goat brie to a tasty blue) for morning tea.

Since the course, hubby and I have made our own yoghurt and some mascarpone. I like making things from scratch. They don’t necessarily turn out cheaper, but I can control what goes into my products, they taste good and I get satisfaction from making something myself.

As a side benefit, I have the perfect occupation for my next book—a cheesemaker!

Here are a few photos from my cheesemaking adventure.

Greek Yoghurt

Here we’re straining yoghurt to make it thicker – the consistency of Greek Yoghurt. When this is done commercially, milk solids (i.e. milk powder) are added back into the yoghurt to thicken it. This is why most thick Greek yoghurts purchased in the supermarket are higher in calories.

Cultured Butter

This is cultured butter that we made from sour cream. When I was a kid, we used to separate the cream from the cow’s milk in a machine called a separator. (Funnily enough!) The milk would come out one tube and the milk out another. When we had a lot of cream, we’d make butter in the butter churn. Both the separator and the churn were of the manual variety and used a lot of energy. I remember churning the butter—not an easy chore! The butter above was made using a kitchen mixer. So much easier.

Shelley_Milk Ricotta

This is me in my cheesemaking outfit – an apron and hairnet. I’m in charge of the milk ricotta. The curds have lifted to the top of the liquid, and I’m placing it in molds. The milk ricotta reminded me of scrambled eggs when I tasted it.

I enjoyed this course so much, I think I might go back at a later date and learn how to make feta and some of the molded cheeses like brie and blue cheese.

Are there any cheesemakers out there? Cheese fans?


  1. Ciara Knight

    That looks like so much fun. I enjoy going to cooking classes with friends.

    • Shelley Munro

      It’s always fun learning new things.

  2. Mary Kirkland

    I watch a lot of cooking shows and have seen them make their own mozzarella and ricotta. I had thought about trying to make my own mozzarella but haven’t done it yet. That looks like a lot of fun. Loved the pictures. You look like you’re having a blast.

    • Shelley Munro

      Mary, they have a mozzarella course that sounded interesting. I’m looking at courses to make the cheeses we use most. Actually, mozzarella used to be hard to get here. It’s more common now in the supermarkets.

  3. Couscous & Consciousness

    I love making my own soft cheeses. I make ricotta quite often, as well as mizithra, mozzarella, and just discovered the joys of homemade mascarpone.

    Hoping to move onto trying feta and haloumi now.

    • Shelley Munro

      I want to make feta and hauloumi too, since they’re both cheeses I use a lot. Thanks for sharing your recipe at your blog.

  4. Maria Zannini

    I am so looking forward to doing this next year. I’d like to milk my goats and make a little cheese.

    First I have to learn how to milk goats. LOL

    Your class sounded like a lot of fun.

    • Shelley Munro

      My father still milks a house cow every day. I used to milk the cow as a kid, but I was never very good at it. The cow would often get impatient because I took so long, and that’s a recipe for disaster!

      I’m sure you’ll manage the goats easily. No doubt you have lots of goat stories in your future :)

  5. Heather

    Sounds like a fun course. I love a variety of cheeses, though blue is not one of them. In college, we had a chem experiement in which we made cottage cheese. I wasn’t a fan of it before then, and was even less of one after.

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – it was probably a bit like the ricotta we made. The ricotta was quite tasty though. At least I didn’t mind it.