*This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this site.*
If our family had to pay for every grocery item we bought instead of making/producing/growing our own, dairy would be one of our biggest expenses. It would be safe to say that we go through a gallon of milk and a pound of cheese nearly every day. That doesn’t even cover the butter, sour cream, yogurt, and other dairy products we use.
As you can imagine, a family like ours benefits greatly from being able to make our own cheeses, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurts, etc. Likewise, many families could not only cut their grocery budgets by making their own, but also create beautiful memories with their kids as they enjoy the cheese-making process with their family.
I recently had to opportunity to review Mastering Basic Cheesemaking The Fun And Fundamentals of Making Cheese At Home (a Mother Earth News Recommendation) by Gianaclis Caldwell, a master cheese-maker–and I immediately dug into it to read the history of cheese-making and then try out as many of her “lessons” (19 of them total) as I could before posting this review.
When one first sees a book like this, they wonder how many of these cheeses can really be done by a beginning cheese-maker. I was pleased to see that when a devoted learner reads through theory and processes (Part 1), and then dedicates themself to starting with lesson 1 (whole-milk ricotta), they could easily pace themselves to make these cheeses one by one and move through to the end (lesson 19: Parmesan).
At the end of her lessons is a valuable little section telling you how to use any of the whey leftover from any of her recipes.
Gianaclis advises new cheese-makers to keep a cheese journal–which comes in very handy after you have mastered lessons 1-19. In Chapter 9, she advises on how now to experiment with cheese-making, and gives some advice on moving into advanced cheese-making. You’ll need the notes in your journal to help you move on.
Concerned You Don’t Have The Proper Equipment?
It’s normal to look at cheese-making and realize that the equipment needed for many cheeses isn’t stocked in a regular kitchen–or even a homestead kitchen. It can be hard to find and a bit of an expense to gather all the equipment needed. Gianaclis gives good suggestions on how to use what you’ve already got in your kitchen until you decide that you want to pursue making cheeses on a more consistent basis.
We were determined to make a variety of her cheeses using only her suggestions and technique, and they all worked for us. One of the funner examples was when we made one of the pressed cheeses. We used the lid of a cast iron pot, and found it made a light “LODGE” indentation on one side when it was done pressing.
What Was Missing In This Guide
While I love the little historical introduction to each cheese, it lacked suggestions for use once I was finished. If you want to dedicate yourself to start at lesson 1 and continue through to lesson 19, you will want to use your cheese after making it.
I can honestly say that there were some cheeses where I didn’t know what a good way to eat/serve it was. If you take this approach, you may want to do some research on the cheese you are making so you can have more of an appreciation for each type as you make it.
What I Loved About This Guide
After reading through the introduction, preparing your equipment and getting your ingredients, you can literally get starting making your first cheeses in an hour. While there are cheeses that will take longer, or need hours of setting time, your part will take an hour or less.
Not every cheese is this quick, but a beginner will be encouraged at how quickly some of these cheeses can be made. And when you start off encouraged, you will go farther.
Would I Buy This Book As A Gift?
Absolutely! If I had no experience making cheese, this would be an excellent book to learn from. It’s not the book that is simply full of recipes that you read through trying to figure out which cheeses you can and can’t make. This book will take you from an absolute beginner through 20+ different cheeses (some lessons contain more than one cheese and “bonus” recipes).
This is the type of book I could give to a friend that would encourage her growth and confidence in her cheese-making skills. Anyone who is serious about cheese-making could make this book their one-stop getting-started goal.
How You Can Get Started Making Cheese With Confidence
Order this book, and make sure you have a cooking thermometer, whole milk, bottled lemon juice or cider vinegar, salt, and cheese cloth on hand (which you probably already do). You are ready for lesson 1.
If you have citric acid, you’re ready for lesson 2. By lesson 4, you’ll need Flora Danica or cultured buttermilk (with Live Active Cultures). If you’ve got cream, move on to lesson 5. If you want to make Kefier and Keifer cheese, then you’ll need fresh or dehydrated kefir grains for lesson 7. In lesson 8, if you’ve got some yogurt (again with live active cultures) you’re good to go. Lesson 9 introduces the need for rennet.
Not until lesson 15 will you need MA 4000 (culture) to make your Gouda (yes–you–making Gouda. Seriously).
For your final lesson, Parmesan, you’ll need Thermo B (culture).
Most homesteaders will find they have everything they need in their kitchen or pantry to do lessons 1-4 without buying any additional items. If you are making one cheese a week, then you’ve got a month to get everything else you’ll need. If you don’t want to order through Amazon, there is a section in the back of this guide assisting you with where you can locate anything you would like.
*I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you Gianaclis Caldwell and New Society Publishers for this opportunity.*