Stainless steel is best, with a heavy bottom. Unchipped enamel, or glass can work as well. The most important consideration is that it be non-reactive--no aluminum, iron, or copper. The Ball Deluxe Canner is great for this. I love the glass lid, which allows me to peek at what is going on inside the pot without lifting the lid. The heavy bottom is useful when a slow, steady rise in temperature is needed. Often, in cheesemaking, this means no more than 2 degrees in 5 minutes. The thick bottom holds the heat and acts as an insulator. It's the perfect size for a 4 gallon batch of cheese. See our collection of stock pots.
Unlike a candy or deep-fry thermometer, which it resembles, a dairy thermometer has a scale that only reaches 220 degrees. This smaller range ensures greater accuracy, which is important when dealing with temperature-sensitive cultures. It's much easier to read 86 degrees on a scale that reaches 220 than one that reaches 500 or beyond! It should be easy to re-calibrate, and should also have a clip to attach it to the side of the pot, to monitor the temperature constantly. See the dairy thermometers we offer.
Butter muslin is cheesecloth with a tighter weave. While they are somewhat interchangable, they each have uses to which they are particularly suited. Traditional cheesecloth, with it's more open weave, will drain the whey from curds faster and more evenly. However, for soft cheeses, or when straining yogurt to make labneh or greek yogurt, the tighter weave of butter muslin will preserve more of the milk solids. Cheesecloth and butter muslin are reusable and can be washed by hand or in a washing machine. See our cheesecloth or butter muslin offerings.
Just the thing for scooping curds from whey, into forms or molds, it can also be used throughout the process whenever stirring is called for. The spoon, like the pot, must be non-porous and non-reactive--so no wood or metals other than stainless steel. Grab a perforated ladle here.
While it is only used briefly, makes the life of a cheesemaker so much easier. When the curds are ready to drain, they can be ladled or poured into a cheesecloth-lined colander, and from there the cheesecloth can be tied up for hanging. If the curds are to be pressed, the cheesecloth is optional, but it is still useful to transfer the curds to a colander briefly before pressing, to drain the excess whey from them and for ease of mixing the salt into them, in recipes which require salting, or 'milling' at this stage.
The kind of cheese you are making will determine what kind of culture you need to use. Mesophilic and thermophilic are the two main categories, but within these exist more specialized blends tailored to specific cheeses. As well, there are additional molds that fall outside these 2 categories, which are used to innoculate the surface of mold-ripened cheeses like brie or blue cheeses, not strictly essential for the beginning cheesemaker, but worth noting here.
Most (but not all) recipes call for the addition of rennet. Rennet comes in several forms, tablet or liquid, and can be obtained from animal or vegetable sources; however the effect on the cheese is essentially the same.
Calcium chloride is always good to have on hand, as is citric acid. For more strongly flavored cheeses, lipase enzyme may be desired. And finally, a good cheese salt (no anti-caking additives or colorful minerals, coarse but not rocky) rounds out the list of essential cheesemaking supplies.
Check out all of our home cheesemaking recipes.
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