I’m going to be sharing some cheese-making recipes this week and wanted to start with this. When I teach a cheese-making class this is the first and most important thing to go over. If you use the wrong milk, it’s all for nothing. While raw milk is recommended widely online and in some books for cheese-making, I would never suggest it due to safety risks. My mother’s neighbor got undulant fever when she was a child and he basically spent the rest of his life slowly dying, in very poor health. So yeah, not worth the risk. Pasteurized, unhomogenized is my personal choice because you get the best of both worlds. It is only processed enough to kill harmful bacteria, but not overly so. This is typically available from small local farms and done with great care. A very far cry from the plastic jugs of Ultra-pasteurized milk that can be left on the counter because it’s so overly processed.
TYPES OF MILK:
Pasteurized, unhomogenized (also called “cream line” milk): Pasteurized milk is heated and cooled to eliminate bacteria. You should see a “plug” of cream at the top of the bottle. This is usually sold in glass bottles. This is my preferred milk for cheese-making. It is safe and makes great cheese.
Pasteurized and homogenized: This milk goes through the pasteurization process, then homogenized. This is a mechanical process that breaks up the fat molecules so small that they will stay suspended in the milk instead of the cream rising to the top. The curds will be softer and you can use this to make ricotta or farmers cheese, maybe even paneer.
Ultra-pasteurized: Heated higher, this extends the milk’s shelf life from 18 to 60 days. (Not always well labeled, look for UP, UHP, or Ultra-Pasteurized on jug). Though you might be able to make farmer’s or ricotta cheese, it is not suitable for most cheesemaking and I don’t recommend it.
Raw: Completely unprocessed milk which has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Due to safety risk, I do not recommend this.
Dried: You can make cheese from dry milk powder, as long as it isn’t Ultra-pasteurized. Will you want to eat it? Well, that’s questionable!
OTHER TERMS TO KNOW:
FAT CONTENT: You can use any fat content, but keep in mind that the higher the fat content, the higher the yield. So if you are going to the trouble to make homemade cheese, you may want to stick with whole milk. The lower the fat content is, the drier and more crumbly your cheese will be as well.
CALCIUM CHLORIDE: Can be added to homogenized milk to achieve separation of curds. Not necessary for farmer’s cheese or ricotta.