a man pouring milk into a pan
Best Recipes

Best Milk for Making Cheese? The Diary Lover’s Ultimate Guide

During cheesemaking, your ingredients directly impact the quality of your final product. And one vital ingredient to scrutinize thoroughly is your milk.

You are probably wondering: what are your options? The two most common options for cheesemakers are pasteurized and raw.

What is whole milk and raw milk? You are about to find out.

Pasteurized milk has been heat-treated to kill harmful bacteria, while raw milk is unpasteurized. Many believe raw milk produces better cheese due to its natural enzymes and bacteria, but pasteurized milk is safer and more readily available. As a beginner, pasteurized milk is your best choice.

Once you get the hang of it, you can consider raw milk. However, don’t let any raw milk misconceptions cloud your judgment.

For now, grab a gallon of pasteurized whole milk from your local grocery store, and you’ll be well on your way to making your first batch of homemade cheese.

This article is your complete guide to picking suitable milk for cheese making. So, let the adventure begin!

Does Milk Quality Matter?

Like the quality of your maple syrup or blueberries affects your no-bake blueberry cheesecake, milk also plays a crucial role in your cheese.

Simply put, the type of milk you use absolutely matters in the cheesemaking process. Not all milk is created equal, and the quality and characteristics of the milk directly impact the quality and features of your homemade cheese.

Someone making cheese in large quantity

Whole milk, for example, contains all the fat and protein necessary to make a rich, creamy cheese. Skim or low-fat milk won’t produce the same results. Raw milk from the cow contains natural enzymes and bacteria that can enhance the cheesemaking process and develop more complex flavors. However, raw milk cheese also carries risks, so many home cheesemakers opt for high-quality pasteurized milk instead.

  • Pasteurized milk has been briefly heated to kill harmful pathogens, making it safer for cheesemaking and consumption.
  • Consider the source: Milk that is raw from grass-fed cows, goats, or sheep will produce more complex, aromatic cheese than standard commercial ones. Look for milk from small, local dairies whenever possible.
  • The fresher the milk, the better: Use milk within 3 to 5 days of purchasing for the best results. Too old dairy may not have the right balance of bacteria and enzymes to properly culture and coagulate.
  • Finally, when you use store-bought milk, add calcium chloride to be safe.

Why Pasteurized Milk Is Best for Homemade Cheese

Pasteurized milk is your best choice if you want to make homemade cheese. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Pasteurized milk has been heated to kill harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, making it safer to work with. The pasteurization process does change the milk slightly, but for cheesemaking, the benefits to food safety far outweigh any minor impacts on flavor or texture.
  • Cheesemakers prefer pasteurized milk because it has a longer shelf life, giving you more flexibility when making your cheese. Raw milk can spoil in just a few days, while pasteurized milk lasts at least a week.
  • Pasteurized milk is easier to find at your local grocery store.
  • It produces cheese that is legal to sell. If you want to sell or distribute your homemade cheese, using pasteurized milk is a must to meet regulations.

Some people claim that raw milk cheese has better flavor, but with the right recipe and technique, you can make fantastic cheese with pasteurized milk. Most importantly, use fresh milk and the right culture for your desired cheese.

If you want raw milk, do extensive research on proper handling and aging procedures to avoid foodborne illness.

Comparing Cow’s Milk, Goat’s Milk, and Sheep’s Milk

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk is the most common choice for cheesemaking. Whole milk contains 3.25% milk fat and works well for most cheeses. For more decadent cheeses like cheddar or gouda, you can use milk with even higher fat content. The increased butterfat in cow’s milk produces creamy, rich cheeses.

This dairy is readily available and inexpensive, making it a practical choice for home cheesemaking. However, some people are allergic or intolerant to proteins in cow’s milk, like casein. If you have a milk allergy, cow’s milk may not be your best option.

Goats Milk

Goats milk has a tangy, herbaceous flavor that produces cheese with a distinctive taste. Goat’s milk cheese tends to be lower in fat and calories than cow’s. It is also more easily digested by people with cow’s milk allergies because goat’s milk contains different proteins.

However, it can be more difficult to find and is usually more expensive. It has a strong, musky aroma that some people find unpleasant. Finally, goat’s milk cheese has a crumbly, drier texture that may not appeal to those used to cow’s milk cheese.

Sheep’s Milk

sheep’s milk contains the highest amount of milk solids of the three, resulting in a wealthy, buttery cheese. Pecorino romano and feta are two famous cheeses made from sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk cheese has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor with caramel undertones.

Like goat’s milk, this milk is more expensive and harder to source. It contains more lactose than cow’s or goat’s milk, so it may not be suitable if you aim to use lactose-free milk. Sheep’s milk has a very high-fat content, so cheese made from it tends to be rich and dense. For some, it can be too rich to eat in large quantities.

Ultimately, the type of milk you choose depends on personal preference, availability, and how you intend to use the cheese. Experiment with different kinds of milk to find one that suits your tastes and needs.

Avoid Ultra-Pasteurized and UHT Milk

Avoid using ultra-pasteurized or UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk for the best results in making cheese at home. These high-heat treatments can change the milk’s protein structure, making it more difficult for cultures and rennet to coagulate the milk into curds properly.

Ultra-Pasteurized Milk

Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to a higher temperature for a shorter time than regular pasteurization. This extends the shelf life and makes the milk less suitable for cheesemaking.

UHT Milk

UHT stands for ultra-high temperature and involves heating milk to 280°F for 2-3 seconds. It sterilizes the milk so it can be shelf-stable for months. However, the extreme heat causes irreversible changes to the milk proteins, destroying their coagulation ability into curds. UHT milk will not form proper curds and is useless for making cheese at home.

For the best cheese-making results, use milk pasteurized at a lower temperature, around 161°F, for 15-30 seconds. Such gentle heat treatment eliminates pathogens while preserving the milk’s protein integrity. Pasteurized milk will clearly state “pasteurized” on the label, not “ultra-pasteurized” or “UHT.”

Some tips for finding pasteurized milk:

•Check smaller local dairy farms or creameries. They are more likely to use traditional pasteurization.

•Look for organic milk. Organic standards prohibit the use of UHT and ultra-pasteurization.

•Avoid milk with an extended shelf life of over 2-3 weeks. This indicates UHT treatment.

•Call the dairy to ask about their pasteurization methods. Many are happy to provide details to customers.

•If all else fails, you can rehydrate powdered milk. Powdered milk has not been subjected to high-heat treatment and can work in a pinch for cheesemaking.

Check the Milk Fat Content

When choosing milk for cheesemaking, the fat content is an important factor to consider. The amount of milk fat, measured in percentage, will determine how creamy and decadent your cheese turns out.

Whole Milk

Whole milk contains 3.25% milk fat, giving it a rich and creamy texture. This high-fat content produces cheeses like cheddar, gouda, and camembert. Whole milk is ideal for soft and semi-soft cheeses since the milk fat helps the curds bind together.

2% Reduced-Fat Milk

As the name suggests, 2% milk has 2% milk fat. This lighter option still has enough fat to make cheese but will produce a slightly leaner result. 2% milk works well for mozzarella, ricotta, and goat cheeses. The lower fat does mean the cheese may be a bit drier, so keep an eye on moisture levels. But this could be a great option if you are on a full-body strength workout and diet routine.

Skim or Non-Fat Milk

Skim or non-fat milk has nearly 0% milk fat, so that it won’t produce a creamy cheese. However, skim milk can be combined with whole or 2% milk to make cheese. For example, you can use 1 part skim milk to 2 parts whole milk. This will lighten the result. Skim milk is only suitable for fresh cheeses like quarks, paneer, or farmers’ cheese.

Final Verdict

Perhaps you are considering gifting some brunch recipes for Mother’s Day, don’t forget to emphasize the right milk in the cheese recipe!

While raw milk may seem appealing in its natural state, pasteurized milk is the way to go for safety and legal reasons for home cheesemaking.

Choosing high-quality milk from grass-fed cows will give you a head start on crafting a delicious cheese. Now all that’s left to do is pick a cheese recipe, gather your ingredients, and craft your own homemade cheese masterpiece.

Before you know it, you’ll be slicing into a wheel of your very own cottage cheese – how satisfying!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *