Category Archives: Local Dairy – Where To Get It And What To Do With It

Home Dairy Link Up – Show us Your Stuff!

We are finally at the end of March and it’s time for you to share what you’ve done with home dairy.

We’ve got some great prizes for you!

A Bulgarian yogurt starter from Cultures for Health, a $12.99 value. This particular yogurt culture is the most similar to commercial yogurt. I love the piima personally because it sets up at room temperature without any fussing but it’s not thick like commercial yogurt. The flavor, however, is sublime.

A buttermilk starter from Cultures for Health, a $12.99 value. This will elevate your baked goods to a whole new realm. I use it to acidify all my grain doughs and batters, from coffee cakes to bread to biscuits. It makes a great dressing base as well.

Cultures for Health has just about any starter you might need for creating sublime home dairy creations so jump on over and check them out!


Everybody’s favorite Queen of Cheese, Ricki Carroll of has donated a mozzarella and ricotta kit, a $24.95 value. She’s also donated a copy of her Home Cheesemaking Book (a $16.95 value) which covers just about anything you can possibly do to milk. By the time you finish reading this you’ll be searching for farmland so you can get a herd of cows or goats (or both).








Skipstone, my publisher, has donated a copy of the Urban Farm Handbook, a $24.95 value. Even if you already have a copy they make great gifts.



If you have a blog, please use the Mr. Linky tool to link to your blog entry showing us what you did this month. If you don’t have a blog, that’s ok. Simply leave a comment on this blog entry by midnight on Saturday, April 7 and tell us what you did.  Doing either thing will put you in the running for these fabulous prizes.

I hope you’ll visit the other sites and meet other like-minded urban farmers – I’m looking forward to checking out everything you’ve done myself!

Next up:  the gardening challenge so dust off your mud boots and trowels.  This is where the seed packets hit the dirt.

Cultured Milk Challenge

And now, the cultured milk challenge!

Jenny from Nourished Kitchen has got the challenge you’ve been waiting for, all things cultured.

So skip on over to Jenny’s site and read all about it. If you follow the links in her post you’ll find out about other milk cultures you can fit into your urban farming lifestyle.

Remember to come back to this blog next week and add to the comments or link up on the round-up post so that you can be eligible to win prizes! Now get thee some culture!

More Home Dairy Challenges

Last week Andrew from Eating Rules shared his soft lemon cheese and Jenni from the Goat Justice League shared her version of the Quillasascut Farm School’s mozzarella. Now what?

Well you may be game for making super easy chevre (the cow’s milk version is equally good) or cajeta (that’s dulce de leche if you have cow’s milk.) You could put your cajeta into homemade chocolate, or snickerdoodle ice cream. You might even make pudding

What? You want something harder? Something like a pressed tomme or maybe something gooey and bloomy like Pav’s Annette cheese?

I’ll leave you to mull these options over. I know I promised you this week would be yogurt and buttermilk and kefir but we’ll tackle those next week. For now happy ice cream and pudding and cajeta and all things bloomy.

Urban Farm Handbook March Challenge Kickoff – Home Dairy

Last month we asked and you delivered. And now with soil building under your urban farming belts, it’s time to tackle home dairy.

Why bother making dairy items if you still have to buy the milk?

Because it’s easier to source good quality, local milk; because it’s possible to get to know your dairy farmer; and because of the questionable ingredients that you won’t have in your own creations. I don’t know about you, but I just love not having to read labels!

Now, how do you know good quality milk when you find it?

  • The animals have access to pasture most of the year
  • You are allowed to visit the farm and see the conditions of the animals
  • The farm doesn’t use growth hormones, and only medicates to save the life of the animal, then withholds the milk until treatment is completed
  • The milk is so clean it doesn’t need to be ultra pasteurized
  • Bonus points if the milk is not homogenized and is sold in a returnable glass jar

In my family we drink raw milk but I’ve done my research and feel comfortable with the dairy (in fact now our milk comes from our own mini-nubian goats).  The mason jars of milk in my refrigerator have labels like “Val” and “Mary”.

In the drawing below, this maiden has poured milk into shallow bowls in order to create the greatest surface area possible then left the milk undisturbed so the cream could rise to the surface.  You can do this too, if you have non homogenized, raw milk.  If your milk is pasteurized you should leave it to separate in the refrigerator.  Once separated, you can skim the cream off the top using a wide spoon or a turkey baster.  There – you already made another dairy product – cream!  Look at you go!

But I know you, you’ve built up your soil and you are ready for a real challenge.  Making cream from milk isn’t going to satisfy your urban farming soul.  You want to know more.  You want to know how to make buttermilk, kefir and yogurt too.   If you have raw milk you can even make curds and whey then sit on a tuffet eating them.

What’s that? You want to make cheese first? Good for you – go for the gusto.

Jennie Grant of the Goat Justice League lobbied unrelentingly until mini dairy goats were legalized in Seattle. She has personalized a recipe given to her by Lora Lea of Quillisascut Farm. If you can’t make it to Farm School you are going to want to buy the book, trust me on this one. Jennie Grant is also writing a book on dairy goats in the city, due out in Fall of 2012.

Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules has been a home cheesemaker for years and has put together a great cheesemaking equipment primer and cheesy challenge for you.

Next week we’ll learn about things other than cheese back here on this blog.

And then at the end of the month, come back to this blog and link up your blog entries or comment on the round up post on what you’ve all done during the month.

You’ll be rewarded with the chance to win great prizes like cheesemaking kits, books and cultures.

So, go visit Andrew’s sites and find the next round of challenges. Ready, Set, CHEESE!

Bloomy Rind, Improves with Age, I Call This Cheese “Annette” by Pav Cherney

Left my cheese aging after only 10 days, Right Mt. Townsend Seastack

When Annette and I started talking about cheesemaking, it didn’t take much time for us to share the woe that many, if not all, cheesemakers experience: cheese failures. For those who have made cheese before, you probably know what I mean.

That gouda that smelled like fresh creamy goodness out of the mold, but has since developed enough hairy mold colonies that it was actually used as a prop in a chia pet commercial, and you’re afraid to come near it because you think it might bite off your kneecap.

Or that fresh chevre or crottin that dried up in the fridge to resemble a pre-historic hockey puck that survived Mt Vesuvius. It’s serious business and serious disappointment when that happens, even if the chickens are happy about it.

From there we wondered if it was possible for those disappointments to not happen—to develop a make process that resulted in an aged cheese style suitable for anyone using any type of milk that required little expertise, little ongoing effort, and produced wonderful results. Annette wanted something easy that didn’t keep her up until 3 in the morning. We established the following criteria for the cheese characteristics:

• Must be an aged cheese that keeps for at least 3 months without requiring much intervention or care

• Preferably a cheese that’s ready to eat in 45-60 days

• Make process does not tie up the kitchen for more than 2-3 hours with molds, pots, weights, and other associated cheese paraphernalia

• Must be organic and not use synthetic or chemical preservatives

• Preferably a great snacking cheese without being high in fat

• Must have a rind that requires little maintenance

• Must be as universally applicable as possible (translation: kids would eat it)

• Must be possible to make using old-world technology and techniques

• Must be easy for normal people without extensive experience or tools to make in the kitchen

This was a tall order, and I’m not a novice cheesemaker. I’ve reverse engineered many cheeses, have helped dairies fine tune their processes and business operations, have spent more money over the years than I care to admit on textbooks, supplies, and failures, and manage to fit in teaching cheese classes, but I was stumped at first. Whenever I thought of a family of cheeses that might fit, it wouldn’t fit all criteria. A very basic cheese that’s acid-coagulated or acid-coagulated with a little rennet, like boulette d’avesnes, chevre, or labneh doesn’t fit because rind maintenance was not a set-it-and-forget-it affair.

One of the simplest of aged cheeses, a tomme, doesn’t fit because it either takes too long, or requires too much rind maintenance, or an herb/spice rub on the rind that not everyone likes, or similar challenges. A classic brie or camembert doesn’t fit because it takes too long to wait for the acid to develop, and the curd must be ladled at the right time, which ties up the kitchen, and unless done well can develop issues like slip skin, or too rapid paste development. Some French goat cheeses, like crottin, picodon, pelardon, rocamandour, etc seemed like a decent fit, but which one?

As I thought about the possibilities some trends emerged that eliminated most cheese families, such as rind issues, time to maturity, make time, etc. Hard cheeses were out because they require rind maintenance or treatment, and that is too much work. Most soft cheeses were also out because although the rind maintenance can be easy, most did not fit all criteria. Specialty cheeses, like suluguni preserved in brine, or bocconcini in a pickle didn’t exactly fit because pasta filata cheeses are notorious for not stretching correctly, or take too long to make. In short, we had to overcome the following challenges:

• Natural mold control on the cheese rind without resorting to natamycin, PVA cheese paint, vacuum sealing, or waxing

• Flexible make process that accommodates variable times in the steps of the process

• Aged taste in a short period of time

• Some shelf stability for a ~90 day shelf life

There were many ways to overcome the challenges. The table below covers some common approaches for commercial producers and artisan producers.

Challenge Commercial Plant Approach* Artisan Approach*
Natural mold control • Stainless and plastic that’s thoroughly cleaned to minimize contamination• Plastic, wax, or natamycin/sorbate

• Basically, prevent mold, and then kill it if it occurs, or maintain it through labor-intensive work such as brushing and washing

• Leave in brine (like for feta)• Inoculate cheese with penicillin mold like p candidum or p roqueforti that kills other molds.
Flexible make process • Standardize milk to create flexibility up front• Pasteurize milk and inoculate with specific amount and culture with defined acidification curve • Use lactic coagulation or semi-lactic whose time to set varies with starter amount and temperature.
Aged taste • Use flavor distillates• Use flavor adjuncts

• Specific mold and culture blend targeted to mature in defined timeframe

• Use molds and bacteria that produce enzymes leading to flavor development
Shelf stability • Use preservatives• Reformulate recipes to use stabilized mix (meso+thermo cultures)

• Age and store cold

• Age at a cooler temperature to prolong natural cycle of maturation, and store cold.

*Not all plants are the same, and some artisan practices are common in commercial practice, and vice versa.

Of course, I knew Annette wanted to be as organic, old world, and natural as possible, making artisan approaches the obvious choice. So taking from the list of possibilities, the following cheese type emerged: one that had a lactic or semi-lactic set, like chevre, one that uses either a bloomy white rind or blue marbling, like blues or French goat cheeses, and one that was aged on the cooler side for slower flavor development. From there, I crafted a make process that would try to address all the goals we originally set, to create the following bloomy rind, chevre-based aged cheese I call “Annette”.

Left curd set wheeping whey, right molds over a mesh dehydrator screen used as plastic drain mesh placed over a jelly roll pan

Annette – The Cheese

This recipe makes approximately 2, 8-ounce wheels that are 4” in diameter and 1.25-1.5” high. It features the following deliberate make choices:

• DVI culture for repeatable results

• Ash coating to help with rind moisture control and prevent slip-skin

• Direct molding with no predraining for ease of cleanup and smoother more delicate paste

• Direct inoculation of mold culture into milk

• Mold combination is Geo candidum and P Candidum for a more traditional taste and additional mushroomy notes. This is not traditionally French because lactic styles often use just Geo, or will use a P. Candidum along with Kluyveromyces yeasts, or Micrococci like S. xylosus or even strains of B linens. Those are all valid options to produce a different type of cheese or to add nuances and layers to Annette.

• Whole milk that is approximately 3.4-3.6% fat. The proper PF ratio is about .9


  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1/8 tsp Flora Danica DVI. Commercial rate is 1 DCU per 50 lbs of milk.
  • 1 drop (.05 ml) single strength liquid rennet, or 1 drop double strength rennet
  • 1/32 tsp P. candidum DVI, such as VS. Commercial rate is 1 unit per 450 lbs milk.
  • 1/160 tsp Geo candidum DVI, the mild form of Geo, like Geo 13/15. This is a miniscule pinch, 1/5 the amount of p. candidum. Use very sparingly, it is just for additional flavor nuances. If using liquid Geo, it’s less than a drop per gallon of milk.
  • 1/160 tsp (optional) Kl71. If you want to bring out some earthy and hay notes, add Kluyveromyces. Same rate as Geo.
  • 1/160 tsp (optional) B linens with milky oligopeptide sensory characteristics, like Chr Hansen’s BC
  • 2 tsp Salt, noniodized
  • 1-2 TBsp Ash.

Equipment and Supplies

  • Pot big enough to contain milk: ~5-6 quarts
  • Thermometer, 0-212 F.
  • LadleAging chamber (plastic container)
  • Small spoons to measure out culture, or gram scale that goes to thousands place.
  • Plastic drain mesh, base for the mesh that lets liquid through, and catch basin, like a baking pan, for the liquid.
  • White mold paper or crumpled aluminum foil pieces (10x10”) with pin holes poked in them


Step Step time Time from Step 1 pH Target
  1. Gather all your ingredients and equipment in one place.
0:05 0:00 N/A
  1. Sanitize all the tools by filling the pot with a few inches of water, and putting everything that fits in it, closing the lid and letting it steam for 30 seconds. You can also dip everything in a solution of 1 gal water with 1 tablespoon of chlorine in it. If using chlorine, rinse with water after. Or sanitize using whichever method you commonly use (iodine, no-rinse acid sanitizer, etc)
0:05 0:05 N/A
  1. Pour the milk in the pot and heat on the stove to 85⁰ F. Turn off stove. The high temp is to favor acid development and avoid too much diacetyl. For more diacetyl (buttery flavor), use 75F.
0:30 0:35 6.5-6.6
  1. Add the FD mesophilic culture, as well as the P. candidum and the Geo candidum to the milk. Stir.
0:01 0:36 6.5-6.6
  1. Take 1/4 cup distilled water and one drop of rennet to it. Stir to mix it in. If using double strength rennet, take one half of the liquid and add to the milk. If using single strength, add it all to the milk. Stir the milk up and down 10-15 strokes to mix in the rennet and DVI cultures.
0:05 0:41 6.5-6.6
  1. Wait 6-12 hours, which is when the milk should coagulate. When it has coagulated, take a ladle and ladle the curd into the molds. The curd pieces should be about 2-3” long by 1” high. Meaning don’t scoop curd chunks that are huge. Thinner, longer curds work better because you want them to drain. The size of the curds influences the final moisture content. If there’s too much moisture, the cheese may be very gooey and liquefy. 1 gallon of curds should fill 2 molds. After you scoop everything in, the whey will start to drain. Do not wait longer than 14 hours to scoop curds from the time you added culture, or the cheese will not be as creamy.
9:00 9:41 4.7-4.8
  1. Let the whey drain for 30-60 minutes and flip the molds to invert them. You’ll see a nice pattern on the bottom from the draining mesh.
1:00 10:41 4.7-4.8
  1. Let the whey drain again for 60 minutes and flip again.
1:00 11:41 4.7-4.8
  1. Flip 4-6 more times over the next 10 hours for a total of 6-8 flips over 12 hours. Check the cheese to see if it has drained. It should be somewhat firm, like chevre (which is basically what you just made).
10:00 24:00 4.5-4.7
  1. After it has drained, take the wheels out of the molds. They’re still fragile at this point, so be careful. Salt with 1 tsp of salt per wheel, evenly on all sides. Some more moisture will come through from the cheese because of the salt. Leave on a mat for several hours where there’s circulation all around the wheels at about 65F, room temperature.
2:00 26:00 N/A
  1. It is important that the cheese surface dry up as quickly as possible because the white molds are active at this point and if the surface is moist when the spores grow, there is a great chance of slip skin. So let the salt work in for a few hours, and then come back. The surface should be mostly dry. If it is not, use a fan and dry it off. If you do not get the acidity right (pH ~4.8) when ladling curds and wait too long, the cheese will not drain quickly and will weep whey. Start ladling shortly after coagulation to ensure a strong curd.
2:00 28:00 N/A
  1. In addition to fan drying, the other precaution this recipe uses against slip skin is ash. This is optional, but helps to avoid issues when making this cheese at home. If you want, coat the cheeses evenly on all sides with ash. It’s messy; use an old salt shaker or similar device to shake it on. Apply ash after the surface has dried.
  1. After making sure that the surface is dry, put the cheeses in the curing chamber on a mat so there’s circulation all around and put into a 50F fridge or your basement or other cool spot. If the surface is still not dry to the touch, take a small fan and let it blow on the top of the cheese, invert cheese, and on the bottom. If a thin rind that’s a different color has formed, you’ve dried too much. If it starts cracking, you’ve dried too much. It doesn’t take long to dry out the surface.
  1. Keep in the fridge for 10-14 days, flipping daily. Once there’s a bloom of mold all around the cheese and it seems like the rind is stable (takes 7-14 days), wrap in mold paper or roughly crumpled aluminum foil that has many pinholes in it, and place in the fridge at the warmest part where the temperature is 40F-45F. You can also continue to age at 50F, but the cheese will mature faster that way and you need to eat it sooner.
  1. Wait for 4-8 weeks, unwrap, and enjoy. The cheese will start to become gooey from the outside in and the mold enzymes do their work. You can eat as young as two weeks, where you’ll get a little gooey cheese around the rind, but it’s best when fully ripe.
N/A N/A ~6.5


Slip skin. Most likely, surface not dry enough, or humidity too high in curing chamber too early. Humidity should be about 90% to start, and then increase after day 4-5 to ensure a thick bloom of P Candidum. Check on it once a day to air it out, or take out to let it breathe.