It’s so easy to make your own cheese. Discover how to whip up two types of fresh, delicious cheese—quark and queso fresco—with step-by-step instructions. If I can do it, you can do it!
Cheese making at home is a way of life in many parts of the world. It’s astonishingly easy to make your own cheese at home. If I can do it, you can do it. Seriously.
My cheese making adventure
My cheese-at-home adventure began with a chance meeting in the parking lot of an organic grocer. There, I bumped into a friend who was picking up goats’ milk for his homemade chèvre. Our conversation went like this:
“You make chèvre?”
“Yes! Valerie, it is so easy—really.”
After that friend gave me a package of rennet to make my first chèvre, I was hooked. Making my own cheese means I know exactly what’s in it; plus, it can be a fun family activity. Both my daughters now make labneh, so cheese making is a family tradition.
When I chat with people about cheese making, I most often hear this: “I didn’t know it was even possible to make cheese at home!” Then, these three debilitating barriers rear their heads: lack of experience, lack of confidence, and fear of failure. But if I can do it, you can do it. Making your own fresh cheese is surprisingly easy—and surprisingly healthy. So let’s make cheese.
Because quark is the easiest cheese I’ve ever made, that’s where we’re going to start. Then, I’ll show you how to make queso fresco. Although it’s likely the most difficult fresh cheese to make at home, queso fresco is still easy enough for anyone to make.
Quark and Leek Harvest Pudding in a Squash Bowl
Fresh Quark Croustades with Herb Bouquet
Homemade Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco Stuffed Lentil Tostadas
Cheese making basics
Lactose, or the natural sugar in milk, is a dream host for bacteria; therefore, sanitize everything: work surfaces, equipment, and your own hands.
Sterilize equipment in the dishwasher before and after cheese making. For items you don’t put in the dishwasher, use a diluted bleach solution. If you’ve already made cheese, be sure there’s no milk residue on anything before you make another batch. When drying equipment, use 100 percent recycled paper towels, as dish towels can be contaminated. Wash your hands thoroughly.
- nonreactive cheese making pot (or vat): use clay, enamel, glass, or stainless steel
- accurate thermometer that will read low temperatures
- cheese curd knife
- slotted spoon
- moulds, which can be purchased from cheese making suppliers
Non-homogenized milk should be used, unless you live on a farm and have access to your own raw milk. Grass-fed raw milk makes superior cheese and enhances the nutrients within the cheese. However, selling raw milk for human consumption has been illegal in Canada since 1991. In other countries, raw milk is readily available for human consumption, and in the US, it’s available on a state-by-state basis.
Salt is necessary for most cheeses. It adds flavour to the cheese, controls bacteria, and strengthens the rinds when making aged cheeses. Use kosher salt that notes “no anti-caking agents”; iodized salt interferes with the aging process, as do anti-caking agents.
Store fresh cheeses in the refrigerator in airtight containers; shelf life will vary according to each cheese. Most fresh cheeses may be frozen without significant loss of texture or flavour.