When you first start making cheese at home, it can be confusing and somewhat overwhelming to learn how many different types, styles, and variations of cheese there are.
When you are deciding what to try first, pick cheeses that are forgiving when it comes to temperature variation and time discrepancies, because you should not be trying to keep every degree and second just right while you are learning the basic techniques like sanitization, handling new cheesemaking tools, measuring, incorporating ingredients, cutting and draining curds, and all the other things you just aren’t used to yet. Your first cheese will most probably not be just right. It might not look just like the picture; it may not taste like anything you can buy in shrink-wrap at the grocer; but it will be your cheese, and in making it you will have gotten to know a few of the fundamental processes that cheesemaking entails.
Fresh, unripened soft cheese is a good place to start, because it involves the basic processes without getting into the molding and pressing process. (This is also good if you haven’t purchased a cheese press yet.)
Good beginner soft cheeses include:
These are all great-tasting cheeses that are good starting places and will stay in your arsenal of recipes as you move forward into more advanced cheesemaking because of their versatility and snackable goodness.
If you are more interested in starting right into the hard cheeses, here are a few good ones that will be easy while also helping to teach you the ropes.
- Cheddar (Traditional cheddar is time consuming and can be more difficult, so try a farmhouse cheddar or a stirred-curd cheddar)
These cheeses are all ones you have probably heard of, and they are generally mild with shorter aging periods. You can also try out some other techniques on these cheeses. Colby and cheddar are great smoking candidates, and gouda can be brined, depending on your recipe.
The lists here are by no means the only good starts, so look around. Whatever cheese you choose to begin with, just don’t stress yourself out. Cheesemaking should be a creative and enjoyable task. So just have fun making some delicious, one-of-a-kind cheeses!
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