The following information was extracted from the book “HOME CHEESEMAKING” by Neil and Carole Willman

Acid ​Cur​​d​​

The gel-like state that milk is brought to, when a high level of acidity is achieved. The acidity is produced by the activity of starter bacteria, and it precipitates the milk protein into a solid curd.


The amount of acidity (sourness) in the milk. Acidity is an important element in cheesemaking and it is produced by cheese starter bacteria.


A mould or washed rind cheese that is overripe and smells or tastes strongly of ammonia.


A natural vegetable extract (from the seeds of a South American bush Bixa orellana) which is used to colour cheese yellow, orange or red.


Microscopic single cell organisms found almost everywhere. Lactic acid-producing bacteria are useful and essential in the production of most cheeses. Bacteria linens A red bacteria which is encouraged to grow on the surfaces of cheeses like Brick, Havarti, Tilsit and Limburger, to produce a characteristic flavour. The full name of the organism is Brevibacterium linens.

Bacterial surface

Cheese that has a heavy growth of -ripened cheese bacteria on the surface, to produce a distinct flavour. Brick and Limburger are examples of bacterial surface ripened cheeses.


Usually refers to a Swiss cheese types that have no holes or eyes in it.


The inside of a cheese which is assessed by graders using terms such as, firm, weak, pasty, flaky, close, short etc.


A mixture of salt and water. Cheese salt, rock salt or table salt can be used. Do not use iodised salt.

Brined cheese

A cheese immersed in a brine solution.


The fat portion in milk. Butterfat can vary from 3.6 to 6.6 percent of the milk. Sometimes called milk fat.

Calf Rennet

Calf rennet is derived from the fourth stomach of a milk-fed calf. It contains the enzyme Chymosin which has the ability to coagulate milk. Animal rennet is commonly available in liquid form.


The process during Cheddar cheesemaking after the whey is drained from the curds. The curds are then kept warm for approximately 90 to 120 minutes.


A coarse to fine cloth either cotton or plastic used to drain curds, line cheese hoops and other miscellaneous uses.

Cheese Salt

A coarse flake salt. Salt not iodised is the most desirable type to use in cheesemaking.

Cheese Starter

A bacterial culture added to milk as Culture the first step in making many cheeses. The bacteria produce acid in the milk and in the curds. There are different categories of starter culture; mesophilic, thermophilic, gas producing and aroma producing. Cheese Wax a pliable wax, usually a mixture of paraffin and microcrystalline wax, with a low melting point which produces an airtight seal and a moisture barrier around the cheese. It is applied to rinded cheeses before maturing, or to other cheeses prior to sale to give an attractive appearance.


The solidification of milk through the action of acid and/or enzymes. The enzymatic method uses a product known as rennet.


A step in cheesemaking during which the cut curd is heated to assist in whey removal from the curds.


The coagulated part of milk, consisting of solid protein with some fat, lactose and residual whey.

Cutting the Curd

A step in cheesemaking in which the curd is cut into equal sized pieces. Draining The step in cheesemaking in which the whey is separated from the curd.

Dry matter

All parts of a cheese excluding the moisture: ie. fat, protein, lactose and minerals.


The active component of rennet is an enzyme. An enzyme accelerates a reaction, in the case of rennet, the coagulating or setting of the milk.


Small or large holes in a cheese produced after gas formation by selected bacteria.

Fat in Dry Matter

The proportion of fat in a cheese, expressed as a percentage of the dry weight (fat in dry matter), not total weight. Most cheeses have a fat in dry matter content of around 45-50%. The actual fat content of the cheese is usually in the range of 25-35%.


A general term for hard Italian grating cheeses like Parmesan.


A mechanical process that reduces the size of the fat globules of milk, so that the cream will no longer rise to the surface of the milk. Hooping A step in cheesemaking during which the curd is placed in a cheese mould (hoop). The cheese hoop will help produce the final shape of the cheese, and assists in whey drainage from the cheese.

Lactic Acid

The acid produced in milk or curd during cheesemaking. Cheese starter culture bacteria break down the milk sugar(lactose), and produce lactic acid as a by-product.


The sugar naturally present in milk. Lactose can constitute up to five percent of the total weight of milk. It is not a very sweet sugar compared to glucose.


A step in cheesemaking in which the cheese is stored at a particular temperature and/or relative humidity for a certain time, in order to develop its distinct flavour and/or for the body to breakdown.

Mesophilic Starter

Lactic acid-producing starter bacteria which is used to produce cheeses when the cooking temperature is 39°C or lower.

Microbial rennet

See vegetarian rennet. Milling A step in cheesemaking, during which the curd is diced into smaller potato chip like pieces before being salted.


A cheese which has matured with Cheese the assistance of a mould, growing on the surface or inside. Two types of mould are most common in cheesemaking. They are blue mould for the blue cheeses and white mould for Camembert and related cheeses.

Pasta Filata

Italian expression for plastic-curd cheeses, where thin strips of cheese curd are placed into a hot water bath and worked up until homogenous. Mozzarella is an example of a pasta filata cheese.


The heating of milk by either batch method ie. 61°C and holding it for 30 minutes or by a high temperature/short time method of 72°C and holding for 15 seconds. The aim is to destroy pathogenic organisms which may be harmful to humans. An alternative of heating the milk to 68°C and holding for one minute is usually more time efficient for the home cheesemaker. Penicillium candidum A white mould which is encouraged to grow on the surface of a number of soft mould-ripened cheeses including Camembert and Brie.

Penicillium roqueforti

A blue mould which is encouraged to grow on the surface and in the interior of a variety of blue cheeses, such as Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Blue Vein.

Plastic curd

Generic term for cheese made by immersing the curd in hot water and working it until it becomes elastic and can be moulded into the shape required. (see also, pasta filata)


A step in cheesemaking during which the curds are placed in a cheesecloth-lined hoop or mould, then placed under pressure to remove more whey and create a closer textured cheese.


The step in cheesemaking in which rennet is added to milk in order to bring about coagulation.


A step in cheesemaking just after starter addition and before rennetting in which the milk is allowed to undergo an increase in acidity, due to the activity of cheese starter culture bacteria. Sometimes the term ripening is used to indicate maturing. It is less confusing to use the term maturing in this context.


Outer coating of a cheese formed by surface drying, often treated by rubbing, brining, oiling, blackening or other methods to produce the desired characteristics. Natural rinds are usually edible, synthetic rinds made by adding a layer of other substances may not be.


A step in cheesemaking in which coarse salt is added to the curds before moulding or to the surface of the finished cheese. Alternatively some cheeses are salted by immersion in a brine solution.

Soft Cheese

A cheese which is not pressed, contains a high moisture content, and is eaten very soon after production.

Stabilised Camembert

A term used to describe a style of Camembert where the pH is stabilised by the use of type E starter. Also referred to as Camembert (Modern) style

Thermophilic Cheese Starter

Used for making cheeses which have higher cooking temperatures such as a Stabilized Camembert or many Italian and Swiss cheeses require a thermophilic culutre.

Vegetarian Rennet

A product used to coagulate milk. It is produced by either yeast or bacteria. The enzyme is extracted from the cells then filtered and is free of any of the yeast or bacteria.


The liquid portion of milk which separates from the curds after coagulation of the milk protein. Whey contains water, milk sugar, whey proteins, minerals and some fat. It should be a clear greenish colour and not milky.

Whey Protein

Protein in milk which is not precipitated by the addition of rennet. Whey protein remains in the whey and can be precipitated by high temperatures to make Ricotta.

The Basics of Cheese-Making

Shhh! We want to let you in on a secret: Cheese is easy to make.

In fact, people around the world have been making cheese since ancient times. This is why we now enjoy a wide variety of cheeses with different flavours, textures and aromas.

Unfortunately, the art of cheese-making has been lost for generations in many families as we increasingly rely on store-bought products.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Making your own cheese is a fulfilling and fun activity for all members of your family.

The cheese-making process

Traditionally, cheese-making begins with pasteurising the milk to destroy dangerous bacteria. However, this part of the process is only required if you are using raw milk obtained directly from a farm.  In most cases, the milk you use will have been already pasteurised.

For the home cheese-maker, the following are the basic steps.

Adding the Starter

The starter (or culture) is harmless bacteria with characteristics to help preserve your milk by transforming it into cheese.  Starters break down the lactose (milk sugar) to produce lactic acid when gradually added to warm milk.  Always remember not to overheat or over-stir the mixture.

At this stage, colour can be added if you are making a coloured cheese.


Rennet is added to coagulate or solidify your milk mixture to create curds.

To ensure your curd sets evenly, always dilute the rennet in ten times its volume of cooled boiled water. Never use hot water and always rinse your measuring utensils in boiling water before using them to measure the rennet.

The mixture is left to set like a junket. You will know your mixture has set when it forms a clean break if cut with a knife and the whey (or liquid part of the milk) is a clear greenish colour.

Curd Handling

This is the fun part of the cheese-making process where it all starts to come together.

Cutting the Curd –  Generally you cut the curd in a criss-cross to break it into smaller pieces. However, check the recipe as some cheeses require a different cutting technique. Ensure you cut through the curd right to the bottom of your pot or saucepan.

Heating or cooking – This helps firm the curd and remove the whey. You may also need to gently stir the mixture depending on the style of cheese you are making.

Draining –  This step separates the curd and whey. Some recipes also call for the mixture to be milled which involves cutting the curd into even smaller pieces before adding salt.

Salting  – Depending on the type of cheese you’re making, coarse salt is added to the curds before they are moulded. Some cheeses require the salt added to the surface of the finished product or the cheese is placed in saltwater brine.

Hooping the Curds  – This is where the mixture is placed in a cheese hoop or basket to mould it into its final shape.


Once the curds are in a basket lined with clean cheesecloth, pressure is placed on them to remove any remnant whey and to mould the curds into your desired shape.  The amount of pressure and time taken to press the cheese is determined by the style of cheese you are making.



Probably the most important part, aging your cheese gives it the desired flavour and texture. Check your recipe for details on the temperature, humidity and other optimum conditions for maturing your product.

Other common cheese-making terms


A natural vegetable dye used to colour cheese yellow, orange or red.


The main protein in milk which enables milk to transform into cheese.

Dry Matter

Any part of cheese excluding moisture. It can refer to the fat, protein, sugars and minerals.


An Italian term referring to hard cheeses mostly used for grating such as Parmesan.


The process of breaking up the fat globules in milk.


The process of heating raw milk to a specific high temperature for a set period of time to destroy harmful pathogens or bacteria.


Sometimes confused with the maturing process, ripening actually refers to the stage just after the starter is added to the milk. It is at this stage the milk increases in acidity before rennet is mixed in.

See the Getting Started page for more details on what you need to begin making your own cheese.

Before embarking on your cheese-making venture, check to ensure you have all the equipment and ingredients at hand and always ensure everything is clean and sanitised before starting.

Basic equipment

Apart from a few specialist items, you probably already own most of the equipment needed to make your own cheese or can readily buy the equipment from local shops:

  • Two large saucepans that will sit inside one another (this will be used to heat the milk)
  • A stove top or other type of hot plate
  • A container for your milk (an eight to ten litre container will provide enough milk for approximately one kilogram of cheese, depending on the type of cheese)
  • Spatula or long-bladed knife for cutting the curd
  • Slotted spoon for draining the curd
  • Measuring jugs and cups (from a 50 ml medicine cup to a one litre jug)
  • Small syringes for measuring rennet and calcium solutions
  • A new, clean paintbrush (for painting coatings on hard cheeses before waxing)
  • A colander or unused cotton cloth for draining soft-curd cheeses
  • A rectangular metal cake rack for cutting the curd
  • An accurate kitchen thermometer (it should have a scale of -10 to 110⁰C with 1⁰C graduations)
  • A reliable timer
  • Household-grade sanitiser
  • A container with a plastic cake rack at the bottom for storing your cheese.

Specialist equipment

Baskets (or hoops)

These come in a vast range of shapes and sizes suited to all types of cheese and are used to drain the whey and shape your cheese.

Cheese Cloth

Sometimes referred to as a cheese bandage, cheese cloth is wrapped around rinded cheese to help develop the rind. The cloth stays on the cheese throughout the maturing process. Cheese cloths can also be used to help with the draining and pressing stages of the cheese-making process.
A comprehensive range of specialist cheese-making equipment is available from our Products section.


There are a few basic ingredients for all cheeses and some extra items required for specific cheese varieties.  Importantly, always ensure you use quality ingredients to get the best results.

Obviously, the most important ingredient for cheese-making is un-homogenised milk. If you have access to milk direct from a farmer, this is perfect. If not, don’t worry many supermarkets stock un-homogenised milk in their dairy sections which is just as good for cheese-making.

The other ingredients for your cheese recipe can include:


Also known as the culture, starters are harmless bacteria added to milk as the initial step in the cheese-making process. The type of starter you use will determine the taste, aroma and texture of your cheese.  In some cases, the starter will generate carbon dioxide gas to create ‘holes’ in the cheese.  Generally speaking, there are two main categories of starters:

  • Mesophilic – used for making cheeses with cooking temperatures 39⁰C and below.
  • Thermophilic – used for making cheeses with higher cooking temperatures. These starters are used in mostly the Italian-style cheeses.


The active ingredient in the rennet is an enzyme. Traditional cheese-making uses calf rennet which is derived from one of the stomachs of a milk-fed calf.  Vegetarian (or microbial) rennet can also be used and is just as effective.

Mould spores

There are two types of mould spores:

  • Blue (Penicillium roqueforti) used for blue cheeses
  • White (Penicillium candidum) used for making Camembert and Brie.


Lipase is an enzyme used in making some types of cheeses to break down the fats.

Calcium solution

Cheese-makers will add a calcium solution if the milk used lacks calcium. It helps with the coagulation of the cheese and helps set the rennet.

Cheese wax

Cheese wax is used to protect some cheeses to prevent them from drying and to stop unwanted bacteria getting into the cheese during aging.


See our Ingredients page for more information.

Yoghurt & Sour Cream

Yoghurt and Sour Cream are both produced using a bacterial fermentation process that reacts with the lactose (natural milk sugars) to produce lactic acid.

There are many examples of ancient civilisations producing yoghurt and it is from the Turkish word, yogurt, that we get the English name. Yoghurt is mostly made from cow’s milk but around the world it has been made from the milk of water buffaloes, goats, camels, sheep and yaks.

Sour Cream, as its name suggests, is made from cream rather than milk. Although, non-fat sour cream is made using skim milk and thickening agents.

Shopping list

Ingredients for Yoghurt

  • For a mild flavour – Type C1 Yoghurt starter
  • For a stronger flavour – Type C3 Yoghurt starter
  • For a thin texture priobiotic yoghurt – Type C aBt Yoghurt starter
  • For a thick texture priobiotic yoghurt – Type C aBy starter

Ingredients for Sour Cream

  • Type B cheese starter

Washed Rind Cheese

The original washed rind cheeses were made by monks in Northern France and derive their name from the process of regularly washing the cheese in brine (salt and water mix), wine, beer or other bacteria producing agents.

It’s this washing process that makes the surface of the cheese responsive to accepting the bacteria known as Brevibacterium linens. Over time, the rind will become a sticky orange colour that darkens as the cheese ages.

Washed rind cheeses can be soft, semi-hard or hard and should have a sweet, earthy taste with a hint of nuttiness.

However, be careful that the cheese doesn’t over ripen and become ammoniated, that is to say, it strongly smells or tastes of ammonia.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised cow’s milk
  • Type E cheese starter for a modern recipe or Type B starter for a traditional recipe
  • Rennet
  • Salt
  • Aroma culture (Brevibacterium linens)
  • Colour (optional)
  • White mould spores (optional)

Specialist equipment

  • Cheese basket (P00627 basket is recommended)
  • Cheese cloth or drainage mat

Blue Vein Cheeses

Blue Vein is a general term used to describe cheeses made from the Penicillium Roqueforti bacterium which is a blue mould that grows on either the surface or inside the cheese.

Britain’s Stilton, France’s Roquefort and Italy’s Gorgonzola are all types of blue mould-ripened cheese.  They can be made from sheep or goat’s milk but are most commonly produced using cow’s milk.

The exact origins of blue cheeses are unknown but it’s believed they were accidentally discovered at a time when cheeses were stored in caves.  Roquefort is thought to date back to approximately 79 AD while Gorgonzola is first mentioned around 879 AD, although the distinctive blue veins in the cheese were a later addition, around the 11th Century. In comparison, Stilton is a newcomer appearing in the early 18th Century.

The flavour depends on the type of blue cheese made including its shape, size, curing conditions and maturity. However, all blue cheeses tend to have a sharp, salty taste and should have a creamy texture.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised cow’s milk
  • Type A or B starter (or C starter for Gorgonzola)
  • Rennet
  • Salt
  • Blue mould spores
  • Washes rind culture (optional)

Specialist equipment

  • Cheese basket (P45350 is recommended)
  • Cheese cloth or drainage mat


Havarti is a relatively new type of cheese dating from the middle of the 19th Century when it was first created by Danish cheese maker Hanne Nielsen.

Like Swiss cheese, Havarti contains small ‘eyes’ or holes and is usually matured for just three months.

It is a creamy cheese with a taste that varies depending on how long it has been aged but generally should be buttery, sweet and slightly acidic.

Cream Havarti is a variation made by adding extra cream.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised cow’s milk
  • Type B cheese starter
  • Rennet
  • Salt
  • Colour (optional)

Specialist equipment

  • Cheese basket (F0361700 mini gouda basket is recommended)
  • Cheese wax
  • Cheese cloth or drainage mat (optional)


Also known as Quark, this cheese is soft and spreadable and sometimes described as a cross between yoghurt and cottage cheese.

It originates from Eastern Europe and German-speaking countries and is made from warmed, soured milk. The traditional form of the cheese requires no rennet.

Quarg should have a snow white colour with a creamy and smooth texture and subtle flavour similar to sour cream.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised cow’s milk
  • Type A or B cheese starter
  • Salt (optional)

Specialist equipment

  • Cheese cloth

Sainte Maure

This goat’s cheese is based on the traditional French cheese Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine which is solely produced around the Loire River area of France.

Sainte Maure is formed into a small log no more than 17cm long. Traditionally, a piece of straw is placed in the middle of the cheese roll to keep it intact while a white mould is used to produce a bluish-grey edible rind.

The cheese has a smooth and soft texture with a buttery and slightly acidic flavour.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised goat’s milk
  • Type A or B cheese starter
  • Rennet
  • Salt
  • White mould

Specialist equipment

  • Cheese basket (F0435700 Sainte Maure basket is recommended)


Traditionally made from water buffalo milk, most Mozzarella cheeses today are based on cow’s milk.

Mozzarella originally heralds from the southern areas of Italy from around the 13th Century. It’s named after the method of tearing and cutting (mozzata) the whey with your fingers to create balls of cheese. It is also described as a Pasta Filata cheese which is the Italian term for plastic-curd cheeses whereby the curd is placed in a hot water bath and worked until it becomes elastic.

Mozzarella is best eaten fresh and should have a sweet, nutty but slightly salty taste. It should be white and have a springy feel with a stringy and supple texture.

Shopping list


  • Un-homogenised cow or water buffalo’s milk
  • Type C cheese starter
  • Rennet
  • Salt