Cheesemaking is a science, and it’s an art at the same time. Unlike home brewing or even winemaking at home, cheesemaking is probably not something you’ve ever considered taking on yourself. But with the Creamery in a Box Cheesemaking Starter Kit from Northern Brewer, you can easily acquire all the tools and techniques to learn your way around the whey.
Available from the company’s website for $129.99, the Creamery in a box is a very complete set of equipment for making a variety of types of cheeses. In fact, the sheer volume of apparati included can be a little bit intimidating when you first unbox the kit. Check out this list of gear:
Premium, quick-dissolve Organic Liquid Vegetable Rennet reliably forms perfect curds and is vegan, GMO-free and Gluten-free
Quick-dissolve liquid Calcium Chloride lets you make cheese with any kind of milk.
Direct-set cultures, specialty ingredients and pure non-iodized cheese salt to impart defining flavor and color on different cheese varieties.
Basic cheese mold, essential for rinsing soft cheeses or adding a traditional rind texture
Hard Cheese Mold with follower and an open bottom, large enough to press up to 2lbs of cheese
Natural Reed Mats for mold sandwiches & drying and aging cheese
Natural Boar Bristle Brush and 1 lb. of all-natural beeswax for protecting and aging hard cheese
12” Laboratory-grade Thermometer, scaled from 0-220°F for quick, accurate temperature readings.
Stainless Steel Curd Knife with ergonomic 5” handle and 12” blade for enough flexibility to cut curd at the vital 45° angle
Long Stainless Steel Spoon to prevent curds from matting
Stainless Steel Skimmer/Ladle, essential for properly adding rennet and lifting curds from whey
Extra-wide Double Mesh Strainer catches every curd to maximize yield.
4 yards of Grade 90 Cheesecloth for lining cheese molds and pressing & bandaging cheese
Small Measuring Spoons with for accurately following recipes
The box also includes some general instructions for how to use the equipment, but you’ll need to open the specific recipe packs to find the instructions for how to actually convert whole milk into delicious cheese. The kits that I received for review were for a tangy Feta and a creamy Queso Fresco. Good things come to those who wait, so you’ll need to set aside a week to make up a batch of the Feta. Being the impatient type, I started out with the simpler Queso Fresco that is ready to eat the same day you start the process.
Since making cheese involves introducing healthy bacteria to milk, it is absolutely critical to sanitize all your equipment and work space before starting. You’ll need a lot of space and a clean counter top to make the process a little easier. In other words, this is probably not a dorm room activity.
The step-by-step instructions are concise, but not especially expansive. Northern Brewer is best known for their beer making kits, and their website is full of all sorts of great information and instructional videos about those topics. Unfortunately for their cheesemaking kits, what comes in the box is about all they offer in the way of instructions. Luckily, I was able to find some amateur YouTube videos to at least ensure me that I was heading in the right direction as I plodded through the process of ripening the milk in a water bath, forming the curd, cutting and cooking the curds, and draining and pressing the results into a cohesive block of Queso Fresco.
I’ll spare you the details of the process, but if you were good at labs in high school chemistry class, you should be able to handle using the Creamery in a Box kit pretty easily. In the end, I had a brick of lovely Queso Fresco that was extremely fresh and light-bodied and was perfect crumbled Mexican food. I haven’t attempted the more complicated Feta recipe yet, but since the kit comes with enough ingredients to make five pounds of both Feta and Queso Fresco, I should have plenty of opportunities in the future.
Making your own cheese isn’t for everyone, but if you do have both a scientific Alton Brown side and a creative Julia Child aspect to your personality in the kitchen, you might be an ideal candidate for this fun activity. I promise that if you serve cheese that you have actually made yourself as part of a meal, you will be regarded as a culinary hero by your dinner guests. And with enough gear to make 10 pounds of cheese, you can even send your guests home with leftovers!
The Northern Brewers Creamery in a Box Cheesemaking Starter Kit is available from the company’s website.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
MSRP: $129.99 (Includes two recipe kits, either Cottage Cheese/Farmhouse Cheddar or Feta/Queso Fresco)
What I Liked: Includes a complete set of tools and ingredients for making your own cheese at home, a process that I previously had believed must be some sort of arcane magic.
What Needs Improvement: Included instructions are complete, but very concise. It would be helpful if they were more elaborate, and some illustrations of the step-by-step procedures would be nice.