If you have ever thought of making cheese at home but have been overwhelmed at the idea, this episode is for you! Robyn of Cheese From Scratch joins me to talk all things cheesemaking. Robyn’s desire is to make this skill accessible to everyone. We talk about how cheesemaking can become a normal part of your everyday routine, just like any other skill on the homestead. A common misconception is that cheesemaking is just for those who own a dairy animal, but this isn’t true! Anyone can learn to make cheese from scratch.
In this episode, we cover:
- The distinction between homestead and professional cheesemaking
- How to decide what type of cheese to make
- Addressing some common fears about the safety of making cheese at home
- The easiest cheeses to start with
- How cheesemaking mimics what happens naturally in a calf’s stomach
- Which supplies you need to buy and which supplies you can DIY
- Surprising ways to repurpose all of the leftover whey
- The secret to incorporating cheesemaking into your everyday life
Robyn is a mom to three sweet and wild children, a wife, a rancher, a milkmaid, and a Homestead Cheesemaker. She teaches homesteaders how to turn their milk into cheese. Robyn’s cheesemaking journey began in 2014, when her husband brought home a milk cow. Since then, she has been passionate about experimenting with techniques that make home cheesemaking easier for a busy lifestyle. Robyn likens her cheesemaking to how cheese was made in the old days: she makes cheese with a baby on her hip, a toddler at her feet, and a loaf of bread in the oven. If there is a way she can take a shortcut without compromising safety or taste, she does it! Years of experimentation, trial, and error have brought her home cheesemaking to where it is today: cheese made from scratch, the simple way.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I am chatting with Robyn from Cheese From Scratch. Now before you click away and think, “Okay, I’m not a homesteader, I’m not going to make cheese. That’s just for people who know how to basically do everything there is to know on a homestead,” I encourage you to listen because this episode was really fascinating. She opened my eyes to some parts about the science behind making cheese that I did not understand that really made it more approachable for me to where I actually feel like I can do this. I can definitely make my own cheese at home. I really like how she focuses on simplicity and mastering simple recipes. So anyways, without talking further about it, let’s join Robyn from Cheese From Scratch to learn all about making cheese.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, hi, Robyn. How are you?
Robyn Jackson Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m good. Thanks.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Thanks so much for joining me. I’m really excited to talk about cheese and all that goes into making it. I know that you are an expert on it and I am not. And so I’m really looking forward to you sharing your wisdom with us. I have a dairy cow, and I’m still intimidated by the whole process of cheesemaking.
Robyn Jackson It’s super intimidating when you start. We’ve all been there. Like at the beginning, it’s so intimidating.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Robyn Jackson Like my favorite subject to talk about, so I’m so happy to be here.
Lisa Bass Yeah. It’s definitely something that there’s so many different directions you can take it. There’s so many different kinds of cheeses. There’s different tools and supplies, and that’s when your mind just kind of— like, you kind of glaze over if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Well, why don’t we start by you can introduce yourself and your Instagram page and what you talk about.
Robyn Jackson Sure. Sounds good. So I’ve been making cheese since 2014. My husband and I have a cattle ranch here in B.C., and my husband was a dairy farmer before in Wisconsin. So he always really loved dairy cows and everything. And one day I came home and he had a dairy cow, and we just kind of got shoved into cheesemaking, and I started liking it, and I started making a lot of cheese for our family. And over the years, it’s just kind of become more and more a main part of our life. And then last year I started Cheese From Scratch, a little business where I teach homesteaders how to make cheese and how to turn their milk into cheese because it’s kind of a— there’s not a ton of information directly for homesteaders. There’s a lot of information for people that are kind of making it as a hobby and people that are making it commercially, but not so much for homesteaders. So I was excited to kind of create content specifically for that kind of niche.
Lisa Bass Yeah. You can find information, but it’s hard to know when they’re talking to somebody who’s doing this on a larger scale, or when it’s just a hobby. I want something that’s very straightforward, something that will teach me how to do it in my everyday life. And I think that’s what you bring to the table. So what are some of your favorite types of cheeses to make at home? We’ll start there.
Robyn Jackson When people ask, “What cheese should I make?” I always say, “Okay, what cheese do you buy at the store?” Because that’s the most important thing. Your success in cheesemaking depends on if your family is going to actually eat your cheese, because it’s no fun if nobody wants your cheese after you make it. So I typically make a lot of cheddar and Gouda and colby because those are ones that my kids really like and we really like. So those are kind of like our standard cheeses that we make really often.
Lisa Bass Okay, I totally agree with you, but I somehow have it in my head that mozzarella is really easy. Soft cheeses like feta, cream cheese are very easy, but then something like cheddar is really difficult and that I have to have a lot more knowledge to do it. So is that true? I mean, you are saying that your favorite cheese to make is some of the ones that I find more complicated, at least from my very limited perspective. So are those everyday types of cheeses?
Robyn Jackson Yeah. So the biggest thing is you want to pick cheeses that you’re only going to be making a couple because, just kind of like if you were going to make weeknight dinner, you’re going to make tacos on a weeknight because you know how to make them. You don’t have to look at a recipe. So you want to pick cheeses that you’re going to make those cheeses and you’re going to make them often because you’re going to figure out how to fit them into your lifestyle really well. You don’t want to be making 200 different kinds of cheeses because every time you’re going to have to look at the recipe. So those types of cheeses like cheddar and those ones that are kind of hard pressed where you’re having to age them and stuff like that, they are a little bit more complex, they’re more time consuming to make. But if you really know how to fit them into your lifestyle, they could be easier to make than, say, a soft cheese that you hadn’t really ever made before and it was new to you. So it’s all about kind of figuring out what cheeses you want to make and making those ones. And they all kind of have like the same sort of steps within them. Once you start making more pressed aged cheeses and stuff, you’re going to kind of repeating things between other pressed aged cheeses. So the steps are pretty similar.
Lisa Bass Yeah. You’re so right, though, about anything that you do in the kitchen. It just takes knowing the process and not having to sit down, read an article about it, go through all the steps over and over again for you to feel confident that you can do it. I find this to be the case with things like sourdough, fermenting vegetables, milk kefir. Those are all second nature to me. I know exactly what to look for. I know the whole process. I don’t really have to— I maybe look at the recipe to remind myself, but I don’t have to say like, “Okay, now we do three stretch-and-folds at intervals of 30 minutes.” It’s just a process that I can feel and know. And because of that, I can make bread every day. But whenever you’re telling me— you know, something that is brand new to you seems really complicated. But as soon as you know the steps, there’s nothing to it. You can fit it into your everyday life. So I really like the idea of learning how to make even some of these cheeses that might have more steps. Because I know, just from experience with other things, that once I learn how to do them, that it won’t be difficult at all.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, I remember learning how to make sourdough, and that’s a really great way to describe learning to make cheese. Because when you first learn how to make sourdough, it’s so intimidating. You’re like, “How am I ever going to do all of these steps?” And it just looks so complex. But cheesemaking is the same thing. It looks so complex when you’re looking in as an outsider and you’ve never done it. But once you do it, you’re like, “Okay, it’s not so bad.” There’s a lot of steps, but there are not a lot of steps where you’re really hands-on. So that’s something that’s pretty cool about cheesemaking, I think.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I really think I need to dive into it because it’s funny how as soon as you’ve done something a lot, when other people ask you about it, you’re like, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Are you kidding me?” But then you forget that, up front, it was really intimidating just to learn those steps. So we think of cheesemaking as something that homesteaders do. You mentioned that you got a dairy cow or you and your husband went into the dairy business. And I think that’s what draws a lot of people to cheese because you end up having so much milk that you don’t know what to do with it all. What about people who aren’t homesteaders? So like we just got a dairy cow about a year ago. Before that, we got raw milk from a local dairy. I don’t know if I ever really thought about making cheese. Is that something you’d recommend doing for everyone? Like how steep is the learning curve?
Robyn Jackson Yeah. Oh, for sure. Like anyone can make cheese. You can use grocery store milk if you want. And it’s so great. There’s a lot of resources out there, like Cheesemaking.com. They have tons of recipes and they’re like directed towards people that are using grocery store milk. There’s a lot of resources out there. Anyone can learn how to make cheese. The biggest thing that’s going to kind of impede you is the amount of milk you need to make cheese. So you’re going to want to pick cheeses that need less milk. For example, like feta would be one that needs a little bit less milk because that’s not a type of cheese that you’re going to be sitting down to eat with cheese and crackers. It’s more of like a sprinkle on salads type of cheese, whereas if you wanted to make a cheddar, you need a lot of milk. Like my cheddar recipe is six gallons of milk. So I think that’s probably the biggest obstacle that people that don’t have a dairy animal are going to be kind of facing. There’s also some differences in ingredients that you need for making cheese with store bought milk or pasteurized milk versus making it with your fresh nice raw milk from your dairy cow. Probably the biggest difference—and I think we’re going to talk about ingredients a little bit later—but probably the biggest difference is that you’re going to need to add calcium chloride into your milk if you’re using pasteurized milk. So just kind of having that understanding that there’s going to be a few differences, but there’s a lot of recipes and resources kind of directed towards that.
Lisa Bass Okay. That’s good to know. So as you were talking about that, I was thinking, “Oh man, six gallons of milk.” I think that I’d be worried that if I messed it up the first time, that I’d be wasting like six mornings of milk chores because we get about a gallon a day. So what are some of the common fears that people have with cheesemaking? And how do you get people past that? It’s really hard to get people to start on something new.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, for sure. So definitely, six gallons is a lot. You could make it with two gallons. But I just make really big blocks of cheese. So you could definitely cut down the quantity for the recipes. Probably the biggest kind of worry I had when I started cheesemaking was safety behind it, because there’s a lot of worry about raw milk. And when you’re kind of thinking about, “Oh, I’m just going to leave this raw milk on the counter, like I don’t know if that’s safe.” There’s a lot of stuff about sterilization and all these kind of things, and those things are important. So probably the biggest fear for me was safety when I first started. And it took me a lot of years of just making cheese and kind of starting to be a little bit more comfortable to kind of get through that fear. Probably the best thing I ever did for learning how to make cheese was reading David Asher, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking book. And I don’t use a ton of his cheesemaking techniques in my cheesemaking, but I really felt more confident in my raw milk and the safety of it after I read that book. So that was probably the biggest thing that I kind of hear from other people as well, that safety is kind of the concern.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I would say it’s the same for me with a lot of the things that I teach. So I obviously haven’t really delved into cheesemaking much. I do a little bit here and there, but nothing like to the knowledge that you have. But things like raw milk kefir— people are, again, worried about that because you allow raw milk to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. I have let it even sit for up to a week. I find that it just gets more and more fermented, and we can totally tolerate it in our family. But it did take time becoming more and more comfortable with that and understanding the science behind the bacteria that’s in the milk. So yeah, I think safety is usually the biggest thing that people ask me about, like vegetable fermentation and sourdough and kefir. But I think the more you do something, like you said, the more you become comfortable with it because you’ve done it, you’ve tried it. You were healthier afterwards. So what are some of the easiest cheeses to start with?
Robyn Jackson I always tell people to start with feta. I think that’s probably— like once you’ve done yogurt and butter and maybe some cream cheese, you’ve kind of got a little bit of dairy experience. I say feta is probably like the best one to start with. The reason being you don’t need a designated aging area or anything. You can use not a lot of milk. You can make a feta batch out of a gallon of milk, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it. So I think that’s probably the best one to start out. I also say mozzarella is a beginner cheese, and it’s not because it’s super easy. It’s actually a bit of a complex cheese to make, but I really like to recommend it to people because it teaches them that you have to actually follow the recipe. And I think that’s a big hang up that we, as homesteaders, kind of find ourselves in is that we like to just like a little of this, a little of that like, you know, like pinch of this here. So it actually teaches that,—with cheesemaking—that you have to follow the steps to get a desired result, and you’re actually seeing the desired result where it’s able to stretch quite quickly versus if you were going to make an aged cheese that you’re not going to see your results until the end. So it just teaches you that those steps are important and they’re there to get you to a designated destination, I guess.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Those are the two that I’ve actually made is feta and mozzarella, and I think that I now understand why it hasn’t gone that well for me, because I don’t like precision with anything. And when I made the mozzarella, I don’t think it stretched like it was supposed to, but it still tasted like cheese. So I’m sure I went wrong somewhere along the line there.
Robyn Jackson That’s the amazing thing about cheese, though. Even if you don’t get it to stretch or it doesn’t end up what you thought it was going to be, it’s still cheese. It’s still probably really good. Unless it was contaminated with some dangerous bacteria, you’re good to go. It’s going to be different than you intended, but it’s still completely fine. You still made cheese. So that’s an exciting thing about cheese. It’s rarely ruined.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s actually a really great thing to know because I think a lot of times people’s biggest fear, besides safety, is that they’re going to waste their time and their money and their resources, especially right now with there being supply chain issues and all of that. I think people are thinking, “Okay, if I mess this up, we just threw away this much money.” But knowing that it’s still edible— because that was totally the case for me. I don’t know that I’ve ever thrown away a cheese product that I’ve made, even though I haven’t made them all that well. So that’s really very reassuring.
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Lisa Bass So let’s dive into a bit about the science behind cheesemaking. Give us a basic primer on what is happening when you transform milk into cheese.
Robyn Jackson Sure. Sounds good. So this is such a complex question. Whenever I get asked this, I go ramble on and on. But I’m going to start with— so basically, there is four main ingredients that make all of the cheeses in the world. Pretty much all of the cheeses are made from milk, rennet (which is an enzyme), lactic bacteria (or an acid), and salt. So those four main ingredients make like thousands of different cheeses in the world. And milk is actually meant to make cheese. It’s meant to come out of the udder. It’s meant to go into the calf’s stomach. It’s nice and warm and acidic in that calf’s stomach. There’s enzymes in that calf’s stomach that help coagulate that milk, and it’s meant to turn into cheese in that calf’s stomach. So when we’re making cheese, no matter what cheese we’re making, we’re kind of trying to mimic what milk is meant to do. So that kind of takes the scary out of it. If you kind of think, “Okay, well, it wants to become cheese anyways. I just have to help it along.” So basically when you make any type of cheese, you have your milk, you have your good quality fresh milk, and then you need to acidify it. You need to make it into a condition like it’s that little calf’s stomach where it’s nice and acidic in there. So that’s where lactic bacteria come in. So lactic bacteria— if you’ve ever made fermented vegetables or anything like that, you know what lactic bacteria is. So it’s basically—there’s a lot of them—but basically it’s a type of bacteria that likes to feed on sugar. And so lactose is the sugar in milk. And so these little bacterias, they like to eat all that sugar, and as they feed on that sugar, they ferment it down into lactic acid. And so that makes your milk that nice little acidic environment like that little calf’s stomach. Recipes like mozzarella and stuff where you’re actually adding an acid in, so like citric acid or lemon juice or vinegar. That’s instead of having those lactic bacterias make that acid, you’re just adding the acid in. So that’s kind of the first step of all cheesemaking is that acidification step. And that goes on for a little bit in the cheesemaking process or quite a bit in the cheesemaking process, but that’s kind of your first stage of all steps. The second stage is when that milk gets into that little calf’s stomach, it’s warm and it’s acidic. But there’s also this enzyme in there and that’s called chymosin in the little calf’s stomach. And so this enzyme we know as rennet. So there’s all sorts of different enzymes that are coagulating enzymes. So you don’t necessarily have to have like calf rennet. You can have vegetable rennet from like thistles and all sorts of things like that. But what this enzyme does is this actually changes how those proteins can stay suspended within the milk. And so when this milk comes in contact with this enzyme, it’s no longer able to stay suspended in the water and they start to come together and coagulate. And if that didn’t happen in that little calf’s stomach, it wouldn’t be able to digest all the nutrients that that milk has to offer. So it needs to coagulate like that. So that’s basically the second step in cheesemaking is that coagulation step. And then all of the other steps that come with cheesemaking are basically just that acidification process going on. And then once the acidification is done, then all these other things start to happen in the cheese. So this is where things get a little bit different for all different cheeses. Say you’re stirring your cheese for like 45 minutes. This is just helping it to acidify during this time in a certain way. Say you’re leaving it for 45 minutes without stirring it. That’s helping it to acidify in a certain way. So you’re just helping it along from there. If that cheese never came in contact with salt, though—and salts is the referee—it would just like turn into a little puddle because cheesemaking is like the natural process of decomposition. So if you never added salt in—that referee—it would just puddle and become compost, basically. So you have to add in salt. So that’s the last ingredient is salt. And that’s going to start to come in and control the good bacteria as well as unwanted bacteria.
Lisa Bass I think you just blew my mind on the idea that what happens in the calf’s stomach is what— I always knew that rennet came from there, but I never put two and two together. I was like, “How did they figure that out? How’d they ever figure out that if you take this little part inside the calf’s stomach, that would help to make cheese?” Well, that’s how they figured it out.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, exactly. And that how cheese was invented— or, well, they think cheese was was invented. Because they would store milk in goat kids’ stomachs and stuff. And eventually it would just turn to cheese and they’re like, “Oh, well, that makes cheese. Why don’t we just do that?” So that’s how they think cheese was probably invented.
Lisa Bass Huh. That is so interesting. I’ve never had anybody explain it like that. I knew a lot about the science behind how it happens, like how you explain, but I had no clue why, like the underlying why that even happened. So that is really amazing, and it makes sense as to why we would digest it well and that milk wants to become cheese. So that process is actually really straightforward because it’s like what the milk is meant to turn into.
Robyn Jackson Exactly.
Lisa Bass That is really cool. So what supplies? Is there a very steep curve to what you actually need to getting started with cheesemaking?
Robyn Jackson I kind of tell everyone the first thing that you need to make cheese is something to put it in, a pot. And then everything else after that you can kind of DIY until you’re ready to really start investing into this and kind of figure out that cheesemaking is actually something you want to do because, like anything, it’s very commercialized. You can buy all the gizmos and gadgets and stuff like that. But when I started making cheese, all I used was my canning pot, like my big enamel canning pot, which you’re not really supposed to use that, but it worked fine. And I would make like a DIY little press. I have a lot of resources on my Instagram and stuff on how to do that. Just you can make it with a springform pan and a stack of books. Some cheeses don’t even need to be pressed at all, so you don’t even have to worry about any of the other equipment as long as you have a pot and a thermometer is really nice to have as well. But any kind of kitchen thermometer— bread thermometer, meat thermometer or anything like that will work. So it doesn’t have to have a bunch of money up front to actually make it. The biggest thing, I guess, would probably be the ingredients— your rennet and your cultures that you can buy at like any cheesemaking supply website.
Lisa Bass Good to know. Yeah. So it doesn’t take a whole lot to get started. Now, one thing that I found whenever I have made cheese is that you end up with a lot of extra whey. I’m sure you get this question a lot, but what do you recommend doing with that? Do you have any like tried and true things that you’re always using whey for?
Robyn Jackson Yeah. Well, so much cheese goes through my kitchen that I end up with a lot of whey, so I end up dumping a lot of it just on my garden. You do have to be careful with it, though, because it’s quite acidic. So you don’t want to just dump it in the same spot every time. So I dump it on my garden a lot. I eventually want to get pigs because if you have a milk cow, just pigs such a good companion animal, because you can just feed all that whey to the pigs. Other than that, I use it in all my baking. Any baking that I do, I replace the water with whey. I use it in stocks, like if I’m making a bone broth or something. Instead of water, I’ll put the whey in there.
Lisa Bass Oh wow. Okay.
Robyn Jackson I make a whey caramel recipe. I have it on my blog, and it’s so good. It’s not healthy at all, but it’s so good. So that’s probably my favorite way to use whey. So, yeah, just basically try and replace it in everything that you’re using water for because it is such a nutritious ingredient and you might as well use it if you can.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So if you’re using it in baking— do you do sourdough at all?
Robyn Jackson Yep. Sometimes. Not a lot in the last year, just with Cheese From Scratch, but I did a lot before.
Lisa Bass Okay. How does it do? I’ve never tried it. How does whey work with sourdough? Does it still rise and everything if you replace the water with whey?
Robyn Jackson Yeah, I would replace it completely, not even use water, just use whey. And it worked good for me. I’m definitely not the best baker in the world, so I feel like I shouldn’t give baking advice. But it worked for me. I had good bread, so I think it works good.
Lisa Bass Well, that’s good enough. Yeah. I’m not super particular with baking either. So if it rose and it worked good enough, then that’s good for me. So that’s something interesting because I like that that would use up quantity because I feel like all the other ideas I’ve looked up, it’s like, oh, add a little bit to your smoothie. I’m like, okay, but I have gallons of whey here. What am I supposed to do with this large quantity? So using it for things like bone broth and adding it to your baking recipes, that’s a way that I could actually use it up and it be healthy.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, exactly. And I try not to stress myself out about it, too, because I’ve been at a place where I’ve been like, okay, I have all this whey. I have to use all this whey. How am I going to use all this whey? But then I also have all this milk that I have to use. So if it just comes down to me dumping it outside, I feel like I’m doing okay using all this milk. So that’s kind of like my priority behind it, but it’s nice to be able to use it in quantity in the kitchen.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, because you know it has so many nutrients. You know that where it came from had so much nutrients. So then it’s a byproduct and it’s still so full of so much good stuff. You hate to throw it out, but even putting it in like a soup, just that’s great. I’ve used it for lemonade. Have you tried that? Where you use the whey as a base for like a homemade lemonade?
Robyn Jackson Ooh, that sounds so good. No, I haven’t. I’ve heard of people fermenting it into a bubbly beverage too. That sounds so yummy.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, those are all really good tips. So how do you teach people to fit cheesemaking into their everyday lifestyle? I know that—you mentioned before—that once you know the process, it’s really easy to fit in. You probably get a rhythm with it. But do you have any specific tips for people who are just getting started?
Robyn Jackson Yeah, I think that’s probably my biggest tip is pick the cheese that you want to make and make that cheese so often. That’s the only cheese you make. You don’t make any other cheeses. And you look back to— probably back 100, 200 years ago, your great great great grandma, she wasn’t making 200 different types of cheeses, she was making one or two, and she knew how to fit them really well into her lifestyle because of that. She knew how to do it. She knew that she would be able to run out to the garden at this stage. She probably just didn’t even have to think about it. And I think that’s a huge thing that probably has been lost in the last 200 years, is just being able to watch how your mother makes cheese and runs a homestead. So I kind of teach it in that sense, in that you just have to figure out how to fit it into your life. But it’s the easiest to figure out if you’re not having to do a whole bunch of other things. One big thing that I do do that I really recommend, if you’re beginning cheesemaking, if you have a busy homestead, is making cheeses that you can vacuum seal. So basically any cheese that isn’t mold ripened can be vacuum sealed— or any pressed aged cheese that isn’t mold ripened. So that just takes so much of the work out of it. So when you’re making a cheese that is a pressed aged cheese, the hardest part of learning to make that cheese is actually aging it. But if you’re going to vacuum seal that cheese, the hardest part of learning how to make it is actually making it. And then you don’t have to worry about it after that. It just sits in your fridge or wherever you’re storing it—in your temperature controlled environment—and then you can go ahead and eat it in six months’ time and you don’t have to be looking at it every couple of days. So that’s a big thing that I recommend. And that doesn’t mean— like if you do that now, that doesn’t mean that in ten years, once your kids are grown or things are a little bit less busy or less hectic or you know how to make cheese a little bit better, you can go on to natural aging and doing all these things, but you have to keep in mind that it’s a big time commitment if you’re planning on natural aging all of them.
Lisa Bass Good to know. I really like your idea of mastering the one cheese. I feel like this is something I talk about a lot with meal planning and cooking is getting back to the basics and learning how to do them very well. So mastering just some basic things: learning how to cook meat well, potatoes well. Having these basic meals, but mastering them. It really takes the guesswork out. It’s kind of like having a capsule wardrobe, but like a capsule meal. It’s like that’s how my grandparents did it. They didn’t meal plan and worry. They just did what they did well. And everybody thought the food was so delicious and comforting. And like you said, you can incorporate it into your lifestyle because it’s not something you even have to think about. So just like tomorrow morning, you’re going to make your kids breakfast. You’re not right now sitting here thinking, “Man, one of these days I’m going to get up and make my kids breakfast.” You’re just going to get up and do it because you know exactly how to do it. It’s no big deal. And I think whenever you master something, you feel the same way about it. So I don’t know, I’m looking forward to trying cheddar or something that’s intimidated me for a while.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, exactly. And like, if you were going to go and— I think we’re too hard on ourselves. Because if you were going to go and buy your cheese at the store, you wouldn’t be buying 200 different cheeses. You would buy one or two that was like your staple cheeses. So that’s a really good way to feel like you’re still doing something so amazing because you’re making your family’s own cheese.
Lisa Bass Yeah, definitely. What are some of the frequently asked questions? Common problems? Any common mistakes? You come across a lot of people who are making cheese for the first time. What are some of those mishaps that happen?
Robyn Jackson Probably the biggest one is—like we talked about—just not following the recipe. But that’s probably the biggest one. Another one is contamination, and a lot of homesteaders kind of struggle with yeast contamination because they’re making a lot of bread. And so that’s one I see a lot in the homesteading community, because we almost always have something bubbling or fermenting with yeast on the counter. So that’s a big one I see. I do still make a lot of bread, but I try and keep my bread separate from my cheese. So if you have— maybe make sourdough today and make cheese tomorrow. Or if you’re making sourdough today, put it on the other side of the kitchen. The big thing is kind of the understanding that your good quality fresh raw milk, if you culture it with the bacteria that you want to thrive, if that bacteria starts to feed and kind of ferment that lactose in there and it’s kind of got a head start, it’s harder for other bacterias to get into there or get hold of that milk if there’s already kind of a colony growing in there. So if you’re baking bread on a day that you’re going to be making cheese, making sure that you culture your milk and give it kind of a chance to start to ripen before you start baking your bread. So that’s going to help you limit the yeast contamination from your kitchen.
Lisa Bass Okay. I forgot that I had heard about that at one point and thinking, oh, that would be difficult to do. But then you’ve reminded me that that was a concern of mine because I almost always have something sourdough going. Do you have like a rule of thumb on how many feet in between you find that it doesn’t contaminate or anything like that?
Robyn Jackson Kind of my rule of thumb is I don’t make cheese if my kitchen smells. That’s my rule of thumb. Because if you come into your kitchen and it smells like yeasty bread, that yeast is in the air, and it potentially could get into your cheese pot, is kind of my rule of thumb that I give myself. Probably my biggest thing I’d do is— if I’m going to be baking that day, or I just try not to bake that day. But if I’m going to be, I make sure that I culture my milk early. Even before I even start heating my milk, I’ll put the culture into my milk just to kind of give it a chance to get going. And it’s all about the contamination load because there’s probably some natural yeast present in that raw milk. And if it had a chance to thrive, it could just start to thrive in that pot. So it’s all about making sure that the bacteria you want has the best chance to thrive. I have a yeast versus cheese highlight on my Instagram, and that kind of talks a little bit more about ways to keep contamination from happening. And then, like we said before, if a yeast contamination does happen, and you’re 100% sure it is yeast contamination— because there’s other ways you can have contamination. But usually a yeast contamination, you can smell and you can taste that it’s a yeast contamination. It tastes like kind of over proofed bread, but you can still eat that cheese. It’s just going to be— it’s not going to be good to age or anything like that. But I just had a YouTube video come out where I stretched it into mozzarella. So it’s still usable. It’s not garbage. It’s just different than you intended.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, it’s still edible. Like you said, with any mishap with cheese, a lot of times, it’s edible. And there’s probably other tricks that you have for ways to use up cheese that’s maybe gone a little off. Like maybe it tastes better on a pizza with something. I don’t know. I’m sure you find ways to use the things. Kind of like with sourdough bread, I make croutons, I make French toast casserole. There’s always ways to still utilize something.
Robyn Jackson Exactly. Yeah.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, tell us a little bit about your cheesemaking course. I saw that you are offering 10% off your course with SimpleFarmhouseLife10 coupon code. So, yeah, tell us about that. What’s in it? What people could expect? I mean, obviously, they could expect to learn how to make cheese. Are there different styles of cheese? Yeah. What all do you go into?
Robyn Jackson Yeah. So I created the course with the kind of idea in mind that when you’re done the course, you’ll be able to go on and make any pressed aged cheese recipe you want to make. So there’s three different tutorials in it, but they all kind of go through different steps that you’re going to need and that you’re going to kind of see in the cheesemaking world. And then there’s also in-depth look at each different stage of cheesemaking, lots of troubleshooting stuff in there. And then there’s some of the plans— we have like a monthly Zoom talk where we chat cheese. We chat about a new topic every month. So basically in the end, you should be able to go out into the world and make any pressed aged cheese recipe and you don’t have to sift through all of the information because there is tons of information out in the big wide web.
Lisa Bass Yes, that’s what I love about a course. Like, yes, you can find information out on the Internet, but I love taking it from somebody who’s done it, who’s been there, and then who has compiled it all into a way that I can just sit here and— it’s a way that I’ll actually do it. Whereas a lot of times whenever I put something on my to-do list and then I don’t have somebody helping me through it, it might just get kind of knocked down that to-do list. And so I love whenever somebody has compiled that information together and then having the additional community.
Robyn Jackson Exactly. And like when I created the course, basically my baby was on my hip the whole time. But I’m like, well, it may be a little bit distracting, but it’s also just showing you how you’re going to fit this into your lifestyle and how I fit it into my lifestyle.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I have a couple of courses on business things, and same. Throughout the courses, there’s different babies. Like I’m shooting this lesson with this child, this one with this one, and I’m like, this is just me. If you want to get knowledge on how to grow a business from home, this is what it’s going to look like. And I do think that makes it relatable and so we can know that you actually can do these things with kids around.
Robyn Jackson Yeah, exactly.
Lisa Bass Well, thank you so much for joining me. I think that we’re going to have a lot of people really excited to make cheese. I know that I am. Got to get on that, because this is all so interesting, and I really liked hearing about the science and how to incorporate it into our daily lives. So thank you so much for joining me.
Robyn Jackson Oh, thank you so much for having me. I was so excited for today.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Make sure if you do want to dive in further to learning about making your own cheese with Robyn to use the code SimpleFarmhouseLife10. There will be links in the show notes or in the description box, depending if you’re watching this on YouTube or Spotify, Apple, whatever, to the resources that she recommended, any books, also to her course, her Instagram, any of her resources that you can follow along further so that you can start making your own cheese. I know that I’m super excited about it and I really feel like my eyes have been opened to a lot of aspects of cheesemaking that I did not understand before. And I really think that Robyn has so much great information to share. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.