In the old days, cheesemakers were limited to using what they had on hand. Straw baskets were used for drying cheese, animal stomachs for coagulation, and common dish towels for draining sacks. Today we have specialized tools, most of which developed from the practical resourcefulness and ingenuity of generations of cheesemakers gone before us.
In addition to the basic cheesemaking supplies you may have already acquired, some specialized tools and equipment can make advanced cheesemaking go much more smoothly. Consider these items as your cheesemaking skills progress:
8 Advanced Cheesemaking Tools
1. Curd Knife
A good curd knife has a long, straight blade that reaches clear to the bottom of the pot, while not immersing the handle. It usually has a flat tip, so as not to scratch the cheese pot during the curd-cutting process.
2. Cheese Board
A cheese board is a handy draining platform commonly used for cheese like Brie and Coulommiers. It is normally a strong, sturdy, well-seasoned board made a hardwood like birch or maple. Cheese boards can also be used for drying cheese. It is recommended that you have at least two on hand.
3. Cheese Mats
Cheese mats are woven mats made of reed or food-grade plastic. They can be purchased from cheesemaking supply houses and are used for air-drying cheese. Sushi mats or square plastic needlework blanks found at craft stores also work as cheese mats.
4. Cheese Press
It is a large expense, but a good cheese press is essential to making hard cheeses. Many people make their own cheese press at home. If you would rather purchase a cheese press, however, there are many options.
We carry a range of cheese presses, listed below from least expensive to most expensive:
5. Drip Tray
A drip tray is necessary for placing under the press to catch the expressed whey so it doesn’t make a mess on your kitchen counter. A deep cookie sheet works well, but specially-made drip trays are available from cheesemaking supply stores that are a little more sturdy.
6. Cheese Molds
Cheese molds come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The experienced cheesemaker will enjoy experimenting and noting how a cheese's flavor and texture can change completely when made in a different mold.
We carry a wide selection of cheese molds, all made of bpa-free food-grade plastic.
7. Cheese Wax
Cheese wax is food-grade and pliable and made specifically for waxing hard cheeses. Cheese wax comes in several colors: natural (yellow,) red, clear, and black. Beeswax can also be used, but it is usually more expensive. Good cheese wax is reusable, which means it can be melted back down and strained to remove particles after you have removed it from the cheese.
8. A Record-keeping Notebook
Experienced cheesemakers usually keep a notebook and pen handy during cheesemaking and write down steps taken and deviations from the recipe, so that a cheese which turns out to be a favorite, even by accident, can be replicated; or a change which results in a less-than-stellar cheese can be avoided in future batches.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the fun you can have making cheese, and with your new arsenal of tools, you will be well-equipped to prepare virtually any cheese.