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(post, Jackson Walker)
If you have ever thought about making cheese at home, you should understand that it is a challenging and time-consuming process, but it also can be very rewarding. Knowing you are eating something you made yourself is always a good feeling, but eating a lasagna you made doesn't even compare to eating a lasagna you made with your own homemade ricotta! It takes practice to get it right, like anything else. The trick is to try the right recipes for beginners and to have the right equipment for the job. Whether you are starting with a nice, simple Indian paneer or you are ready to try something more complex like cheddar, you will need to buy most of the same items. Of all the cheese making supplies you will need the most important are a cheese cloth, a metal strainer and some kind of no-rinse sanitizer for your cooking pots and utensils. Because the milk for most recipes is not boiled, and since cheeses often cure at room temperature, cleanliness is even more important when making cheese than it is with regular cooking. Without a strainer and cheese cloth, gathering curds is next to impossible. You could fake it with a colander and a thin towel, but you will end up making a huge mess and could end up losing as much as half your batch. Another really important item you will need is a good food-grade thermometer. An electronic one with an alarm on it is best, but a basic one will do, as long as it measures temperatures down to 75 degrees as well as higher temperatures. Most of the process is done between 75-120 degrees, and you need accurate readings for proper bacterial culturing. Unless you plan to make only small batches using less than a gallon of milk, you need a large pot for heating milk. It does not have to have a lid, necessarily, but the kettle should be large enough to accommodate at least two gallons with room left over to avoid spills from vigorous stirring or curd cutting. The easiest way to achieve those cube shaped curds is with a specialized curd cutter tool. Even the slimmest of these cutters will displace some liquid, so a larger pot is best. After the milk is heated, the curd is cut and the whey has been strained off, you will need to shape and dry your cheeses in a mold with plenty of air holes. Once the seasoned curds have been shaped, the aging process begins. All you can do then is waiting, so the last thing you'll need is something you can't buy: patience!