Friday, November 30, 2012

How to make Gouda cheese - the recipe and a picture tutorial

If you like this tutorial and want to go deeper, I teach a self-paced online cheese making course, where people learn how to make Gouda, Cabra Al Vino, Chevre and Greek Yogurt).  If you want to learn more about that, click here!)

Or you can buy my Kindle book "How to make Gouda" for $4.99, which includes access to my helpful demonstration movie here.

You can also download the printable instructions for this recipe by clicking the button below.

What you need:
(the links are clickable for your convenience)

- 2 to 4 gallons of milk (either raw milk or pasteurized)

- Mesophilic MM 100 cheese culture

- Liquid rennet

- Calcium Chloride

- Cheese cloth

- Cheese mold or make your own 

- Cheese thermometer

Cheese press (or watch my youtube video on how to make your own)

- stainless steel pot, ladle, measuring spoon, knife

Some background:

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I think I have milk flowing through my veins instead of blood.  I grew up in Southern Germany, which is prime dairy country.  Imagine rolling hills, the Alps in the background, cows with giant cowbells mellowly grazing in lush, green pastures.  The smell of country air (to this day, I love the pungent smell of freshly manured fields).

Needless to say, I grew up with the best cheese, yogurt and milk made by local Bauern (farmers), sold at the weekly farmer's markets and little village stores.
In other words:  I am a cheese snob.  When one of my American friends first showed me Kraft cheese that sprays out of a can, I almost barfed.

However, I know that not every person likes factory cheese with food coloring, and that in fact, many people have discovered artisan cheeses.  Many small scale cheese makers have found their niches, catering to consumers' ever growing sophisticated appetite for high quality cheese.
This is great news for me, because many people want to learn how to make it!  Cheese, that is.  And since my little princess self has successfully made goat cheese for over ten years, I can impart this knowledge.

Enter my cheese making classes.  I teach one a month (or so), starting in May, when the baby goats are weaned, and the milk is flowing.  I taught my last Gouda cheese making class of the season a couple of weeks ago, and I want to share the process and some pictures with you.
First of all, this is what my students get to sample:  Chevre, Feta, Cheddar, Gouda, Manchego, and Tomme, all made by me (and my goats, of course).

Step-by-step directions:
(Short recipe with quantities is below)

So here is how you make Gouda cheese.  You start with nice fresh milk (each one of my goaties give me over a gallon every day).  At peak milking times, I have gotten as much as 3.5 gallons of milk a day.  Do you now understand why I have to make cheese?  I use raw milk, of course, but you can easily make cheese with pasteurized milk from the store (use calcium chloride).

First, add calcium chloride, then heat milk.  Add mesophilic culture.  I use freeze dried DVI (direct vat inoculated) cultures, because they are amazingly convenient and easy to use, and there are different kinds for different cheeses.

You let the milk sit quietly while you do the dishes, or home school your kids, or put laundry away.  Heck, you might even put your feet up and relax.

I let the milk "ripen" for 15 minutes (for other cheese, this takes an hour), and then I add rennet.  Rennet has enzymes that coagulate the milk.  It is extracted (dear vegetarians, please avert your eyes and ears) from the fourth stomach of a calf.  They make vegetarian rennet, but I don't like it at all.

Now the magic really starts!  The rennet is slowly going to thicken the milk, and it's important to cut the curds at the right time.  Too soon, and the curds are too soft, and if you wait too long, the curds are going to be too tough.  This is one of the handy things about taking my online cheese making course, so you can watch me demonstrate exactly when to do it, and how to tell when it's ready!

It usually takes my raw goat milk 25 minutes to get a "clean break", but it takes longer for pasteurized cow milk.  Here is what you are aiming for:

The recipe says to cut the curds the size of peas, so we are aiming for 1/4 inches. Here’s how you do it:

Insert your knife 1/4 inch from the side of the pot, then slowly draw the knife through the curd in a straight line. Be sure the knife reaches all the way down to the bottom, otherwise that part won’t get cut.

Then just keep cutting parallel to the first line you just made 1/4 inch apart from it, til you get to the other side of the pot. So now you basically have a pot full of 1/4 inch slices.

Next, turn the pot 90 degrees and repeat the process. Now you have a checkerboard pattern of 1/4-inch square curds.

Next, slant your knife at a 45 degree angle and cut the curds in lines 1/4 inch apart from each other.

Turn the pot again a quarter of a turn, and repeat the cutting.

Turn it yet again a quarter of a turn, and repeat the cutting.

This process is cutting the curds uniformly into small pieces. Time yourself during the whole cutting process: It is supposed to take ten minutes. Slow down...

Here are some of my students cutting the curd. It helps to look really serious when you do this.

Next, heat up the curds by adding hot water in a couple of steps. But first, drain 25% of the whey, which means you just take out a little bit of the liquid that has formed on top of the curd mass.

Add 140 degree water to the curds until they reach a temperature of 90 degrees. Add the water slowly so you don’t overheat everything.

While you add the water, stir the curds very gently the whole time, so they don’t stick together. You have to be gentle with goat curds, because they are very, very fragile, like a baby's bottom. Cut bigger curds while you stir, since you can’t get them all the same size the first time around.

Stir for 12 minutes. 

Drain the whey to half of the original (milk) starting volume, then add water of 140 degrees until the curd reaches a temperature of 95 degrees. 

Stir the curds for 10 minutes. GENTLY!

My little daughter likes to help stirring the curds
Soon, the curds will firm up, and then it's time to drain the whey.  I put it in buckets to feed the pigs, and besides, you do not want the whey to clog up your septic system!  Don't ask me how I know this.  All I can tell you that it involved several hundred dollars.

And now, you put the curds into some cheesecloth, put them in a cheese mold, and press the curds in a cheesepress, and they will turn into beautiful cheese.

Press at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. Flip the cheese over and press at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes again.

If you want to make your own cheesepress, watch my youtube video on how to make your own, easy, inexpensive cheesepress.

After pressing, take the weight off, but leave the cheese in the mold until you are ready to put it in brine.

Put the cheese in the brine 12 hours after adding the culture. I usually make cheese in the morning, and then put it in the brain at night, before going to bed.

Leave the cheese in the refrigerated brine overnight. In the morning, take the cheese out and pat it dry with paper towels. Put it on a cookie sheet and a cheese mat to dry at room temperature. Turn it regularly so it gets a lot of air circulation. This process can take up to five days. If mold develops on the cheese, you are not keeping it dry enough, or there is too much humidity. Wipe off the mold and rub down with a salted rag.

When it's dry, either vacuum seal it or wax it (I go into lots of detail on how to do this in my book and in my online course).  Wait for at least two months to eat it.  Do not cut into it too early!  Sit on your hands, put duct tape over your mouth, hide the cheese somewhere so you will forget about it, do whatever it takes not to be impatient (You are talking to one of the most impatient people on the planet, so I know this from experience).  Cheese is much more flavorful when it's aged a bit, and you are supposed to wait at least two months before consuming it if you use raw milk to make it safe.

Most cheeses need relatively high humidity and a temperature range of 50-55 degrees F to age properly. Humidity should be no less than 75 percent and no greater than 95 percent. I accomplish this in our cellar, but a lot of people use a wine cooler turned up to its highest temperature, with a bowl of water in it to control humidity.

Here is the recipe I use:


- If using pasteurized milk, dilute in 1 cup cool water: 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride per gallon of milk, then start heating the milk

- In a stainless steel or enamel pot, warm 2 to 4 gallons of milk to 84 degrees

- Add ¼ teaspoon MM 100 culture for 2 to 4 gallons, add ½ teaspoon culture for more than 4 to 10 gallons

- Let sit for 15 minutes to ripen

- Add ½ teaspoon rennet diluted in ½ cup of water, stir thoroughly for 30 seconds for 2 to 4 gallons, add 1 teaspoon for more than 4 to 10 gallons

- Let milk sit (coagulate) for 25 minutes (or until you get a clean break when inserting your finger into the milk)

- Start heating water in a different big pot to 140 degrees to add to curds later

- Cut curd into small cubes (sizes of a pea) for 10 minutes

- Drain 25% of the whey

- Add water of 140 degrees until the curd reaches a temperature of 90 degrees

- Stir the curd gently for 12 minutes (cut bigger curds with a knife while stirring)

- Drain the whey to half of the original (milk) starting volume

- Add water of 140 degrees until the curd reaches a temperature of 95 degrees

- Stir the curds for 10 minutes

- Drain the curds and put into a mold in a cheese press at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes

- Flip the cheese over and press at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes

- Take weight off mold, but leave cheese in mold until you are ready to put it in brine overnight

- 12 hours after adding culture, put cheese in brine in fridge (stir 2 pounds of cheese salt into one gallon water)

- Leave cheese in brine for 12 hours, then dry on cheese mat in a warm place for several days until cheese is dry

- Vacuum pack or cover with cheese wax, age at least 2 months before eating

Happy cheesemaking!  And remember: If you want to learn more, go more in-depth, and have me hold your hand step-by-step, then please participate in my self-paced online cheesemaking course where you get my e-books, my videos, and a private Facebook group.

Or purchase my Kindle book "How to make Gouda Cheese", which grants you access to my exclusive demonstration movie, showing all techniques in detail. Click here to buy it for $4.99.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to make a kid's pixie hat - confessions of an obsessive compulsive knitter

I offer the pattern for this pixie hat for free on the bottom of this blog post.

I have had a life long addiction with knitting and spinning that borders on obsession.  It's also my psychotherapy, or at least that's what I tell my husband when I fondle deliciously soft mohair at the yarn store, and I look at the price tag, and I swallow hard, and I look again, but that didn't change the number.  Then I look at Steve, who patiently stands by, and I say shyly, "It's cheaper than psychotherapy", and Steve pats my shoulder and takes the yarn to the cash register, bless his heart.
I started spinning my own yarn eleven years ago, which has made both Steve and me happy, because we save a lot of money, while I found yet another form of psychotherapy in my spinning.

At craft shows where I sell my yarn and other hand knit creations, a lot of people are so amazed and impressed that I spin my own yarn, but it's really not that hard.  I want to show you the process of how I start with the raw materials and then end up with a handknit creation.

For example, take this brand new pixie hat I must made.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of handpainting and dyeing the roving, but that's an entirely different subject, which I will address as soon as I dye another batch.
So here is a batch that I dyed a couple of weeks ago.

Then I spin and spin and spin, and spin some more.  In the summer, I do it outside, but in the winter, I sit in front of the wood stove.  It's almost impossible to take good pictures inside, so here you have the summer version.

When the yarn comes off the skein, I soak it in water, then hang it with some weight to take out the twist and "set" it.

When the yarn is dry, I start knitting.  Here is the hat on needles, first the cast-on project, then progressively more knit, and finally, all done!  I used two strands of yarn for it: one is my yarn, the other is a yarn made from recycled wool and cashmere, which is really amazing.  It's called Plymouth Yarn Refashion, and it goes perfectly with my own yarn.

And here is another pixie had I made for Eva last year.  She loves it, and whenever she wears it, people stop us to ask who made it.  I knit that one from my handpainted, handspun yarn as well.  I will post the pattern once I get a chance to write it down.

And here is another one I just made today, and I sell the pattern for it here:

On the way back from our photo shoot in Rasar State Park, a beautiful rainbow made the drive home extra special.


Size: This hat has a circumference of 16 inches unstretched, and 18 or more inches stretched, which means it can fit a 6-12 months old baby up to a 3 year old child.

Needles: four double pointed needles in size 11 (8.0 mm), and a longer needle in size 11 (8.0 mm) for casting on (since you can't fit 42 stitches on a small double pointed needle)

Gauge: 3 stitches = 1 inch. A word on gauge and sizing: You can use a bigger gauge with bigger yarn (or just double it up) and bigger needles and thus get a bigger hat that will fit an older child.

Yarn: This yarn or this yarn would work beautifully for this hat.  Personally, I use my own bulky yarn (You can order it at  


Cast on 42 stitches on the longer needle.

Distribute the stitches evenly onto three double pointed needles, so you have 14 stitches on each needle.

Use the fourth needle to start knitting in the round, being careful that the stitches are not twisted around the needle.

Place a marker at the beginning of the round. Knit until work measures 3.75 inches, or 1 to 2 inches longer if the hat brim rolls up quite a bit.

Decrease 6 stitches: (Knit 2 together, knit 5) repeat what's written inside the brackets for one row (36 stitches left).

Knit 4 rows.

Decrease 6 stitches: (Knit 2 together, knit 4) repeat what's written inside the brackets for one row (30 stitches left).

Knit 3 rows.

Decrease 6 stitches: (Knit 2 together, knit 3) repeat what's written inside the brackets for one row (24 stitches left).

Knit 2 rows.

Decrease 6 stitches: (Knit 2 together, knit 2) repeat what's written inside the brackets for one row (18 stitches left).

Knit 1 row.

Decrease 6 stitches: (Knit 2 together, knit 1) repeat what's written inside the brackets for one row (12 stitches left).

Knit 1 row.

Knit 2 together, repeat this for one row (6 stitches left).

Knit 2 together, repeat this for one row (2 stitches left).

Put all 3 stitches on one double pointed needle and start working I-cord in the following way:

Knit the 3 stitches. Do not turn the work. Just slip your work to the other end of your double pointed needle. Your working yarn will be at the "wrong" end of your work. Pull the working yarn tightly along the back of your work and knit the next row. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have I-cord of about 3.5 inches (or shorter ,or longer).

When the i-cord is as long as you want it, thread the yarn through a needle and fasten off all three stitches.

Weave in all loose ends.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving thankfulness

This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for the animals on our farm.  They give us lots of food and entertainment, especially the pesky goats.  Our Ancona ducks are an endangered heritage breed.  They like to hang out with black and white things, like soccer balls.  No, I'm just kidding.  I merely thought the football in the picture was a nice touch.

The goats give us milk, cheese, yogurt, and kefir.  Let me introduce Gracie and Coco.  I know, I know, they don't have any ears, but that's because they are a breed of goats called "La Mancha", known for their high butterfat, high solids milk, which is ideal for cheese making.

This year, we raised 60 meat birds with our neighbors.  They are the tastiest chickens I have ever eaten, fed on organic grain and free range pasture.  Our ten and eight year old sons Kai and Lukas were very involved in the whole process.  They know where their food comes from.  They nurtured the little baby chicks, watched them grow, and finally enthusiastically eviscerated their guts after they were slaughtered, ahhhh.... harvested.

Dear chicken, thank you for becoming our Thanksgiving dinner

Plucking chickens is a nasty, nasty job.  You can see how much I am enjoying the process.

I know it's gross and graphic, but this picture distills Lukas' helpful spirit.  Notice how some chickens are much plumper than others.

And here is the chicken when it came out of the oven for our Thanksgiving dinner.  I like to bake it with bacon, to keep it really moist, and to show off the bacon that came from pigs raised on the whey brom my cheese making.

And finally, I am extremely grateful for my family.  My kids have brought so many blessings into my life, and Steve, my amazing husband... how lucky am I?

Maple Leaf... no, wait!  It's Lukas!
Little Eva
Steve, the wilderness man, who knows how to blow fire into a flame, made from rubbing two sticks together!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Home schooling in the wilderness - what's it like?

I home school my kiddos, which is great, but lonely sometimes.  We live in the boonies, and I don't mean in some charming sub-suburban lot with a big backyard and garden.  I am talking about wilderness type of boonies, where bears steal our apples, bobcats poop in our yard, and bald eagles and hawks make sure that our old chickens get... disposed of.  I am talking about having to drive half an hour to get to the tiny town of Concrete, and one hour and 15 minutes to the "big" city of Mount Vernon, which harbors the closest health food store.  (That's why I grow a lot of our own food and raise goats for our own milk.  We never run out of milk or have to "go to the store" go get more.  Like a three hour round trip to get milk for our breakfast oatmeal).

So.  Back to home schooling.  You probably think I am some kind of freak, depriving my kids of a social life, making them milk the goats and do farm chores, with no friends to play with.  Well, this couldn't be further from the truth.  In fact, our social life is sometimes a little bit overwhelming.  Being rural folks and all, we really like our neighbors and immediate community.  A lot of amazing people live here, and a lot of them have kids, and some of them home school.  You bet we hang out a lot.  Especially in winter.

You see, we get 100 inches of precip here.  That's one hundred.  That's a lot of rain, showers, water, snow, mist, fog, downpour, and drizzle.  Sometimes I am tempted to check the feet of the old timers around here, just to see if they have webbed toes.

Home schooling in this wet, dark climate is hard sometimes, not so much in the summer, but in the winter, when we are all cooped up in the house together.  You know, the days when I have insomnia all night, and have to drag myself out to the barn to milk the goats, and then come in the kitchen to see that my three year old angel is strewing dog kibbles all over the floor.  When my eight year old shuts down because I make him do addition and subtraction.  When my ten year old gives me a terrible attitude about helping me do dishes.  When my wonderful, active kids bounce off the walls because they don't want to go out in the torrential rain.

So we go to "town" once a week to attend a home schooling program with lots of awesome moms, kids, and experienced teachers.  It's heaven for the kids, because they get to hang out with their buddies (and learn some stuff from the teachers, but who cares about that?), and it's heaven for me because I get to hang out with the other moms who are just so cool.  They can relate to my experience, instead of talking with non-home schooling moms who say, "Oh, you get to stay home all day and do nothing, and enjoy your sweet kids?"  Oh, yes, honey, that's right.

So that's what we did today, and it was the kind of day when the rain is a topic on NPR, because there are flood and storm warnings.  Our two and a half hour commute was wet, but beautiful.  Here are some images:







Saturday, November 17, 2012

Homeschool nature class in the wild

Yesterday's nature class for our home school group was a smashing success - soggy and cold, but a smashing success.  Despite the weather, there were a lot of smiles...

We walked out to our debris hut camp, where the kids gathered leaves and fortified the debris hut roof.
See how cozy and dry little Eva is inside the shelter?

We then did a fire challenge, where two teams had to light a fire with materials they gathered (plus some dry cedar we supplied), but it was really, really hard with all the wet materials.  The competitive spirit roared, if not the fires....  Here is a happy girl scraping cedar to start the fire.

Which team will burn the string first?  None.... It was too wet!  They all put in a great effort, though.
Steve assisted in the fire building, and soon it was nice and warm, ready to roast sausages, trout, and fry an egg on the keyhole fire pit, which is a way to cook on heated rocks.  The kids (and adult assistants) were duly impressed.

The kids have been playing a number of awareness games (owl eyes, deer ears) to help them slow down and expand their senses in the wild.  They also did a "sit spot", where they find a quiet spot in nature and become very quiet and aware.  You would be astonished to witness some of the younger kids actually sitting down quietly without complaining.

The kids are having so much fun romping around in the wild, learning new skills, bonding with their friends, while we grown-ups gently guide them, but let them be wild and happy.
You can find out more about it here.

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