New Hobby – Cheese Making

draining whey from cheese curds

Initial Draining Of Whey From Cheese Curds

So, I have a new hobby. Cheese making. Actually, I’ve been making cheese for a long time, but didn’t really know it. I like to make my own yogurt, and often will drain off much of the whey from some of it to make a thicker “Greek Style” yogurt, from which I’ll make Tzatziki Sauce. I do this using two basket style coffee strainers inside a sieve and let the whey drain off into a large measuring cup.

But sometimes in the past, I’ve wrapped up that thicker yogurt in cheese cloth and hung it from a nail over my sink to let it drain further for a couple of days. I didn’t realize it, but what I was doing was making a yogurt style of cream cheese. It’s delicious on toast and crackers – or with some dried herbs such as Sumac added. Or even some garlic.

About two years ago, I had heard of people making cheese in their homes and selling it at farmer’s markets. That made me curious, as I love cheese – all kinds but especially feta and various cheddars. It piqued my interest enough to do some research, and I ended up purchasing a feta cheesemaking kit – with the supplies necessary to make feta about 8 times, each from 4 litres (approximately a gallon) of milk.

My first attempt did not go so well; I was not prepared for all the time I would need to spend, nor how difficult it would be to figure out how to get milk to a temperature of precisely 90F and then keep it there for a couple of hours or more. But the cheese turned out okay, and I wanted to try again, now that I had a handle on the process. I checked out some cheese making forums and learned some ways to heat the milk that I would be able to attain and then maintain the correct temperature and a few other tips.

Since then, I’ve made too many batches of feta cheese to count, and presently have two pounds aging in brine in my fridge, that I made a year ago.

How Much Cheese Can You Make From A Gallon Of Milk?

I was pretty surprised when I made my first batch of cheese with a gallon or 4 litres of milk. It’s amazing really – out of all that volume of milk, you only end up with about a pound (just under half a kilogram) of cheese. The rest of the milk becomes whey – which is usable for many things including preserving and aging feta.

When you realize how little cheese you get from a gallon of milk, it makes it much more understandable to see good quality cheese that is so expensive.

Is Cheese Making Easy?

“Easy” is a relative term. Making soft cheeses such as the yogurt cream cheese is very easy and does not require anything much more than good quality cheese cloth or muslin. And a place to hang it. If you want the cheese to last a bit longer in the fridge, it’s a good idea to also salt it. Salt is a preserving agent and combats bad bacteria, while allowing “good” bacteria to live.

I have not yet tried a cheddar or a hard cheese that would require a press, and that type would be more difficult than soft cheeses, but now that I have a press, I do plan on giving cheddar a try, and then also move onto to hard cheeses (cheddar is actually not considered a hard cheese, but still requires some pressing).

The Basics Of Cheesemaking

I might explore some further details for different types of cheeses, but basically, cheese is made with some type of bacterial culture. Traditionally, the culture would be from whatever was natural in the cow’s milk, generally speaking.

Soft cheeses and yogurt are made with bacterial cultures that are referred to as “mesophilic” while hard cheeses are made from those referred to as “thermophilic.” The first type are cultures that thrive in conditions under 100F – probably in a range of 80 to 100. Thermophilic cultures are those that thrive above 100F.

For my feta cheese, I have been using a culture known as “Probat 222.” For 4 to 6 litres of milk, you only require about 1/8 of a teaspoon to inoculate the milk.

Generally speaking, cheese also requires rennet – sometimes called “yeast” in some European countries. Rennet is available both in liquid and tablet form, and can be made from animal sources or vegetable sources. Traditionally, it has been animal sources.

After the bacterial culture is allowed to propagate and ripen the milk for a period of time, rennet is added to the milk which then causes the curd to form, and they whey to separate. After the curd has firmed up, it is then slowly cut with a knife, which allows even more whey to be expelled. Then, the curd and whey continues to be heated, sometimes at a slightly higher temperature while being gently stirred for 20 minutes or more. This is sometimes called the “cooking” stage.

Most of the curd will eventually fall to the bottom, and the whey is then skimmed off and reserved if it is to be used for other things. The curd is then placed into cheese cloth, allowed to drain a bit longer, and then placed into a mould.

For feta cheese, the “modern” way of making it is to then place the curd, wrapped in cheese cloth into a mould, where the curds continue to drain for around 24 hours or longer. The curds will also “knit together.” Then, it is cut into smaller pieces, each rolled around in course salt such as kosher or pickling salt (you can get cheese making salt but I don’t think it’s really required) and allowed to drain another couple of days while sitting on a screen in an enclosed container.

After a few days, you can make a brine with water or use the reserved whey and make a whey brine. The recommended concentration of salt is about 10%. The chunks of feta cheese can be aged and preserved in the brine in a cool place – a fridge is best, of course.

Traditional Feta Cheese Making

Most people may know that feta originate in Greece. I happened to have a most awesome friend in Greece, who’s grandmother made feta cheese in the traditional way. It was interesting to learn that she did not add any bacterial culture, but relied on the bacteria that was already present in the unpasteurized milk, straight from the cow. At cheesemaking time, rennet was added and then the milk was allowed to sit for two or more hours.

In the instructions I received, the cheesemaker should wait only about 45 minutes after adding the rennet before cutting the curd, so I was surprised to hear that they would wait two hours or more. I’m going to try that sometime to see what happens and what the difference might be.

Then, after the curd is cut, it is put inside cheese cloth and allowed to fully drain in that, without being put in any kind of mould. Once it’s been drained of whey, it is cut into chunks and then added to a bowl that contains salt, and left there for several days. After this, it’s added to salt brine in tins.

There are probably a lot of ways to make cheese and while some methods may give better or more desirable results, it’s fun to experiment and learn how others do things!

Obtaining Cheese Making Supplies

In Canada, there are not many online retailers of cheese making supplies. I found one out in British Columbia where I first purchased the feta making kit – and was pretty excited. However, subsequent orders and follow-up with them have not been satisfactory, so I’m unable to recommend that company. They seem like very nice people – I have talked to the owner twice – but unfortunately, they got one of my orders wrong, promised to rectify it, but never did. They also did not reply to follow-up emails or voice mails left at their telephone number.

I’m going to try some other suppliers and will see who I might be able to recommend. HOpefully, soon, as I’ve managed to acquire a Dutch Cheese press and am itching to try out some other cheeses as soon as possible!

Residential Elevators?

I have to admit I’ve never really thought much of having a house with an elevator inside. I know such homes exist, but to me, such a luxury was always reserved for the rich and famous, and those too lazy to use the stairs! But recently, due to some business dealings, I discovered that indeed, having an elevator or stair lift installed in one’s home is now a serious concern among many, and also something that is much more affordable than you might think.

With our aging population, and more and more people wanting to be able to enjoy lives in their own homes, many are deciding to have an elevator or lift installed in their home. This gives the homeowner more freedom to enjoy their homes, whether they need such equipment inside, or as an external installation to be able to comfortable enter the house where there are stairs.

Thankfully, my own health is wonderful at this point, and I have no need to think about such things, and hopefully I won’t have to. But for those that do have some concerns about being able to enjoy their living spaces or other properties, the option of having an elevator or lift installed is now a serious option that is not reserved for the rich only. Of course, it’s not “cheap” to purchase and have an elevator installed either, but it’s in reach for more people today, than it was decades ago.

I came across a wonderful family owned business who specialize in both the supply and installation of home elevators, as well as providing amazing maintenance services! They are located north of Toronto, but their service area includes Eastern and Northern Ontario. Because their home base is close to Orangeville, their name suits – Headwaters Elevators And Lift Services – as this is known as “The Headwaters” region.

In learning more about the company, I was very impressed with their ongoing commitment to high quality service and customer satisfaction. These people are COMMITTED to bringing the best products and the best service, including ensuring the highest degree of safety and comfort, in residential elevators.

If you’re in the GTA, give them a look up for toronto home elevator installation and service! Tell them I sent you, as well 🙂

J. K. Rowling Defending Offense

The other day, I wrote about my thoughts On Free Expression and Being Offensive. This morning, I came across an article on with a video of J.K. Rowling defending offensive speech.

I thought she put it very well:

The tides of populism and nationalism currently sweeping many developed countries have been accompanied by demands that unwelcome or inconvenient voices be removed from public discourse. Mainstream media has become a term of abuse in some quarters. It seems that unless a commentator or television channel or newspaper reflects exactly the complainers’ worldview, it must be guilty of bias or corruption.

Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable. Only last year we saw an online petition to ban Donald Trump from entry into the UK. It garnered half a million signatures. Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.

His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination.

If my offended feelings can constitute a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the right for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand along tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.


On Free Expression and Being Offensive

There are times when I am simply stunned (by the way, that has been considered a derogatory term – I can recall in primary school, some pupils asking others, “Are you stunned?” meaning, “Are you stupid? A dunce?”) by the arguments put forth by some for “safe places,” and “trigger warnings” in universities. It has got to the point in some circles, where even discussing the merits (or lack of them) of so-called safe spaces and/or trigger warnings is considered “offensive.” Some apparently even see it as a lack of respect or lack of empathy to someone who has experienced a “traumatic” experience.

I for one don’t deny that traumas occur and can have dramatic effects on individuals. I’ve experienced more than a few traumatic experiences in my life. That doesn’t make me special, but it does mean I have some experience with trauma. I also get “flash backs” from one in particular – responding to a call of gunshots and being first on the scene to discover a young person shot in the head. His brains were oozing out on to the sidewalk. And I was pretty much helpless to do anything except remove my jacket and put it over his shivering body while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I still have flashbacks from time to time, recalling how utterly helpless I was to save this individual.

Perhaps I should have posted a trigger warning alert before writing about that experience.

I’ve also had a few other traumatic experiences in my life that have included spending the better of a four year period as a child on strict bed rest and having to use a wheelchair when mobility was required. I had to learn how to walk all over again – and I did that on my own, against “Doctors Orders” at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto.

As a teenager, I experienced the shame (to me) of being sexually assaulted by another man, and I know first hand how these predators operate.

I am not writing about these traumatic experiences to ask for your empathy or to read your “Sorry for your experiences.” Indeed, I can recall from back in high school, some of my school mates expressing a sentiment of being sorry for my earlier illness and its consequences; but deep down, I actually felt embarrassed when the sentiment was expressed. I don’t doubt for one minute that they were genuine – but my perspective was that I was Very Happy to somehow have managed to overcome the illness and could walk when I had been told that I might never walk again. I also believed that the experience actually gave me some positive ways to look at life in ways others could not. In high school, I tended to try to make friends of some of the friendless and defend those who were bullied or made fun of for their own background or physical limitations. Yes – bullying did go on back then as well.

The reasons I am including my experiences is to show that I do have some ideas of what many people go through.

The Problem With Empathy

Actually, there is no problem with empathy, and it’s a very important human characteristic and one I value. I wish more of our law enforcement types understood and had empathy. I remember following the trial of Constable Forcillo in Toronto who shot a knife wielding young man. During the trial, Forcillo mused, “If you are pointing a knife and are refusing to do what I say, why will things magically be OK if I ask if he wanted a glass of water?”

I wanted to exclaim to Forcillo, “We don’t know if it would be magically ok, but you’re showing empathy and in doing so, immediately changing the dynamic of your relationship with Sammy Yatim (the man who was shot). You’re coming up with a surprise element that Yatim likely was not expecting. Yes, offering a glass of water while showing empathy could have changed the outcome of that event completely.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that empathy ought to be a consideration in universities when teaching difficult material. Universities ought to be places where professors and students have the freedom to express ideas, regardless of how some might find them offensive or “triggering.” Indeed, it seems to me that many students have missed out on some basic philosophy: that words and symbols are merely the expression of ideas, and neither ideas or words are “things.” A word or symbol in of itself cannot be offensive unless there is some offense in the mind.

Additionally, every word has at least two meanings. If someone uses a word in a way that expresses an idea that they are communicating, but you stubbornly refuse to accept that meaning of the word, and insist that somehow the word is “offensive” because you are refusing to consider other ways it can be used, it is you that is being childish and probably ought not to be in university. You are actually refusing to learn about other meanings that a word can have.

Learning and facing up to this fact – that words are merely an expression of ideas – might actually be helpful to you in your road to overcoming traumas. If you have been traumatized in life, that is your goal, isn’t it? To get past being a victim of trauma, and to find ways to thrive in life, despite your experiences? I don’t care what your therapists tell you: The best way to overcome your trauma is to meet them head on. Demanding empathy of others, and thereby requesting or forcing them to alter educational content is NOT going to help you get over your traumas.

Words indeed can have power – until one grows up and recognizes that words are expressions of ideas. You may not like the ideas being expressed, you may not agree with them, but so what? Are the only ideas that ought to be expressed are the ones you agree with, or that give you warm fuzzy feelings inside? Or only words that you’ve decided on because you reject that they can have more than one meaning?

You can never ever change this truth that words are expressions of ideas. If they offend you, it is you that needs to take ownership of your offense that is in your mind. Stating this is not a lack of empathy on my part. It’s just a simple fact. If by pointing out this fact, it offends you, that is your problem. It does not mean I am not an empathetic person. It does not mean I don’t have empathy for your traumas or life situations. While I do think empathy is very important, valuable, and a quality I admire, I have a higher value of defending the free expression of ideas.

In fact, I believe that the freedom of expression actually leads to more empathy and I respect your freedom to talk about your traumas and express them. When you, as a person who claims trauma or marginalization, demand a limit on words that are acceptable, or a limit on expression of ideas, so that no one’s feelings are “hurt,” you’re actually being tyrannical.

You are infringing on my right to hear someone else’s ideas, because you don’t want them to express them because of your “feelings.” How are your feelings more important than my right to hear someone’s ideas, just because they hurt your feelings?

On The Importance of The Expression of Offensive Ideas

I’ve changed my own beliefs over the years, dramatically. Some of my friends and family who have not come along on the same journey as I have, don’t appreciate how my core values and beliefs about many things have changed. That actually could be “trauma” for me; and indeed, sometimes it has been traumatic.

Reading and hearing the expressions of ideas that I once found offensive at one time motivated me to deeper thinking about my own premises. They challenged me, and I am glad those expressions were not censored. Some of those ideas expressed “hurt my feelings.” But those were my feelings, and I am the one who needs to take ownership for the projection and emoting that was in my mind.

There are also many ideas expressed that I have issues with – and would never support, but I support the right and the freedom of their authors to express them. Some of their ideas have motivated other ideas in me, and further argument and support for “negative rights” of human kind. I have learned to enjoy controversial subjects, and have learned, within myself, to not emote or project over them. I support and will continue to support the satire of anything, even so called “cherished beliefs.” If you want to regulate that, then perhaps a better place for you is in a cave; you can try to regulate it and you might be successful for a time, but you’ll never ever be able to universally and totally eliminate the expression of ideas that offend you.

The freedom to express offensive ideas is vital. It is vital to learning, it is vital to you, and indeed, to individuals who have somehow felt repressed or traumatized, this defense of freedom of expression of even ideas that might be “offensive” is vital to you.

It is vital to defend the expressions of that which you vehemently disagree with. Or even are offended by. And you ought to also have the freedom to express your own opinions – and the can all be tested by logic and checking premises.

Look.. don’t emote on what I have written here. I’m a man that’s had a challenging life at times. I’ve been in a wheelchair. I’ve been sexually abused. I’ve seen people die. I saved a son from being adopted out. I am not an “unfeeling” person but when it comes to the expression of ideas, feelings have nothing to do with it.

I invite offensive ideas. I often toss away those that have premises I know to be invalid, but I still accept their right to be expressed.

I’m very worried about this new idea of limiting expression based on “feelings” and trauma some have had.

Please feel free to comment and show me where I am wrong.