Easy Home Dairy Projects Guide

Easy Home Dairy Projects Guide

A Guide to Easy Home
Dairy Projects


How to Make Yogurt from Scratch

Churn Butter in Your Kitchen, in Minutes!

Making Ricotta in a Slow Cooker

How to Make Mozzarella Cheese in 7 Easy Steps

Easy Recipes for Making Goat Cheese




Download this FREE Guide as a pdf!



How to Make Yogurt From Scratch

By Mary Jane Toth

Yogurt is healthy and delicious. Learning how to make yogurt from scratch is very easy and requires very little equipment. Yogurt is a thermophilic culture which also contains live acidophilus. You will need a starter culture which can be purchased from a cheese making supply company or you can also use a plain unflavored store-bought yogurt. Just be sure it has live cultures and contains no fillers or thickeners.

Plain yogurt is the main ingredient for most of my flavored yogurt recipes. Experiment with your favorite flavors and create your own special treat. You can make any flavor you see in a store. It’s only as endless as your imagination.

Make a delicious breakfast yogurt by adding homemade granola, chopped raisins, dates, or nuts. Artificial sweetener also can be used in place of sugar.

Homemade yogurt will not be as thick as store-bought types. Commercial yogurt has gelatin, nonfat milk solids, and other thickeners added. If you like your yogurt plain and want thicker texture, adding powdered milk to your plain yogurt will give you results that more closely resemble the store-bought variety. Having said that, most people in my household do not eat plain yogurt. My family prefers the custard style flavored yogurt. Yogurt gets thicker as it chills.

The friendly bacteria yogurt produce like room to flourish. Adding more culture than the recipe calls for to the milk will not make the yogurt thicker; it will only make it sourer.

How to Make Yogurt From Scratch

Yogurt needs to be incubated undisturbed for several hours. You can purchase a yogurt maker. Usually, the yogurt makers on the market today make very small batches of yogurt. It is not necessary to have a yogurt maker. My family loves yogurt so much that we eat large quantities of this stuff. I like to make a gallon or two at a time, and then turn it into pints and quarts of different flavors of custard style.

You need a warm place that can hold a temperature of 100 degrees F for 6-8 hours to incubate your yogurt. This can be achieved by using a heating pad, a dish towel and a large kettle (such as a canning kettle) or any large container that can hold your jars of yogurt and be covered to keep them warm.

You’ll need canning jars with lids. The best canning jars to use are the pint or quart sizes. Place the heating pad on the counter. Lay the towel over the heating pad. Pour your warm cultured yogurt into the jars, and set them into the large kettle or container. Fill the kettle or container with hot water up to the neck of the jars of yogurt. Place the whole thing on top of the towel-covered heating pad. Plug in the heating pad and leave the yogurt undisturbed for 6-8 hours. If the yogurt has not thickened after 8 hours, let it incubate a little longer.

If, after 12 hours, it still looks like milk and has not thickened, something has gone wrong. Review your steps.

Some Causes for Failures in Yogurt Making

• High heat will kill the culture preventing the milk from thickening. When warming the milk do not heat above 115 degrees F.

• Incubation temperature too low. Yogurt needs to be incubated at 90-100 degrees F. Temperatures lower than 90 degrees F will prevent the culture from growing.

• Inactive or old culture can ruin a good starter. Make sure you are using a good culture with live bacteria. If using some from a previous batch, make sure it is not too old. The cultures die over time.


• Canning jars with lids (can be pint or quart) depending on how much you are making

• Large kettle, canning kettle, roaster pan or any container that can hold the jars for incubating.

• Heating pad to hold temperature

• Dish towel

• Yogurt maker (optional) only used if making a small batch. If using omit the items above.

Now that you have made yogurt from scratch, what are you going to do with it? The options are endless. See the Countryside Home Dairy e-edition for more than a dozen great yogurt recipes for main dishes, snacks, and desserts.


Churn Butter in Your Kitchen, in Minutes!

By Marissa Ames

If you don’t already make butter, you’re missing out on one of the easiest homesteading products. Follow this short tutorial to learn how to make butter using raw or pasteurized cream, cow or goat milk, cultured or quick, with or without electricity.

Old-fashioned butter churns were how pioneers processed large quantities of cream. But it can be made just as easily in a mason jar, freezer container, blender, or stand mixer. The process is ridiculously simple: Take cold cream and whip it. Then whip it some more. Keep at it until you look in your mixer and say, “Oh, butter!” It’s that obvious and that simple.

Raw or Pasteurized?

If you can’t acquire raw milk in your area, you can successfully make butter with pasteurized cream. And unlike with cheesemaking, ultra-pasteurized cream works as well.

Originally, all butter was made from raw milk. Among other goat milk benefits enjoyed by small homesteads, the cream could be skimmed off, collected for a day or so, then whipped into both butter and buttermilk. And it was made often because raw milk butter has a shelf life of about ten days. Bacteria, both good or bad, are alive and active within raw milk. Then, over 90 years before Louis Pasteur discovered that heating liquids to kill most bacteria kept it from going sour, European dairymen learned that scalding and straining cream made butter keep longer. Butter made from pasteurized cream can be stored up to several months.

If you own dairy animals or have access to raw milk, you can choose whether or not to scald your cream then chill it before making butter. But if you’re at the mercy of the grocery store, simply choose any carton of fresh heavy whipping cream. Don’t use half-and-half, whole milk, or coffee creamers.

Cultured or Fresh?

Raw milk contains lactic acid bacteria. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as milk was collected with sanitary methods. Lactic acid bacteria are one of the good guys. It’s the other culprits which put you in danger.

With European-style cultured butter, raw milk is collected, allowed to sit at room temperature for a day or so, then chilled and whipped. It has a sour, tangier flavor that most Americans haven’t experienced because our butter is pasteurized. Separation of butter from buttermilk also gives you “cultured buttermilk,” the kind you need for leavening batter breads and biscuits. The buttermilk from pasteurized cream doesn’t contain live, active cultures and also doesn’t have the acidity that makes it an important leavening ingredient.

If you only have access to pasteurized cream, you can still make cultured butter. First, you need to culture the cream. Bring it to room temperature (70-75 degrees F) within a sterile container. Add a powdered culture such as mesophilic or direct-set sour cream or buttermilk cultures purchased from cheesemaking supply stores. After letting the cream sit for 12 to 24 hours, chill it thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

Goat or Cow?

Both are tasty but have one distinct difference: cow butter is often light yellow while goat butter is white. This is because cow milk contains more beta carotene from what the animal eats, though the color of both cow and goat butter can vary based on what the individual animal consumes. Commercial butter producers may augment color by adding annatto, carotene, or other food colorings during the manufacturing process.

One big advantage of cow milk is price. A quart of heavy whipping cream is less than $5 for non-organic, which can make up to a pound of butter. If you can find that price on goat cream, let me know where so I can gas up my truck and start driving.

Think only cow and goat milk can be used for butter? Nope. It’s manufactured from the milk of mammals, and cow is just the most common. People from different regions eat butter from sheep, buffalo, yak, and even llama and alpaca.

Electric or Mason Jar?

Here’s the fun part.

You want a machine which agitates the butter and lets you retrieve it afterward. A stand mixer is the handiest because it has a deep bowl, adjustable speeds, and a paddle attachment. Though a balloon whisk or blender blades will also make butter, you then have to scrape the butter off the blades or from between the wires. Single-serving blenders may be too small and you’ll just frustrate yourself trying to retrieve the delicious substance from inside.

Empty cold heavy whipping cream into the mixer bowl. Drape a towel over the mixer to prevent splashing. Start the machine on low, steadily increasing to medium so you don’t slosh all the cream out of the bowl. Don’t go above medium because, once butter separates, liquid splashes everywhere.

Cream thickens into a white, slightly sweet mass that’s great on pumpkin pie. Then, as you continue to churn, it takes on a “rough” texture. Within less than a minute, it will separate into yellowish chunks and white liquid. Mix until chunks come together into a more workable mass. This entire process should take five to 15 minutes.

Stop the mixer. If you’re saving the buttermilk, strain it off and store in the refrigerator. The butter will be so solid you can scoop it with a slotted spoon or pour the entire mixture through cheesecloth, collecting the buttermilk beneath.

You’re not done yet. Traces of buttermilk will reduce storage life. Rinse out the bowl, place the butter back in, and add 1/2 to one cup ice water. Press and work the butter in the water to break up pockets of buttermilk. Pour off the now-cloudy liquid and rinse until water runs clear.

Squeeze out any remaining moisture. If you like salted butter, knead in enough salt until it tastes just right. Then pack the butter into a covered container and refrigerate.

Now let’s make “Butter, the Unplugged Edition.” Knowing how to make butter in a jar gives you a couple advantages: You can make it without electricity, such as on a camping trip or at a renaissance fair. Or you can dump cold cream into a tightly closed and unbreakable container and hand it to your children to alleviate boredom. The process is simple: Put cold cream in a jar. Close the jar. Shake for at least 20 minutes. Take turns or prepare for a great workout. Once yellow butter separates from the buttermilk, strain it then wash with ice water as described above.



Making Ricotta in a Slow Cooker

By Marissa Ames

Accidental Ricotta. Isn’t all cheese intentional? Perhaps making ricotta cheese at home started with an ancient accident. Cheese is a coagulation of the milk protein casein. Quite an unappetizing definition for such a delicious product. And cheese comes in many forms, flavors, and textures depending on how it was made and from what animal the milk derived. Some needs rennet to combine curds into something solid. Harder cheeses are aged for a long time. But softer, fresher versions like ricotta can be made the same day and require very few additional ingredients.

The Basics of Making Ricotta Cheese

• 1 gallon pasteurized or raw whole milk, not UHT or ultra-pasteurized
• 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
• Either 1/2 tablespoon citric acid, or 2/3 cup lemon juice, or 2/3 cup white distilled vinegar
• Salt
• Cooking thermometer
• Colander
• Fine-weave cheesecloth, butter muslin, or clean tee shirt material

Many online tutorials provide instructions on how to make cheese at home, especially fresh varieties like ricotta. And most ricotta recipes require heating the milk in a pot on the stove until it is early boiling, which can result in burned milk if it is left alone for even a couple minutes. This technique is fine if you intend to stand by the stove and stir constantly until milk reaches 200 degrees F.

The last few times I attempted making ricotta cheese, it was a pleasant accident. And accidental ricotta is just as delicious as the intentional kind.

I learned years ago how to make yogurt from scratch, dumping a gallon of whole milk into a slow cooker and letting it heat on low for three to four hours. After the milk tops 160 degrees F to kill any existing bacteria, I turn the appliance off and let the milk cool to 110-120, the perfect environment for growing probiotics. If I turn the slow cooker on before church then attend the three-hour meeting, I arrive home just in time to turn the heat off.

But one Sunday, I forgot about my yogurt as I socialized after my meeting. When I got home, a wrinkly skin floated atop steaming milk. It was nearly boiling.

I had four choices: Throw the milk out. Cool it off then feed to my dogs and chickens. Make curdled yogurt that tasted overcooked. Or make ricotta. Deciding to try yogurt again the next day and pay more attention to my timing, I chose the ricotta.

My kitchen already has the necessary cheese-making ingredients and implements. So I mixed my acid with bottled water. Got a clean square of cheesecloth from a zippered plastic bag. Lined my colander. And made accidental ricotta.

Making Ricotta Cheese in a Slow Cooker

Start with raw or pasteurized milk. Don’t worry about listeria or other raw milk issues because after it reaches 160 degrees F it will no longer be raw. Do not use UHT or ultrapasteurized milk; this product has been heated so high the proteins are damaged and will not curdle properly. Also, do not use skim or 2 percent milk. The casein is within the fatty portion of the milk, so a reduced-fat or nonfat product will result in very little ricotta though the initial gallon of milk will be about as expensive as whole.

Empty milk into a slow-cooker that holds at least one gallon and turn onto the low setting. Milk can also be heated on high if it is well monitored so it does not scald. Heating on low allows you to leave for several hours without burning the milk. Place the lid on the slow cooker and let cook until it reaches 189 degrees F to 210 degrees F.

Dilute the acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) in water. If using municipal water, consider keeping bottled water in your pantry for making cheese because chlorine can affect curd. Stir the acidified water into the milk. The milk must be over 189 degrees F to curdle properly and, if it is, soon you should see a separation of tiny white curds and yellowish whey. Let stand for a minute until curds and whey are well separated. If whey still looks opaque and creamy, add more acid.

Line the colander with the cheesecloth. If you wish to save the whey for your garden or livestock, place the colander over a large stock pot. Carefully pour hot curds and whey into the cheesecloth to drain.

At this point, the ricotta will taste like the acid you used to separate it. Unless you want an acidic product, lift the colander from the pot without disturbing the cheesecloth. Run cool water over the ricotta, rinsing it. Let the colander sit on a countertop or over a pot until most of the dripping has stopped.

Ricotta Cheese

Tie up the corners of the cheesecloth into a bag and hang from a strong kitchen faucet or from a rolling pin set across a deep stock pot. If you want a wet ricotta, only drain a few minutes. A drier product should hang 15-20 minutes.

Empty ricotta into a small mixing bowl. Salt to taste; one half to one tablespoon per pound of cheese is usually just right. For a smoother product, a few tablespoons heavy cream or melted butter may be stirred in. Ricotta may be immediately consumed, used within a recipe, or covered and refrigerated up to a week.


How to Make Mozzarella Cheese in 7 Easy Steps

By Marissa Ames

You can learn how to make mozzarella cheese, start to finish, within thirty minutes. When I learned how to make mozzarella cheese, I had no idea I’d be starting an addictive legacy with my daughter. Either she warms the milk and adds rennet, stretching curd to make cheese, while I knead and rise the pizza crust, or I’ll craft mozzarella while she slices and roasts eggplant and simmers garden marinara, making ricotta cheese to layer between.

Because making mozzarella cheese is that easy. If you keep key ingredients on hand, it can be as spontaneous as craving cheese, pulling milk from the fridge, and enjoying it before the hour is over.

Simple mozzarella ingredients are:

• One gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized
• 1/2 tablespoon citric acid or
• 1/3 cup lemon juice
• 1/4 tablet or 1/4 teaspoon cheese making rennet
• 1/2 cup cold water

Necessary equipment includes a pot holding at least a gallon, dairy thermometer, slotted spoon, colander and cheesecloth, microwave-safe bowl, and the microwave itself.

THE MILK: Use whole milk. Because cheese is composed of curdled proteins and butterfat, 2 percent milk produces half the cheese as 4 four percent. A gallon of each costs about the same. So, get the most for your money and buy milk with high-fat content. Raw milk is fine, as is pasteurized. But do not use ultrapasteurized (UP) or heat-treated (HT) milk because it will not curdle.

THE CITRIC ACID: I learned how to make mozzarella cheese using citric acid but reworked the recipe for my sister, who is allergic to corn. In the United States, citric acid and distilled vinegar are usually made with corn. It’s nice to have alternatives when serving to loved ones with allergies.

THE RENNET: Purchase cheese making rennet; types intended for custards and desserts are not strong enough. Good rennets can be found online or in brewing supply stores, and tablets work just as well as liquid. If you’re just learning how to make mozzarella cheese, purchase tablets because unused portions can be frozen between cheese making adventures. I prefer liquid; it’s great if you know you’ll use it all before it expires. To learn more about why rennet matters, read “The Gift of Rennet” in the Countryside Home Dairy e-edition.

THE WATER: Chlorine and heavy metals interfere with curdling so bottled or distilled water are best. These ingredients are for cow milk mozzarella. Making goat cheese mozzarella also involves thermophilic starter culture to help curdle proteins. That recipe can be found in Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making book.

How to Make Mozzarella Cheese

Got your ingredients? Your equipment? Ok, start your timer!

STEP 1: Warm milk within the pot, over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid scalding. At the same time, separate water into two separate 1/4-cup containers. Dissolve citric acid or lemon juice in one and rennet in the other. If rennet tablets don’t fully dissolve, don’t worry.

STEP 2: When the milk registers 55 degrees F on the dairy thermometer, add the mixture of citric acid and water. Stir gently. As heat climbs, you’ll see the liquid attain a grainy texture as proteins curdle.

Step 3: When the milk registers 88 degrees F on the dairy thermometer, add the mixture of rennet and water. Stir gently. Now, as heat climbs, you’ll see those small grains change into larger, rubbery curds surrounded by yellowish whey.

Step 4: When the milk registers just over 100 degrees F, either lift curds from the whey with a slotted spoon or strain curds through a cheesecloth. Collect curds in the microwave-safe bowl.

Step 5: Microwave curds for 30 seconds. Squeeze off excess whey and heat again. Carefully, because this can get hot, stretch them like taffy, pulling and folding over then stretching again. If curds start to break instead of stretch, return to the bowl and heat another 15 to 30 seconds. Do this four or five times, creating a smooth and elastic product.

STEP 6: Salt to taste (I like about a tablespoon per pound of cheese) then heat and stretch one more time to mix it in. Don’t add salt before this point because it can affect stretch.

STEP 7: Time to finish it off. How do you like your mozzarella? Separated into three equal portions then heated and stretched so you can braid it? Rolled in little balls and marinated in herbed oil? Or squeezed into one tight ball so you can slice or grate it later? Either way, work it while it’s hot then cool it down. Immerse mozzarella balls in ice water if you wish to use them immediately. Or wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator.

A Note about Real Mozzarella

Fresh mozzarella does not melt. It stretches. This can be delectable on paninis but an unexpected challenge for macaroni and cheese. Instead of being disappointed, rethink your food’s form. Slice mozzarella into little “coins” to alternate with heirloom tomato rounds on a margherita pizza. Shave narrow slivers to stack over lasagna noodles. Use chopped mozzarella bits on top of pasta, providing texture, rather than melting into the noodles.


Easy Recipes for Making Goat Cheese

By Kate Johnson

If you’ve never made cheese, start with the quick & easy cheeses that need minimal equipment and ingredients and are ready to eat fairly quickly. These vary in complexity and aging time.

Chévre: Soft Fresh Goat Cheese

1. Heat 1 gallon of goat milk in large stainless steel pot to 72 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp mesophilic culture* on the milk. Let sit for a minute or two to hydrate then stir in. Let it sit at room temperature to “ripen” for 2 hours.

3. Dilute 2 drops of rennet in 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water and stir gently into ripened milk.

4. Cover pot and let sit at room temp for 12-20 hours.

5. Gently ladle the curds into fine cheesecloth (butter muslin). Tie up cloth and hang over a sink or tie on the handle of a large pot and let the whey drain for about 12 hours.

6. Your cheese is done! You can add approximately 1/4 tsp kosher or non-iodized sea salt, and/or add herbs or other flavors.

7. Eat within 2 weeks and/or freeze for several months!

* You can substitute 1-2 tbsp cultured buttermilk or homemade sour cream for the mesophilic culture, if desired.

Feta: Dry Salted, Brined, or Marinated


1. Heat 1 gallon of goat milk in large stainless pot to 70 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp mesophilic culture onto the milk and continue heating to 86 degrees F; stir culture into milk, cover and let ripen at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Mix 1/2 tsp liquid rennet into 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water; stir into milk; let sit 1 hour.

4. Cut curds with long knife into 1-inch cubes; let rest 5 minutes.

5. Stir curds while keeping at 86 degrees F for 15 minutes.

6. Ladle into cheesecloth and hang to drain for 6-8 hours.

7. Take out of bag and cut slices approx. 1 inch thick. Place on flat dish and sprinkle all sides with kosher salt.

8. Cover plate with a paper towel and let set at room temperature for 24 hours, turning 2 or 3 times and salting each side again. Drain liquid each time.

9. Refrigerate for 5-7 days.

10. Eat within 2 weeks or freeze.


1. Heat 1 gallon of goat milk in large stainless pot to 70 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp mesophilic culture onto milk and continue heating to 90 degrees F; stir culture into milk.

3. Mix 1/2 tsp liquid rennet into 1/2 cup cool non-chlorinated water; stir into milk; cover and let sit for 30-45 minutes.

4. Cut curd into hazelnut-sized pieces.

5. Slowly stir for 15 minutes; let sit for 5 minutes or until curds settle.

6. Remove the whey until you can see the curds.

7. Scoop the curds into baskets, filling them and topping off again.

8. Flip the cheeses 6 times over the next 24 hours.

9. Rub with non-iodized sea salt or kosher salt and let sit another 24 hours.

1 0. Put cheese in a 10 percent brine (6 1/2 ounces salt to 1/2 gallon water).

11. Leave in brine for one month (pasteurized milk) or two months (raw milk) at 50-55 degrees F.


Using finished feta from either of the above recipes, cut or break cheese into small pieces. Layer cheese and herbs into a jar. You can use fresh herbs, dried herbs, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. Cover with olive oil. Any cheese that is completely submerged in oil will stay fresh for several weeks to several months.

Cottage Cheese

(While cottage cheese is traditionally made with cow milk, it’s also a delicious goat milk cheese!)

1. Pour 1 gallon of milk into a stainless steel pot. Heat milk to 75 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp mesophilic culture on milk; let hydrate then stir into milk.

3. Optional: dilute 1/4 tsp of calcium chloride in 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water and add to warm milk.

4. Dilute 1/4 tsp liquid rennet or 1/4 tablet of rennet (pulverized) in 1/4 cup of non-chlorinated water and add to milk.

5. Cover pot and let sit for 3 hours at room temperature (if room is cool, you might set the pot in a warm water bath or put in a cooler to help hold the temperature).

6. Using a big whisk, carefully break the curds up into pea-sized pieces. Let curds rest for 5 minutes.

7. Slowly warm the curds to 105 degrees F while stirring gently.

8. When the curds are firm, pour them into a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

9. Rinse the curds gently under cold water until the curds are cold.

10. Place the curds in a bowl, add noniodized salt to taste (approx. 1/4 – 1/2 tsp) and add milk or cream until you get the creaminess you desire (approx. 1/3 – 1/2 cup).

11. Best eaten fresh but you can store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Once you’ve mastered a few easy cheeses, you may want to move to pressed and aged cheeses.

Kate Johnson is the founder and lead instructor of The Art of Cheese — an artisan home-cheesemaking school located in Longmont, Colorado. Find more of Kate’s recipes and tutorials in each issue of Goat Journal.