Sanitation and sterilization is an important first step for making delicious homemade cheese. Sterilization for cheesemaking is particularly important when making hard cheeses. It’s the only way to ensure that your milk (and cheese) has been cultured by the correct strains of bacteria.
This post on sterilization for cheesemaking is part of a series of posts on cheesemaking. Check out Cheesemaking 101 for a complete list of topics.
SANITATION AND STERILIZATION
Sanitation is when you clean something really well. It removes the surface bacteria and fungus, but not everything. Sanitation is usually good enough for fresh cheeses, that you plan on eating within a few weeks.
Sterilization is when every single bacteria, virus or fungus is killed. It is necessary for making hard cheese, but I recommend it for all types of cheese.
- Pull your hair back.
- Wash your hands and sing “baa baa black sheep” under running water, before touching anything to do with food preparation.
- Wipe down your counters with a sanitization solution, especially if you use a few different types of culture in your kitchen. Sourdough, kefir and kombucha are contaminants when it comes to making cheese.
- Sterilize all of your equipment, before (and preferably also after) use.
METHODS OF SANITIZING
There are several different ways of sanitizing equipment. I usually fill up one of my sinks with a commercial sanitizer and keep all my equipment stored there while I’m making cheese.
- Boiling: Fill a large pot up with water and bring it to a boil. Boil all of your glass and metal implements for 5 minutes. *This won’t work for plastic and wooden items.*
- Bleach: Dip all items in a solution of 2 tbsp of bleach per gallon of water. Rinse items well prior to use. Bleach can also be used for spraying down surfaces.
- Commercial Sanitizers: There are many different types of commercial sanitizers available. I use iodophor sanitizer, which doesn’t affect the flavour of milk. Just follow the instructions on the package and rinse well prior to use because sanitizers will also kill the good bacteria that you want to ferment.
CLEANLINESS IS KEY TO FERMENTATION SUCCESS!