Sanitation is an important first step for making delicious homemade cheese. It is particularly important when making mold-ripened or hard cheese.
This post on sanitation for making homemade cheese is part of a series of posts on cheesemaking. Check out how to make cheese at home for details on the other steps involved in making cheese.
SANITATION versus Sterilization
Sanitation is when you clean something really well. It removes the surface bacteria and fungus, but not every single contaminant.
Sterilization is when every single bacteria, virus, or fungus is killed. This isn’t typically possible or necessary for the home cheesemaker.
In general, sanitation is not required for fresh cheeses that you plan on eating within a few weeks. However, it is necessary for making hard cheese. And it’s really the best way to ensure that your milk is cultured by the correct strains of bacteria.
- Pull your hair back and put on a face mask.
- Wash your hands and sing “baa, baa black sheep” under running water before touching anything to do with cheesemaking.
- Wipe down your counters with a sanitation solution, especially if you use a few different types of culture in your kitchen. Sourdough, kefir, and kombucha are all contaminants when it comes to making cheese.
- Sanitize all of your equipment before 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. Here are a 3 different methods of sanitizing:
- 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 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 for cheesemaking because it doesn’t affect the flavor of milk (unlike chlorine sanitizers). 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.