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Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they show us how to make cheese

Making cheese isn’t difficult, it’s just not common in most North American kitchens.

Sarita Cataldo regularly turns six gallons of milk into two kinds of cheese in her Elkhart kitchen.

She makes ricotta, a soft Italian cheese often used in lasagna and pasta shells. That’s the second cheese. The first is a firmer cheese. “People have told me it tastes like farmer cheese,” she said.

These are fresh cheeses. They’re refrigerated and aren’t aged like cheddar or swiss.

A workshop at the Purdue University Elkhart County Extension Office on Saturday, June 7, will show people how to make cheese, including lemon, ricotta, chevre and mozzarella.

Thirty-six people are already signed up for the workshop from 9 a.m. to noon, but more would be accepted, said Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross. She and her husband, Mike, will teach the class, which costs $20 per person or couple. It will be held at the extension office at 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen. You can register by calling 574-533-0554.

Cataldo doesn’t measure much and does a lot by feel. As she taught Lupe Troyer how to make the cheeses, she talked about the milk getting “warm, not hot,” but doesn’t use a thermometer.

To make the farmer’s cheese, Cataldo:


  1. Warms 4½ gallons of fresh, whole milk and adds a small amount of rennet to separate the curds and whey. She covers that and lets it sit one to three hours.
  2. When it solidifies, break it into small pieces with your hand. “You know it’s ready when you take a fingernail across and (the line) stays,” Troyer said.
  3. You can scoop the curd into a basket or strainer to form the cheese. Press out all the whey you can get out of it.
  4. Pour salt onto the top of the cheese. It’ll take the salt it needs, Cataldo said.
  5. Let sit overnight and brush off any extra salt.

To continue the process and make ricotta:

  1. Add 1½ gallons more milk and warm it. If it boils, your ricotta will turn out tough.
  2. Around 195 degrees, add the juice of four lemons and a glass of cold water (about two cups).
  3. When the cheese separates again from the whey, scoop it into a strainer. That’s usually after it’s cooled, even overnight, Cataldo said.

A Bon Appetit recipe uses two cups of whole milk, one cup of heavy cream, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and two tablespoons of lemon juice. The latter two are added after the milk boils.

Cataldo said the type of milk you use makes a big difference. She uses farm milk in her cheeses.

Lienhart-Cross uses pasteurized milk and said you can even make a small batch with milk that’s been getting older in the refrigerator and you don’t want it to go to waste.

“They’re all fairly simple,” she said of the cheeses she’ll demonstrate making Saturday.

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