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3 April 2012

Homemade camembert cheese - 1

The last time I made camembert cheese was on 19 May 2007. This is what I said after doing it:

The entire process took all day and half way through it I realised that cheese making is not "my thing". I'm too impatient for it. But I persevered and produced a decent enough Camembert. I've told everyone who would listen to me that I won't make cheese again but I doubt that's true. I just have to put space between myself and the event and just like childbirth, I'll be back for seconds.

And true to my word, I came back for seconds, albeit five years later - that must have been the space I was talking about. :- ) It seems I have changed a bit over those years because this time I was much more organised and calm and mixing up a batch of raw milk cheese didn't seem like such a palaver this time. In fact, I enjoyed it although it wasn't without its dramas.

I bought a Mad Millie camembert kit from the local stockist at Maroochydore. The kit contained two hoops to help form the cheeses as well as the cultures and rennet needed to make it, or so I thought. I made the first batch up on Friday, I came to the second addition of culture and it looked like I had two cultures the same. I rang the shop. I was assured it was right, she remembered me, and encouraged me to add both cultures. The cheese didn't set. I sat down to read a cheese troubleshooting page on the web. There I read the cheese would not set because the bacterial count was too high - adding that second batch of the same culture ruined the cheese. I rang back and told her, she said the rep was there and he'd bring the right culture over to me. I appreciate that he did that, but that doesn't excuse her bad advice, the fact that she didn't apologise and that I had to throw out four litres/quarts of fresh milk. The high bacterial count made it unfit for the chooks. I won't be using Mad Millie or that stockist again - for cheese or brewing supplies. 

I'm going to try Australian Home Cheese Making for my next batch of cultures. They run courses so I'm guessing they know their cheese. It looks to be the most reasonably priced Flora Danica at $17.50, enough for 250 litres/quarts of milk. These cultures are stored in the freezer so it's fine to buy a larger amount. If you're interested in cheese making, stay tuned because I'll continue to try different suppliers and let you know which ones offer the best service and value for money.

I had four litres of milk left so early Saturday morning I started up again. Four litres will make up two fairly large camemberts. To make camembert you will need:
  1. A large saucepan - like an 8 litre soup or stockpot
  2. A slightly smaller saucepan that will fit inside the larger pot to act as a double boiler OR a double boiler capable of holding four litres of milk
  3. A slotted spoon for stirring
  4. A milk thermometer - I am using the candy thermometer I use when making soap
  5. Two hoops - you can buy these or make them using food grade plastic plumbing pipe that you drill many drainage holes in
  6. A long knife
  7. A syringe to measure out very small amounts of liquid
  8. A wine fridge or an old fridge modified to a set temperature with a thermostat. Narelle has a post on making these modifications on her blog Just like my nan made. We bought a wine fridge at Aldi for $79. Don't pay any more than that because you need to keep your costs down to make it good value for money. I'm pretty sure I'll include cheesemaking in my monthly kitchen tasks from now on, so we should recoup the cost of our fridge in the next 12 months.

This is my double boiler - a soup pot with a 4 litre capacity saucepan resting in it. The soup pot contains water that heats up and allows the milk in the top saucepan to warm gently and stay warm during the process.

You'll need a slotted spoon with a long handle. This will help you gently stir the milk without incorporating too much air into the mix.

To make the cheese:
Everything you use must be scrupulously clean and the milk containers and utensils must be sterile. The kit contained some sterilising liquid to add to water and I used that this time but in the future, I'll use something else.


  1. Put the milk in the pot on the stove and bring the milk to 32C/89.6F
  2. Stir in the starter bacteria Flora Danica according to the instructions on the pack. Don't stir too vigorously, this bacteria doesn't like too much air.
  3. Turn off the heat.
  4. Let the milk sit for 90 minutes with the lid on the saucepan.
  5. After 90 minutes stir in the mould spores - Penicillium Camemberti
  6. Add the diluted rennet. I used 0.5ml vegetarian rennet and diluted it in 2ml water.
  7. Stir for a minute using the slotted spoon.
  8. Cover again and let sit for 60 minutes. Check that the temperature is still at 32C/86.9F. If it's gone down a little, turn on the stove for about 45 seconds to bring it back up to the correct temperature.
When 60 minutes is up, the milk should have set and if you touch the top of the milk, it will be soft, but not liquid anymore. Your milk is now more like cheese and now you'll cut the curd and take off the whey. I'll write about forming the cheese in the hoops, turning it out and maturing tomorrow. Unlike my earlier attempt at camembert I found making this cheese was easy and well within my skill level. I enjoyed the entire process and I know that I'll make much more cheese after this. So come back tomorrow and see what this milk turned into. Hopefully you'll be inspired to make your own cheese too.

22 comments:

  1. Hi Rhonda, I too bought a MM kit and followed their instructions to the letter to make Mozzarella - I ended up with nothing like Mozzarella and was disappointed that the advise I got when I bought the kit was very different to the advice in the kit booklet. I look forward to following your instructions.

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  2. One day Rhonda I'll come back to this post and give it a shot. At the moment it sounds scary! Good on you. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's post!

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  3. Love your post & look forward to hearing about suppliers as i love to make my own cheese. I will be looking up the link you posted today. Thanks for the link.

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  4. Hello Rhonda, I read your post with fascination today. Too bad about that first batch (especially since you couldn't feed it to the chickens) but I'm glad your next batch went well.

    I am making cream cheese today, a soft cheese of course and very simple. It uses rennet and a mesophilic culture, and I substituted my homemade clabber for the culture.

    I am looking forward to reading about your cheesemaking. It is one of my favorite hobbies.

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  5. Sounds like a lot of fun Rhonda..making cheese..I love reading your blog every morning with a cup of tea. It is a great way to start my day. Thanks for the great advice. Lauren

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  6. I love that you compared cheesemaking to childbirth :) Its so true. I make a mean mozzerella but haven't tried any other types of cheese.

    Also, I am giving away a copy of your book on my blog. You're such an inspiration...I just have to share the love! Here's the link to the post:

    http://simplicitymom.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-missed-it-and-giveaway.html

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  7. I've been thinking about making cheese for ages and we currently have two of the dairy cows in milk. DD and I love camembert cheese so I'll return tomorrow for part 2 :).
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  8. I admire your perseverence,Rhonda, there's nothing more disappointing than having to throw away food.

    I once saw a cooking show where an Italian couple made ricotta by putting their pot of milk on a flame under their fig tree,cutting a branch and letting the sap run into the milk - no kidding!
    I've just planted a fig tree and will research this further when it's big enough to try making ricotta.

    Have a wonderful day all :)

    Madeleine

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  9. Cheese making sounds interesting, Rhonda. Not that I intend to make any at this stage. I am keen to know how yours turns out. Pity about having to throw all that milk out.

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  10. Last month was the urban farm handbook challenge and a lot of cheese was on the menu around the world. I made ricotta and paneer. I realize it is too hot and humid here for other cheese, but a wine fridge would be just perfect. I look forward to reading more about your cheesemaking exploits.

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  11. I've been quite scared of making cheese but reading your post has me inspired to try. I have been looking at those kits but unsure if they really are worth buying so interesting to read about your experience with that first mob!
    Going to keep an eye on your cheese posts and perhaps i shall get there this year!!Everything is a learning process so no harm in trying i guess!
    Good luck....hope it turns out well!

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  12. Like you Rhonda I made camembert several years ago but haven't tried again since. It is probably time :)

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  13. I can highly recommend green living australia if you want another source for cheese supplies. Their service is excellent and great products. I ordered a new batch of cheese supplies sunday afternoon and it was dispatched Monday - can't argue with that!

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  14. I am wondering how you make low-fat cheese. I sometimes buy a reduced-fat camembert for a treat for the grownups. Would it work, do you think, if you subsituted skim milk in the process?
    Liesel

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  15. Liesel, I'd make it using low fat milk. I don't see why it wouldn't work. Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.

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  16. I signed up for a cheese making course, only to discover it was a Mad Millie demonstration led by a demonstrator who had no clue about making any kind of cheese. It was a waste of time and money, apart from instilling the idea that cheese making might be fun.

    Green Living Australia is a terrific shop with lots of supplies and advice. They also have classes and I am going to go to one of those before I venture into cheese making.

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  17. we get raw milk every week from a good friend and make all sorts of things with it. Butter (from the cream), yogurt and once, even cottage cheese.
    When I worked in the deli Camembert cheese was very popular, though I never taste it. This is very cool, I might have to try this.
    Thanks Rhonda! :)

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  18. Hi Gabrielle and Diann, I agree that Green Living have good service and products, however, the first thing I saw when I opened up my box of supplies from then was a brush stamped "Made in China". I thought it was such a shame in an otherwise great purchase. I would have preferred they left the brush out and I used my own.

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  19. Oh, how I love camembert! And Reubs has been going on about making cheese for such a long time... I have a feeling we'll be coming back to this post ;)

    Katie x

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  20. Hi Rhonda, never thought of making cheese before, this has inspired me to give it a go. Thank you.
    Please pass on cyber hugs to Sharon for me.

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  21. Hello Rhonda, we are disappointed to read about your unsatisfactory experience using one of our kits. We appreciate the need for stockists to feel confident in selling the product range and are consequently focusing on this. We are working hard on providing staff training and producing clear kit guides for retailers so they can answer customer queries correctly. We also have a full-time Customer Support Team available to answer all questions quickly, whether placed by phone calls, via info@madmillie.com or social media. New retailer guides for retailers and our YouTube kit guides for customers are being filmed over the Easter period to provide extra support. We appreciate your comments and will take this on board to hopefully prevent others experiencing unclear guidance. While we can’t guarantee a 100% success rate, most customers thoroughly enjoy the use they get from our kits which has seen us extend our range to cover a wider range of cheeses in response to this demand. We are a company who are truly passionate about teaching the craft of cheese making and want to ensure our customers succeed as much as possible.

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  22. I would say you don't really need a kit to make cheese. It takes some experimentation, a sterile environment, and some basic understanding of microbiology. But like preserving, you can do it yourself. There are some great You Tube videos about it too.

    Rhonda Jean, I'm glad you had fun with the process.

    AM of the Bread

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