Never considered cheese making? That's about to change
2020 has seen people taking to their kitchens in droves to discover - or rediscover - culinary skills.
When lockdown was announced in March, suddenly social media became awash with people proudly displaying their blossoming sourdough starters ('starter culture' was a popular hashtag) and subsequent bloomin' loaves.
Indeed, baking in general was revealed to be the culinary craze of 2020, with polls revealing Brits were taking to making pancakes, cookies, banana bread and pizza base with new enthusiasm.
Now, however, retail trends are suggesting a new passion will dominate UK winter: cheese making.
Blessed are the cheesemakers
It's not surprising - cheese is a deceptively easy food to make, not requiring the technical skill of a sourdough or or the time involved in most baking.
In the words of celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, "Only a few generations ago many people made their own simple cheeses at home. I think it's a tremendous shame that so few attempt it now, thinking it too difficult, too complicated and requiring specialist equipment. It's not and it doesn't."
Making your own cheese at home can be done in as little as twenty minutes, with just a few ingredients - you simply need milk, a bacterial starter, such as yoghurt, and an acid, like vinegar. The acid and started react to form a curd in the milk, which can then be scooped out and drained through a muslin cloth in a sieve.
If you're wondering why this is worth your time, firstly, home-made soft cheese tastes delicious. Crumbly, tangy, and it smells delicious. Home-made cheese is delectably adaptable, too: add in dried fruit, nuts, herbs, garlic - whatever your palate fancies. If you want a richer cheese, you can add cream: it's an endlessly variable affair, and much cheaper than purchased cheeses.
As an additional benefit, you'll also be able to control precisely what goes into the cheese, thus excising any added sugar, refined salt, or preservatives you may find in supermarket cheeses. All that, and you're reducing your carbon footprint - no packaging, plastics, or freighting involved.
What you will need, however is the freshest milk possible (raw, unpasteurised milk is best if you can get it, otherwise go for organic), a clean kitchen, and - lamentably - not to be pregnant - this won't be safe for you.
Need a little help getting started on your starter culture? Here's our pick of the best cheese-making starter kits out there:
Make Your Own Mozzarella And Ricotta Kit, £23
This easy-to-use set comes with the ingredients to make nearly a kilo of soft white cheeses, from stretchy mozzarella to fresh ricotta and delightfully tangy Lebanese lebneh. With a dairy thermometer, muslin, easy to follow instructions, you'll be creating cream cheese in no time. Buy now, £23, Not on the High Street
The Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit, £27.50
No friend of dairy? That needn't be a hindrance to making your own cheese. With tapioca, agar, nutritional yeast flakes, and enough ingredients to create 20 batches of 6 different vegan cheeses, the lactose intolerant and animal-product averse alike can rejoice in delicious home made cheeses. Buy now, £27.50, Selfridges
Make Your Own Halloumi Kit, £23
We found this cheese making kit for the famed squeaky Greek cheese yielded a firm, salty halloumi that we loved frying on a high heat and serving with lemon drizzled over it. Better than supermarket versions by a country mile. Buy here, £23, Not on the High Street
Artisan Cheese Making At Home, £16.18
Take your home-made fromage to the next level with this user-friendly guide, from Mary Karlin, an expert cheese-maker. She'll talk you through how to create delicious ricotta, paneer, triple creme camembert -even blue gouda. Buy now, £16.18, Wordery