(and eating!)



 (Painting - The Ricotta Eaters, Vincenzo Campi, 1585)

I have been experimenting with making cheese, both at home and at events. There are many recipes which call for cheese of various descriptions.

Prepare a pound and a half of best fresh cheese… (White Torta, Platina book 8)
take good fat cheese….(Darioles, Ancient Cookery p 37/433)
Take yolks of ayren raw and cheese ruayn … (Tart de Bry, Forme of Cury p. 744/A30)

Digby has a recipe for making cheese (as part of the recipe To Make Cheesecakes)

Take 12 quarts of milk warm from the cow, turn it with a good spoonfull of runnet. Break it well, and put it in a large strainer, in which rowl it up and down, that all the whey may run out into a little tub; when all that will is run out, wring out more. Then break the curds well; then wring it again, and more whey will come. Thus break and wring till no more come. Then work the curds exceedingly with your hand in a tray, till they become a short uniform paste. (Digby p. 214/174 To Make Cheesecakes)

Adding cheese making to your event routine

We have been making cheese (soft cheeses, rennetted cheeses and ricotta) at events this year.
I find that it is somewhat easier (and quicker)to do it over the fire than on our tired electric stove (two small burners work well and the large one has a twisted sense of humor - low doesn't always mean low).


We get our cow milk at the local food coop in glass bottles, which makes it easy to transport. We also get fresh goat milk from the farm up the road - also in glass jars.

Preparation before the event

A few days before an event, I get a couple of bottles, pour off some of the milk and add either cultured buttermilk, some Nancy's (local - well Eugene,OR company) yogurt, or one of the cheese cultures from (they have some great books and cultures). I let it sit out for the next day or so, packed in one of the kitchen boxes (not a cooler) and off we go to the event.

It's time to make cheese…

Sometime after breakfast, I put the milk into a cauldron and heat it up over the fire, to 180 or so, I would recommend that you use a thermometer. The milk shouldn't boil as it will give a burnt taste to the cheese.

I have found that I almost don't need a thermometer, the milk's texture and smell changes noticably when it gets to the correct point.


 Remove from the fire and add the vinegar and let it work. You are looking for a clear seperation of the curds and whey.

The curds will be small and soft.


 Pour the curds and whey into a cheese cloth lined bowl or cauldron (if you want to make ricotta as well.)

The mixture is hot so be careful.

 Then hang it from a handy tree
(or the table or the cooking tripod if trees are lacking).It usually drains by dinner time. Periodically, squeeze the cheese, manipulating the curds so that you keep the whey dripping.

 and we have fresh cheese.....

(about 30 or so minutes invested in time, a little longer, if you have to explain to all the visitors to camp what you are doing.) We have found that we often have return visitors, 'cos they want to taste the cheese.

You can mix salt and or herbs into the cheese for variety.



We also have made ricotta, and renneted cheeses at events. It's easy, we are stuck in camp (it is also our merchant booth) and is a great occupier of curious kids and conversation starter "what's in that dripping bag hanging from the tree?".....


1 gallon of milk
1 cup or so of live culture yogurt
1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar

 Things you will need

Pot or caldron
Spoon to stir the milk
Strainer (to sift out the ash that invariably gets in the milk)
Instaread Thermometer
Cheesecloth and string to hang the curds


Period Sources

Ancient Cookery from A Collection of the Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household made in Divers Reigns from King Edward III to King William and Queen Mary also Receipts in Ancient Cookery, printed for the Society of London Antiquaries by John Nichols, 1740.

Sir Kenelm Digby, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby, Opened (published posthumously in 1669).

The Forme of Cury, A Roll of Ancient English Cookery, ed. S. Pegge, printed for the Society of London Antiquaries by John Nichols, 1780.

Platina, De Honesta Voluptate, Venice, L. De Aguila, 1475. Translated by E. B. Andrews, Mallinkrodt 1967. (Both Platina and Kenelm Digby were published as part of the "Mallinkrodt Collection of Food Classics." Reprinted by Falconwood Press, 1989.)

Collections of Recipes

Cariadoc's Miscellany. The Miscellany is Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992.

Cheesemaking Resources

Home Cheesemaking: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses 3rd Edition, Ricki Carroll c. 2002, Story Books, North Adams MA.