Ready to dive into making a hard cheese with rennet? This Butter Cheese recipe (sometimes called Butterkase) is a great place to start! Butter cheese is a washed-curd, pressed cheese that uses rennet to coagulate the curds. It is a semi-firm cheese with a smooth supple paste with a sweet, mild flavor.
Why Should You Make Butter Cheese (Butterkase)?
Butter Cheese makes a great snacking cheese and toasts up a killer grilled cheese sandwich. It’s the perfect cheese to make for children to enjoy. Try serving it someone whose palette is accustomed to commercial cheese and doesn’t appreciate the complex, sharp, and diverse flavors of many artisan cheeses. They’ll think you’re amazingly talented!
This Butter Cheese recipe is GREAT for folks continuing on to the next level in their cheese making journey!
As we’ve discussed before, there are three different ways you can coagulate milk to make cheese.
- Direct Acid Coagulation, which you can learn while making Ricotta Cheese
- Lactic Acid Coagulation, such as when making Cream Cheese
- Rennet Coagulation, this is how most cheese, such as cheddar, is made
Butter Cheese is the perfect first hard cheese to make at home. There is no complicated cheddaring or aging process to also learn alongside renneting. (We’ll cover those steps next time!) It’s a fairly quick hard cheese to make as well and can easily be in the press before lunchtime. The shorter aging time means you’ll be able to enjoy this cheese more quickly!
Never make cheese without keeping records! A Cheese Making Log, like in the Homestead Management Printables, is an important tool for the home cheesemaker.
- Have plan for your workflow.
- Track of when you made cheese.
- Track of the next step in the aging process.
- Record variations in recipes. Sometimes a mistake makes the best cheese!
- Record impressions of flavor & taste.
What is Rennet Coagulation?
Rennet is an enzyme found in the stomach of young ruminant animals such as calves and goat kids. Their systems use this enzyme to help digest milk. It coagulates the milk into curds. Microbial and vegetarian sources of rennet are not as reliable as animal sources. Even worse, the other alternative, FPC Enzyme rennet, is a genetically modified organism (GMO.) I use WalcoRen animal rennet as a non-GMO source of animal rennet.
You would use rennet coagulation for any cheese where you did not want the bacteria to convert all of the lactose into lactic acid (Lactic Acid Coagulation). That method creates a distinct, tangy flavor which is delicious in many cheeses, but not always desired. I imagine not too many folks would like the flavor of cream cheese smeared on their hamburger, right?
Likewise, you cannot use a direct acid to coagulate hard cheeses because the high temperatures needed for the acid to coagulate the cheese would kill off the cultures we are using to steer the flavor.
What is a Washed-Curd Cheese?
Some mild cheeses such as Gouda and Havarti are made by “washing” the curds. This is simply done by removing a portion of they whey (in the case of Butter Cheese we remove half of it) and replacing it with hot water. This reduces the acidity of the whey used to cook the curds and is what makes these cheeses sweeter.
One concern to be aware of when making washed-curd cheese is that it’s more prone to coliform contamination. Do not eat any cheese you suspect has been contaminated.
Signs of contamination are cheese blowing out of the hoop, audible fizzy popping sounds when you give the cheese a little squeeze, and an abundance of holes when you cut it. A few holes such as you see in the photo above are perfectly fine. Sometimes a cheese will have holes because the cultures are gas-producing. Sometimes it will be what are known as “mechanical” holes. That’s what mine are from. I’m using a new hoop and suspect I need a larger follower to make better contact during pressing. An example of a cheese with coliform contamination can be found here.
Because Gouda is a mesophilic (low temperature) washed-curd cheese it is more prone to coliform than Butter Cheese which is made at a higher temperature with thermophilic cultures. I’ve only been suspicious of one Butter Cheese being contaminated and threw it away just to be safe.
What are Cheese Cultures?
There are two types of cultures used to make cheese: Mesophilic Culture & Thermophilic Culture. Which one you use will depend on the highest temperature used in your cheese recipe.
Mesophilic Cultures are used for lower temperature cheese (under 90 F.) Any temperature higher and the cultures will start to die. Thermophilic Cultures are used for higher temperature cheeses and start to die over 128F.
Like probiotics, there are different strains of good bacteria in these cultures. They influence flavor, texture, gas production in a cheese. While you can experiment with different mesophilic cultures in recipes that call for mesophilic culture or different thermophilic cultures in recipes that call for thermophilic culture, you must note that your final results will vary.
Butter Cheese is heat to 108F so you must use a Thermophilic Culture to make it. Thermo C is my favorite culture for making Butter Cheese.
While you can make mother cultures at home and freeze them to culture your cheese, I prefer using freeze-dried, commercially prepared cultures. While I’m all about self-sufficiency & DIY, this is one instance where if I’m going to be standing in the kitchen for half a day I am not going to risk having a batch of cheese go all rouge on me then turn out with an unexpected flavor. Especially in the summer when I would MUCH rather be outside! So I play it safe and use commercial cultures with confidence, knowing I’m going to have a darn tasty cheese in the end.
How to Make Butter Cheese (Butterkase)
Let’s simplify the process of how to make Butter Cheese for you down to the most basic steps & cover what is happening to the milk during the process!
Step One: Sanitize Your Equipment
The most important step of making any cheese is to sanitize the equipment! Skipping this step and you could be wasting the rest of your time spent making cheese. You can boil your equipment but I prefer to use One Step Sanitizer. It doesn’t take as long or leave mineral deposits on your equipment. Allow enough time to air dry before beginning to make cheese. Towels can harbor bacteria.
Step Two: Warm the Milk
The first step to making this Butter Cheese recipe is simply warm the milk to 102F. Do this slowly over medium-low heat. (I shut my burner off for the last few degrees to make sure I don’t go over the target temp.)
Warming the milk begins to acidify it and prepares it for the culture.
Step Three: Acidify the Milk
Add the thermophilic culture to the milk and vigorously stir it for a couple of minutes.Using a culture is very important because it influences what the cheese will look and taste like.
Step Four: Coagulate the Milk
Add the rennet and stir it slowly but thoroughly for about 30 seconds. Stop the motion of the milk and allow it to sit while the curds coagulate, undisturbed, for half an hour.
Step Five: Cut the Curds
Check for a clean break and then cut the curds into ½” cubes with a long curd knife. Create a half-inch grid across the top. Then come them from an angle to cut the long columns of curds you created into cubes. Let them rest for a few minutes to lock in some whey (moisture).
Step Six: Release the Whey
Because this is a semi-firm cheese we want to release some whey from the curds but not as much for harder cheeses like swiss or cheddar. You release whey from the curds by warming (cooking) and stirring them. Contrary to popular belief, whey is not actually released during the pressing stage, it must be done in the pot.
Step Seven: Wash the Curds
While the curds are in the pot with the whey, they will continue to acidify. Because we want a sweeter cheese we remove half of the whey and replace it with an equal amount of hot water. This is called “washing” the curds. When making Butter Cheese the process of releasing the whey is completed in the watered down whey mixture.
Step Eight: Press the Cheese
Pressing Butter Cheese is done in 3 steps. The first pressing actually happens “under the whey” to help form the shape while keeping the cultures warm and reduce the amount of “mechanical holes” in the cheese. (Those are holes left between to curds during pressing or are created by gas producing cultures.) The next pressing is done for 30 minutes before flipping the cheese and increasing pressure for the final pressing overnight. These steps remove the whey from between the curds so it won’t have a bitter flavor.
Step Nine: Brine the Cheese
Submerge the cheese in a saturated brine for 16 hours, flipping it halfway. If your brine is properly made, your cheese should float. Sprinkle a little salt on top and place a weight on top to hold it under the brine. If you make a whey brine, instead of water, it will last longer and you won’t risk leaching calcium into the water if your sodium saturation level is off.
Step Ten: Form a Rind on the Cheese
Allow the cheese to form a rind by air-drying it on a cheese mat at room temperature for about 3-4 days. Flip it twice a day so the moisture in the cheese is evenly distributed and it dries evenly. You’ll notice when you flip the cheese the bottom side of the cheese is more moist than the top. If you don’t keep it flipping, your cheese won’t have a uniform texture and flavor. You can move on to the next step when the surface is generally dry to the touch, but a clammy hand feel is ok for this cheese since we want it to be moist.
Step Eleven: Age the Cheese
Aging Butter Cheese is simple! Just vacuum seal it and place it in a cheese fridge at 50-55F for 4 weeks or your refrigerator for 6 weeks.
Be sure when you sample it to remove it from the bag for at least an hour before trying your cheese. Otherwise, it tends to taste a little like bitter plastic near the rind. If you didn’t want to use a vacuum sealer, you could try using cheese wax to age the cheese but you may need to dry the rind out a few extra days.
Butter Cheese Recipe (Butterkase)
Butter Cheese Recipe
- 4 Gallon Stainless Steel Pot
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Long Knife
- Slotted Skimmer Spoon
- 2 Gallon Pot
- Small Pyrex Measuring Cup, or Mug
- Measuring Spoons
- Cheesecloth, or Plyban
- Cheese Press
- Bamboo Cheese Mat
- 4 gallons milk, do not use ultra high temp pasteurized
- ½ teaspoon Thermo C thermophilic culture
- 1 teaspoon animal rennet
- ½ gallon saturated brine, 18%
- Warm milk to 102F.
- Add culture. Stir 2 minutes. Cover and maintain temperatures 40 minutes.
- Stir in rennet 30 seconds. Coagulate 30 minutes. Check for clean break.
- Cut curds ½”. Heal curds 5 minutes.
- Heat 2 gallons water to 125F.
- Stir the curds for 20 minutes, maintaining temperature. Settle the curds for 5 minutes.
- Remove half of the whey. Stir the curds to break up any clumps.
- Using your mug or measuring glass, add warm water to the original level till temp is 108F, stirring with each addition to keep the curds from clumping.
- Stir the curds more quickly than before for 10 minutes. Allow them to settle to the bottom for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the curds to your prepared mold lined with cheesecloth. Place the follower on top of the curds in the mold. Instead of putting the mold into your press, put it back into the whey.
- Press under the cheese under the whey at about 5 lbs for 15 minutes. (I fill a half gallon mason jar with water and set it on top, rebalancing it as necessary.)
- Remove the mold from the whey. Remove the cheese from the mold. Flip it, redress, and put it back into the mold.
- Press the cheese in your press at 15 lbs for 30 minutes.
- Flip and redress the cheese and press at 25 lbs overnight.
- Create an 18% saturated brine (½ gallon water or whey to 1 ¼ lbs of salt). Cool to room temperature.
- Brine the cheese for 16 hrs; flipping halfway.
- Air dry 3-4 days, turning twice daily.
- Vac seal the cheese and age one month
- Remove from vac seal packaging for at least an hour before sampling.
- You can reseal the cheese and store it longer. Notice the flavors as they develop over time and keep records of when you like your Butter Cheese the best.
The Home Dairy
Make the most of your homestead’s raw milk with these delicious recipes!
“Mesophilic Cultures are used for lower temperature cheese (under F.) ”
What is the max temp for Meso Culture? Thanks!
Sorry! Max temp for mesophilic cultures is 90F. So it’s usually best to stop a degree or so short just in case.
I made this yesterday! its brining now and the brine is looking a bit milky on the top. I used a half gallon of whey and the 1 1/4 lb of salt, the cheese floated. but now im a wee bit concerned, is the milky layer on the brine a bad sign ? also, just wanted to say I’m super grateful for all you share with us Quinn! I have learned loads from you over the years, you are one of the tried and true homesteaders, mamas, that I know I can count on for solid advice, and recipes! <3
Thank you Laura! I can’t begin to express how much your kind words mean to me! Being “tried & true” is such a priority for me in a time when information online is so unreliable and often just a remix from who knows what sources. You couldn’t have paid a higher compliment, bless you! The milky layer on top of the brine is perfectly normal. I don’t worry about it much but will skim it off if it forms on the brine in long-term storage in the fridge. I have no particular reason for doing so other than preference to have a clear brine if I will be reusing it for months on end.