Sunday, September 16, 2012

Using Mother Culture instead of Direct set for Cheese

There are 2 different types of cultures you can get for making cheese.

The first is "Direct Set" this is a predetermined amount of powder culture.  It is pricey when you have to use one packet for each 2 gallons of milk.  They cost $6 for 5 packets.  That is $1.20 for each 2 gallons of milk.  I make 4 gallon batches so that would be $2.40 for each wheel of cheese.

The second is "mother culture" This one is set up by making your starter then saving a "start" of it by freezing it in ice cube trays.  Then each ice cube makes another quart of starter.  The cost for it is $6 for 1 packet but then you keep using it over and over.  Out of my first packet I got 24 fresh starts frozen plus I made 4 gallons worth of cheese.  I have made to this date 20 gallons worth of cheese curd  So right now my cost is at $0.60 cents per 2 gallon batch and it will just keep going down with every batch I make.  I have 22 starts in the freezer so when I get that done used then my cost would be less than $.07 for each batch and then with the last batch I would refill my trays and start over even further reducing the cost.  After 2nd batch of cubes were used my cost then would be $.03 and after the third batch of cubes are used it would be $.01 for each batch.  After the 4th batch it would be basically free.....

As compared to direct set it paid for itself with the first quart.

Here is how to use it:

Sterilize your milk:  (Sorry no pics)

Pour 1 quart of milk into a canning jar and then put it into a pot with a rack underneath so the jar is not setting on the bottom of the pot and enough water to cover the top of the jar.  Bring this water to a boil and hold it there for 30 minutes. 

Cool milk:
Remove the jar and run cool water over it until the temp reaches about 70 degrees.

Add one pack of mother culture to cooled milk.  Replace the lid and shake it up.

Allow to ripen for about 12 to 15 hours.  You will know it is ready when it is thick like buttermilk.

See how it coats the inside of the jar
After it is done fill a clean ice cube tray with your starter and freeze the cubes.
Frozen cubes of starter
Place your frozen cubes into a freezer bag and label what kind of starter it is.

To make another batch of it repeat the above steps except add a cube instead of the packet of starter.

When you run low on cubes just fill another tray with your prepared starter and freeze.  This can go on indefiantely so you can see how the cost would actually become less than a penny after several batches.

Use your prepared starter within 1 week and you can store your cubes up to 2 years in the freezer.

To use the starter:

Place your milk in a large pot and add 5 ounces of prepared starter to each  2 gallons of milk and then allow to ripen for 60 minutes.


  1. Hi Christine,
    Found your blog through Rural Revolution. The "mother culture" seems very appealing since it's not dependent on always being able to buy culture! Can you tell me exactly what culture you used and where you got it?
    I look forward to reading through all your posts - thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Glad to have you along!!!!! I have both Thermophillic and Mesophillic cultures in the frezer along with Buttermilk. The Buttermilk came from good old Wal-Mart just buy a jug and pour it into ice cube tray. I have been using a start of buttermilk like that to make more for a couple years now. The others I bought the initial start from it is $5.95 for 1 packet which makes 1 quart of culture. Just make sure what you buy does not have DS on it. That is the direct set variety that you just sprinkle in when you are making the cheese. I love using the mother and if you are making cheese frequently it really is the best way to go.1 quart of prepared culture will do up about 12 gallons of milk. It says on the package to use the preparation within 1 week but I just used the last of a quart of culture yesterday that was about 10 days old and it still smelled and worked fine. I got behind because I had to build myself a new press.