We were armed with our whole milk, rennet, citric acid, and curiosity. We wanted to try an easier cheese and one that we could sample right away. I have recipes for cheddar and some others but I'd much rather start our first batch as something I know tastes good before moving on to something that will take months and months to be ready.
With a stainless steel pot, a colander, a large slotted spoon and a thermometer we were ready to go.
My MIL bought us a cheese making kit (Ricki's Mozzarella and Ricotta kit) for the holidays so we used a lot of the supplies from that, though you can easily get them individually. We used the directions on the kit.
First, you put 1/4 tablet of rennet into 1/4 cup of cool water. (You can store your rennet in the freezer for years - just re-wrap the used part and put with the rest of the pack). Let that rennet & water mix sit. Mix 1 1/2 tsp citric acid into 1 cup cool water. You can find the citric acid at cheese shops, but I've also seen it at places like Fleet Farm where they have the canning stuff. It's labeled for processing meat.
Put 1 gallon of whole milk (can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized) into your pot. While mixing, add the citric acid and water mix.
Keep mixing "vigorously" (doesn't that word make you think of the Zorro movie?). Keep stirring while heating the milk to 90 degrees. Now, take it from me, it's useful to have the Ove Glove for this project because your hands get awfully hot.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rennet with up and down mixing for about 30 seconds.
Cover your pot and leave it alone for 5 minutes. You'll be able to see the separation between the curd and whey. Cut the curd with a knife.
Heat it back up to 110. Take it off the burner and stir it slowly for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat another pot of water to 185.
Ladle your curds into a colander, folding them gently to drain the whey.
We put our colander into another container so that we could save the whey.
With the curds in the colander, put the colander into the hot water very slowly. Pick it up and put it back in several times. Then take spoon to see if the curds have become elastic. If not, then continue doing this until they do. If so, then remove them and pull it like taffy. If it's not stretching, then you should return it to the hot water and try again.
You can add about a tsp or so of salt, or even herbs, and work it into the cheese. Form the cheese as you'd like (string cheese, a ball, little balls, a log, a braid, etc). Put the cheese into 50 degree water for 5 minutes and then ice water for 15 minutes.
That allows the cheese to cool and to hold its shape.
Eat and enjoy. Don't toss that whey - you'll want it for making ricotta.