Mary Karlin Top-10 Cheese-Making Tips

March 2, 2012

Several Sundays ago, my article on Mary Karlin, a Sonoma, California-based cheese maker, ran in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine.

Although I prepared a sidebar containing Mary’s top-10 cheese-making tips, it was too long to print with the article. So here is that list, along with some additional photos, for all you do-it-yourselfers who want to try cheese-making at home.

Mary Karlin’s Top-10 Cheese-Making Tips

1. Everything in cheese making is gentle. Don’t dump or pour or shake the milk.

2. Use a whisk with a specific up and down motion.

3. Raise the temperature of the milk gently because slower is better.

4. Ladle the curds gently.

5. Use a gentle pressure when pressing the curds.

6. Use the highest-quality milk you can find for cheese. Raw milk—the closest to the animal—is best. Reliable local sources for milk include Puget Consumers Co-op, Whole Foods Market, Central Market and Ballard Market.

7. Let the milk sit out for at least one hour, and preferably a few hours, before making cheese.

8. Cookware is very important, including non-reactive pots that don’t react to acid. Stainless-steel or ceramic pots with heavy-core bottoms and heavy walls are good; don’t use nonstick, cast iron or copper. A six-quart Le Creuset stockpot is a good choice. A flame-tamer or heat disburser is good for pans with less heavy bottoms and sides.

9. The longer the curds stay in the whey, the more firm and dry, with less moisture, they become. Drainage accomplishes the same thing.

10. For specialized cheese-making products, Karlin recommends two Seattle-based companies: The Cellar Homebrew (located at 14320 Greenwood Avenue North or online at and The Cheese Connection (online at

Artisan cheese maker Mary Karlin, left

Cheese curds ready for draining and pressing

Artisan cheese-making class

Hard at work making cheese

Mary Karlin assesses and pulls the curds to make cheese

Photos Courtesy of Spencer Johnson



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