Does the thought of smoked Gouda set your taste buds on fire, or will plenty of cream cheese on a bagel satisfy your need for cheese? Whichever you prefer, explore your passion for this delicious dairy staple by making a batch of your own. Cheese making, while labor-intensive and time-consuming, doesn't require pricey tools and equipment, and you won't need a special formula or alchemy to whip up both yellow and white versions -- all that's required to make the former is yellow food coloring. That stated, grab the crackers and you'll be enjoying your own brand of cheese within 48 hours.
Create a "starter culture" by allowing buttermilk to settle for six to eight hours at room temperature to produce a thick starter mix. Refrigerate the culture for your first and successive forays into cheese making.
Pour the gallon of milk into a large cooking pot the following morning. Whisk a quarter-cup of the starter culture into the milk, returning the rest to the refrigerator. Cover the milk blend and let the liquid marry at room temperature for several hours. Avoid direct sunlight.
Heat the mix slowly over a low temperature until your thermometer indicates 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Add yellow food coloring if you want yellow cheese rather than white. Meanwhile, dissolve the rennet tablet into two tablespoons of cold (not hot) water.
Heat the milk broth to 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the dissolved rennet. Whisk for five minutes to combine. Cover the pot and remove from stove, leaving the mixture to marry for at least half an hour undisturbed before uncovering and probing the curd with a knife to see if it's firm. Cut the curd into half-inch cubes.
Mix the curd (don't squeeze) with your hands to separate it from the whey. Expect to spend about half an hour doing this. Place the pot back on the stove and slowly raise the temperature of the curds and whey over a 20 to 30 minute period until the thermometer reads 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for an hour, gently stirring every five minutes with a wooden spoon. Remove the curd/whey mix from the heat when it appears firm. Stir the mix infrequently over the next hour as it congeals.
Line the colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the curds from the whey. Salt the cheese and tie it up in the cheesecloth. Use your hands to squeeze out whey and rotate the cheese in the colander over the next several hours. When it's reached the right consistency, remove the cloth. Allow the cheese to dry at room temperature for eight hours before slicing and serving, or wrap the cheese in plastic and refrigerate it for a time to further age it.