Go Your Own Whey: Zero Waste Cheese

Cheese. A staple part of many people’s diets; a wonderful festival in your mouth-hole; an excuse to drink wine… But also another fantastic product that is difficult to purchase in sustainable packaging. This was a thing that made me sad, so I decided to buck up and try making my own zero waste cheese.

After browsing the Google I decided to make Mozzarella, partly because it’s delicious and partly because it looked like the easiest option. My recipe follows the instructions of many generic internet sources. Feel free to pick your own – experimenting with different styles and instructions could lead you to cheese perfection and boy does that sound grate! (Heh). Anyway, this was how I did it.

The Supplies

1. Git yo’ mulk. I am incredibly lucky to have access to cheap unpasteurized milk through my flatmates parents, who run a small dairy operation through Village Milk (www.villagemilk.co.nz). I simply send my big glass jar off with my flatmate when she visits them, and back it comes filled with milky goodness. Because I know the source I can also be content in the knowledge that this is a small scale and local business, which does its best for its animals and the environment. For those less fortunate, something from the supermarket will do, just make sure the packaging is recyclable – This might catch you out, I recently learned that cardboard milk cartons aren’t recycled in Canterbury… However, you can take them to a local plant nursery to grow seedlings in! The milk needs to be full fat and not Ultra Pasteurized (UP) or Ultra-high Temperature (UHT) as the curds won’t form properly. Also make sure you get enough! I used 2Litres because that’s all my pot would fit, but this only produces enough mozzarella to satisfy a modest cheese fan.

2. Rennet. This is the bad boy that curdles the milk. It’s a complex system of enzymes extracted from the stomachs of certain animals… yummeh. I used Renco which I found in the health/yoghurty section of Countdown, but there are other forms including a fully vegetarian option. The cardboard packaging is recyclable, but the wee bottle doesn’t seem to be – it is definitely reusable though so I’m going to hold onto mine for later.

3. Citric acid. This is another milk curdler, but also adds a wee sour tang to the cheese taste. I took my own jar into Bin Inn to buy it.

4. Cheesecloth. Muslin can be bought from a fabric shop like Spotlight, OR you could just repurpose an unwanted scarf like my lazy ass did.

5. Salt. Another Bin Inn purchase. Seasoning is important, yo’.

6.Cooking Thermometer. I happened to have one of these lying around from my pre-zero waste days, but if you struggle to find one un-packaged then consider just borrowing one from a friend, or looking second hand 🙂

cheese1The line up.

The Process

Step 1. I poured my 2 litres of milk into a pot and set in on our gas hob with the temp gauge ready and waiting. Things started off a bit shaky as I realised late that I needed to heat the milk to 55 degrees FAHRENHEIT and not Celsius. Whoops. I took the milk off the stove to cool for a bit, hoping I hadn’t already ruined everything…

Step 2. I got bored of waiting for the milk to cool so I just went ahead and added 1teaspoon of citric acid powder, stirring and praying steadily. Evidently, I like to live life on the edge.



Step 3. When the milk hit 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 Celsius) I added ¼ of a teaspoon of my rennet. And waited. This is where stuff got exciting because the milk began to curdle, looking all gross and cool. Progress.


Step 4. I continued to heat the milk until it was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), stirring slowly so not to break up the clumps of curd. By this point there was a clear distinction between the curds and the whey. I was beginning to wonder what Miss Muffet was tripping on to decide to eat this goop. Each to their own, I suppose.


Step 5. I ladled the curds into a bowl using a slotted spoon. Whey just kept coming out of nowhere so I drained it multiple times in between a few rounds of 30 second microwaving and folding to ensure an even heat. I also added the teaspoon or so of salt at this point.

Step 6. Now the cheese was pretty hot and looked like melted mozzarella, which was exciting! I rolled it into a wee ball (I’m going to recommend protecting your hands with gloves because I didn’t and that was a bad move) and wrapped it in my cheesescarfcloth to drip the last of the whey into a bowl. I then popped it into some cold water for a few minutes to drop the temperature down, but feel free to just eat it hot, I ain’t one to judge!


TA-DA! Cheese within 30 minutes! I have really enjoyed tucking into mine so far – it has a great texture, and the flavour is mild and almost nutty. For my first attempt I am super happy, and I am looking forward to seeing what other dairy products I can make zero waste! Yogurt, cottage or cream cheese, paneer, sour cream… all on my to do list! See you next time, homies xo

2 thoughts on “Go Your Own Whey: Zero Waste Cheese

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