Just the Vat Ma’am.

One question that I do not get that often, is what do you make your cheese in?  I am surprised that people do now ask me this.  They are curious to know what type of cheese I make or they want to know how I shape the cheese, but what I make it in…not so much.  I use a “Cheese Vat” , well to be honest I use two different set-up of double boilers that can be called “Vats” in the most liberal sense only.  Which one I use will depend on how much milk I am going to use.  One is a converted counter top roaster, and the other is a simple double boiler.  There are pros and cons to both of them and I would like to share.

Most cheeses are supposed to be made using indirect heat, the commercial creameries will use either steam or hot water to heat the vat so that the milk will not be scalded.  This would be excellent if I could get one of these vats that would only process up to 10 gallons or 40 litres of milk, but alas my house and my wallet would not take it. The simplest way is to use a stainless steel pot and a sink full of hot water.  You just keep adding the hot water to the sink-to warm the pot-to warm the milk.  This is fine but can be costly if you have to pay for your water.  The next way is to use a double boiler set up, similar to the one used for melting chocolate.

In the picture below you will see the double boiler I used for my first couple of cheeses.  I had my big stock pot and resting precariously on the edges was a pasta pot (it could hold 8 litres of milk) in the stock pot was water that I would heat and then bring the milk to temperature.  This worked for me for the first few times.  Now if I have to use over 14 Litres of milk I use a set-up like this.

PROS

Hanging in there
  • Able to control the temperature better than direct heat
  • easy to set up.
  • smaller area to work with
  • Cheap to purchase.
CONS
  • Hard to drain whey and curd
  • hard to cut some of the curd to size.
  • Sometimes an electric stove causes temperature increases after it has been turned off.
Now the one that I use the most, mainly because I can process up to 14 Litres of milk, is my Electric Roaster.  I will warn you right now, that using it in the way I use it, VOIDS THE WARRANTY.  I was lucky in that my Sister-in-Law did not use her roaster, so it was free, well I traded cheese for it.  The roaster that she gave me had a main “well” that I put 2 to 3 cups of hot water in.  It has an insert that you do the roasting in.  This insert will hold 14 Litres of liquid.  I place it into the “well” and turn on the roaster.  I had to play with the settings to get the right temperature for cheese making.  I marked each spot with a marker.
My Vat
PROS
  • Easy to control the temperature
  • more surface area to judge flocculation.
  • Easier to cut and stir curd when done
  • Can be used for Cheddaring the curd when required
  • Easier to drain the whey and curd.
  •  more reliable results.
Great for cutting the curd

CONS

  • Can be difficult to find a spot for the thermometer
  • Sometimes if can be difficult to reach temperature
  • Takes lots of trial and error to get the settings right.
  • Limited to 14 Litres or less.
Keeping a lid on things.
You can use any type of vat to make your cheese, the key is to get something that you are comfortable using.  There are may sites out there that will show you how to make a vat, as well as every cheese making book.
Have fun, make cheese!
Cheers
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2 comments

  1. Thank you.I have to say after using both, I love my little roaster. I have recommended it to several people. The key is not to pay too much for it, because you will void the warranty on it. I have seen a few people that have done some jiggery-pokery and added PIDs or other temperature controls, but I liked the trial and error method, I used water to get the temperature marks.

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