How To Improvise A Cheese Vat

The most searched for term that leads people to our blog is ‘cheese making equipment’.  If this is what you are looking for, then I wholeheartedly recommend our equipment suppliers, Brytec (website coming soon).  Although they are based in Lancashire, they travel afar.

Sometimes, it is possible to carry out cheese making trials on a small scale, and improvise on a low cost basis, to get things right before scaling up.  For us, when we experiment making a new cheese, and we’ve developed a few recently, we make 50 litre trials.  Partly because our vats are too big for 50 litres and partly because, if it goes wrong – it is a trial – we don’t want to ‘lose’ too much milk.

We can’t afford a small trial vat, they really are rather expensive.  Nice and shiny they may be, (that one is for Greg, he knows what I mean!) but they are also disproportionately expensive. 

Our trial crates, we now have three sets

Our trial crates, we now have three sets

On talking to my friend John the Cheesemaker, we came up with a different and very low cost way to improvise, making a 50 litre trial. 

I went to Poundstretchers in Catterick and bought a 102 litre crate and another, smaller 70 litre crate that fits inside the larger crate with room between the two to pour hot

Bucketing pasteurised milk out fo the vat with a well sterlised bucket

Bucketing pasteurised milk out of the vat with a well sterilised bucket

water in.  It works a treat.  We filled the gap with water from the hot water tap and added more from the kettle to scald.  Take care, though, not to pour boiling water into your curd!  Although the crates are plastic, the milk holds its temperature extremely well at 33 oC for a couple of hours. 

Cutting curd in the 'vat'

Cutting curd in the 'vat'

Jugging out the curd

Jugging out the curd

Cost for the two crates: less than £20.  And yes, you can do this at home!



Filed under Ribblesdale Cheese

4 responses to “How To Improvise A Cheese Vat

  1. heather

    Hi. This sounds simple and great but I’m wondering about food safety – would these standard plastic crates be considered safe for food? If not, who samples the trial cheese!?

    Just discovered your blog and really appreciate all the details on starting a cheese dairy. Thank you!

    • Hi Heather

      Thanks for your e-mail. Providing the plastic crates are washed, sterilised and rinsed before using, I do not see why they should be considered unsafe for food.

      There is a small issue with brittle plastic, so you should check it over very carefully before and after use to ensure that no pieces of plastic have cracked/fallen in to your curd.

      As for your question re who samples the trial cheese, I am not sure what you are referring to. As part of organoleptic testing, where we taste, smell, look at the texture of our cheese, we also send a sample of each and every batch of cheese we make to the labs to be tested. Only when we receive a negative result do we release it for sale to the public. Going back to your question, you simply would not make cheese in a container, crate or otherwise that was not clean and santised, so as long as your source of milk is reliable, and your ensuing hygiene methods of hand washing, stirring, cutting, potting up and pressing are safe and sensible, you should not have a food safety problem.

      Hope this helps.


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