Operating a small home dairy and kitchen cheese making facility does require a few pieces of specialized equipment. In general, it is recommended that you use stainless steel or glass tools and vessels if they are going to come into contact with milk because they won’t leach into or interact with dairy products, and they are easy to sanitize. Most of the following dairy-related items are available from Lehman’s, Caprine Supply, or New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
I have two stainless steel milk buckets. I mostly use the more squat wide one for daily milking. It has a capacity of 6 quarts which is plenty of room for milking a single goat (or probably two). I use the taller bucket for a double-boiler method when pasteurizing by placing it in a two-gallon pot with a hot water sleeve.
Stanchion or Milking Stand
Although you might be able to get by without one, a stanchion (milking stand) makes dairying much easier. It’s purpose is to provide an elevated platform for a goat to stand on, giving the milker easier access to the udder, and usually the stand has a head-holding apparatus to keep the goat from moving around too much. I used a hand-me-down, home-built wood stanchion for several years until I upgraded to this metal stanchion from Caprine Supply last summer. I am so happy with that purchase. It features a food-pan holder, an easy-to-latch headpiece, and an open grate platform that allows debris to fall through. I could also milk from either side if I wanted to.
Milk Strainer and Milk Filters
When milking by hand, a few stray hairs or bits of debris will inevitably land in your milk bucket. A milk strainer and real milk filters are essential for keeping milk as clean as possible. With this strainer, I can pour the entire contents of a morning’s milking through it and into a wide-mouth jar.
I buy disposable milk filters at my local feed store, but you can also order them here.
Jars and Lids
I store all my milk in wide-mouth canning jars. Half-gallon jars work best for me because I get more than a quart of milk each morning. The larger size jars, however, are harder to find than regular quart jars, so you might need to special order them from somewhere that sells canning supplies.
I use these plastic lids in place of canning lids and rings because they are generally just easier to deal with. You can get a pack of 8 or 10 for a couple bucks. They also work great with half-gallon jars for storing dry goods in the pantry.
A cheese thermometer is essential for cheese making. It is different from a candy thermometer because it reads lower temperatures.
Slotted Spoon or Perforated Ladle
A ladle/strainer is great for mixing rennet or starter culture into milk or scooping curds. I got this one at a thrift store for 50¢. This wide, flat-ish kind also works well for making homemade bagels or fishing things out of boiling water.
This is actually butter muslin, meaning it has a tighter weave that standard cheese cloth. “Cheesecloth” sold at a regular grocery store is usually a loose, flimsy material that wouldn’t work at all for actual cheesemaking. I buy cheesecloth at my local home brew supply store, but you can also buy it here.
This enamelware colander is is another thrift-store item. I line it with cheesecloth and use for scooping curds into. A stainless steel one would probably be preferred, but this is the one we have, and I haven’t had any sanitation problems with it.
I also have a two-gallon, fairly heavy bottom, stainless steel pot. On my wish list is a larger stainless steel pot, but the one I have works for now. For cutting curds, I use a my regular chef’s knife, although if I were really serious, I’d buy a special curd knife. Additionally, I have a few variously sized cheese molds for draining basic shaped fresh cheeses.
Next Up: Goat Milking (unless I sneak in a cool bee-related post)