Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sandra Daniels - Making Cheese in Kenya

The Daniels Family-Charles, Sandra and their very happy son, Joseph

It is amazing how many responses we had to Janie Zencak's question in our Moosletter about drying cheesecloth in high humidity!

As a result of that question, we ended up getting to know folks from all around the world- like Sandra Daniels from Maralal, Kenya who wrote this:

My suggestion is to try ironing the cheesecloth. In parts of Kenya, where I live, everything is ironed to kill small nasties like mango fly larvae. These get on clothes when they are drying on the line. 

I'm sure you would have to experiment, but this could be a way to kill the yeast. I suspect it would need to be under a pressing cloth so it doesn't burn.

Love your newsletters and am enjoying my cheese making adventures! I make yogurt, quark, mozzarella and queso fresco, and ricotta. Have done a little with goat cheese, but my goat is a little stingy!

How did you end up living in Kenya?

We came as missionaries. We moved here in 2002. Actually, we arrived on December 31, 2001. We first came on a volunteer trip in 1996, stayed for 3 weeks and fell in love with the people and the place.  It's been an amazing life change.  (Read more about their work at -
We live in a rural area about 8 hours outside the capital city of Nairobi. We work with a tribal people called Samburu.  It is a beautiful place.
We are working to help facilitate the start of indigenous Baptist churches. My husband travels into the remote villages, at their invitation. He works closely with Samburu men who want to help take the Gospel to their people. As they go together, they do evangelism and discipleship using stories from the Bible. Where they are asked, they help the local village start a new church by providing more Bible teaching and training.
We have also provided food relief during times of drought, healthcare kits for terminally ill home-bound patients, trained preschool teachers and provided other human needs such as seeds, goats, veterinary assistance and medical care for people.
Charlie handing out seeds
Waiting for relief
Each bag contains enough beans and corn for one month.
Opening their bag of seeds.
Where do you live?

We live a few miles outside of this rural town where you can buy the basics, like beans, flour, sugar, tea, paper products, etc. Lots of things are available here, but we do bulk shopping in the capital city. It is an 8 hour drive over very bad roads so we only go every couple of months or so. Medical care is practically non-existent in our town. There is no "eating out" and no going anywhere after dark. I home school our son, age 7.
Joseph is ready for the rain!
Their current home.  Sandra leaves her Christmas lights up all year because they remind her of the States.
We actually have 2 cows, who calved on the same day last January! And one goat who had twins in March. And a few hens. We don't have a small farm, just a big plot with an empty one next door, so plenty of room for a few animals.
The twins
We have a small garden with a few raised beds so we can grow some fresh vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, green beans.  This is the first time we've done the raised beds, sort of a modified square foot garden and it seems to be working really well.
Sandra's garden
Do you teach cheese making?

I make cheese for my own family because the Samburu people don't make or eat cheese. I've actually given them some to taste and they don't like it! So the cheese making really has nothing to do with our being here. It's something I took up once we got a goat, then a cow.

How did you get started making cheese?

I had been making yogurt for some years. So, when we had a goat given to us, I wanted to learn to make goat cheese. After searching on the internet, I found New England Cheesemaking. I ordered a few supplies and started making soft cheeses. Then, once we got the cows, I knew I should try making hard cheese.
The Daniel's 2 cows calved on the same day in January and these are the calves.
Sandra was drinking her coffee one morning recently when she heard her "goofy" calves banging around on her porch.
One of the calves kept licking that table which is made from an elephant's leg (another story!).
During a trip to the States in January, I bought all the supplies I would need and downloaded a digital copy of Home Cheese Making. By this time, I was following Suzanne McMinn's cheesemaking adventures online, also. Her website (Chickens in the Road) provided lots of information and encouragement for me to get started.

Making "Velveeta."   First, she makes lactic cheese, using our buttermilk culture.  Then, she follows Suzanne McMinn's recipe for homemade Velveeta.
The first new cheese we tried was 30 minute mozzarella, using store bought milk. It failed, so we tried it again using a different brand of milk that we knew was produced more locally. It worked like magic! From that point, I was hooked. I began to realize there was no more mystery involved in making cheese, than in making bread and I'd been doing that for decades!

Making cheese is creative, thrifty and fulfilling. Our favorite cheese so far is queso fresco. It is ready to eat quickly, has a mild flavor and we use it on everything from nachos to pizza. I LOVE not having to buy cheese! The nearest cheese seller is 6 hours away, so it's a real pleasure to be able to make it myself.
Sandra working with hot wax in a hot climate.
Sandra with a recent Caerphilly.  It's a little lopsided because she's using a makeshift press.
I order my rennet and cultures from NEC, but I have them sent to my mother-in-law in Texas and she mails them here to me in Kenya. Most companies won't ship to Africa (we do) as it is just too far/weird and many times the things don't arrive. It's a risk that businesses don't want to take, usually. But our family has been mailing us things for 10 years so they/we have figured out how to do it most effectively. It's a funny thing.

Sandra's Mozzarella made the traditional way with thermophilic culture (p. 136, Home Cheese Making)
Scenes of Kenya
The Great Rift Valley
Sandra wrote: Charlie spotted this Mama and child getting their drinking water out of a hole in the middle of road as he was driving back from a Church meeting this morning. By the grace and Providence of God, he happened to have a fully assembled water filtration system in his truck. He was able to assist her with the water filter and ask her about her faith. She said that she knew Jesus as her Lord and she thanked Him for the gift of the water filter.
School at IKeep Supaki
Neighbor children in Samburu outside their home
Cooking in the village of Lorok
Samburu wedding
Sandra wrote:  I had to send you this as it is one of the best parts of living here. This was taken on vacation with friends at a safari camp about 5 hours from our home. The rhino is blind, but he comes to the fence when called by the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers who work at the conservancy. It is a thrilling experience to pet and feed a wild rhinoceros! Other wild animals we've been privileged to "pet" are baby cheetahs, baby elephants, baby lions and TALL giraffes.


723704fe-ac88-11e0-a94c-000bcdcb2996 said...

Mamma Joseph!!! Good to see you here. Enjoyed reading and seeing all the photos!

"Leah's Mom"

geta said...

Hi, I'm Mumbi from Nairobi and I have been looking for Kenyan home cheese makers for ages.

You mentioned that you used a brand of milk that did not backfire, would you mind telling me which brand you used?

So far I have used brookside, KCC, fresh milk and the cheese does not stretch at all :(

mamasam said...

I've had the best success with fresh milk. You mention stretching, so I'm assuming you're making mozzarella. I have begun using a recipe that lets the curds age overnight in a covered container. (I use glass) I believe this helps the flavor develop as it increases acidity. If you're water is not hot enough, that could be a problem. The water temp needs to be about 185F which is REALLY hot and you need gloves to handle it. Otherwise, I'm not sure, sorry!

mamasam said...

Mumbi, I'm not sure my response posted, so sorry if this appears twice. I use fresh milk. Your water for stretching the mozzarella needs to be very hot, about 185F and at that temp, you'll need gloves to handle it.

geta said...

Hi Mamasam,

Thanks for the fast reply, btw I am making mozzarella.

When you wrote "...we tried it again using a different brand of milk that we knew was produced more locally..." I thought you were referring to a brand of packaged milk not fresh milk.

But if you meant fresh milk I think my only option is to continue practicing.

Nice day, Mumbi.

geta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
maluu said...

Hi people, I used to live in Turkana, where I made cheese with goat milk. I´m an amateur, and would love to make my own since I just love eating cheese and I love doing these things... I have a supply of milk which is cheap for me, so i would like to know where I can get the cultures and a press, or how i can make one using the locally available material...

Jeri said...

We sell supplies all over the world. E-mail Sarah at and she can help you decide what you need. Happy cheesemaking!

Sanjay Shreeram said...

Hi Sandra. Dont know if you are aware but there are couple of companies in nairobi selling rennet and cultures. Have not yet experimented making cheese with them but i have bought a couple sachets of rennet. I can give you the names if you might be interested.

elizabeth said...

i would love to know the name of the companies that sell cultures and rennet. i want to make cream cheese for my cheese cakes

Kevin said...

Please give me the contacts of dealers selling supplies for cheese making in kenya. i.e rennet, starters and some bacteria.

Naisenya Kimani said...

Hi Sanjay,

Thanks for your post. Please post the companies that sell the rennet and cultures.


Naisenya Kimani.

Naisenya Kimani said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
paul mwaura said...

hi sanjay,
as an amature cook ive always wanted to make cheese and thanks to this blog ive gotten the encouragement i need, so could kindly send me contacts of were i can get rennet and other cultures in nairobi

Sybil steffy said...

please post name of companies selling rennet

helen kagwi said...

Hy Sandra i have been searching for local Mozzarella and finally i got you. i want to venture in the business of making pizza.pls let me know how i can get your suppliers.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I love cheese .I wish it was easier to get cheese making supplies without having to order abroad.your homemade cheese is mouth watering. Kindly inform if there anywhere I can buy rennet in Kenya. Thanks again.

Nasim said...

Hello. It was Nice reading the blog very interesting and very encouraging.
I want to make Mozzarella at home but Rennet is problem. Has anyone found it, if so please share the suppliers details.

todbebe said...

Wonderful. Just wonderful... I would love to try out this for myself at home. I just don't know where to start :-( Are there any classes for this? Thanks.