The South does not have a significant history of small-scale cheese making and so there is very little equipment lying around in barns that can be adapted or rehabilitated by today’s small-scale cheese makers. Inexpensive cheese vats are difficult to come by for use by small-scale cheese makers.
One of the issues for these small-scale cheese makers is making use of an auxiliary cheese vat in addition to their pasteurizing vat. By using an auxiliary vat, a cheese maker can make several batches of cheese and save time.
The original idea of making a cheese vat from a pre-manufactured sausage truck had to be discarded in the early stages of this project. It was felt by the fabricator that the costs and logistics of outfitting a sausage truck with a water jacket would be prohibitive and, even if it could be done, the final product might not meet (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance) PMO requirements. For this reason we designed a vat to be built “from scratch.”
Despite the best of intentions, we found it is very difficult to build approved cheese-making equipment at low cost. The dogma of the PMO, which was appropriately created for the massive conventional dairy industry, is also applied to the construction of small-scale equipment for artisanal use. A couple of seemingly minor changes in our vat design, required for compliance with the PMO, resulted in a 25% increase over the estimated cost. Nevertheless, the finished vat works well using hot water recirculating through an on-demand gas water heater.
Southern SARE Producer Grants no longer fund equipment. A copy of the blueprints for the vat design is available for $10 (to cover costs of printing and mailing) from Vicki Dunaway at P O Box 186, Willis VA 24380.