Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Herbed Cheddar Cheese-Making, Part 1

Now that we've made a couple of batches of mozzarella cheese, I was ready to try something a little more challenging. Cheddar, anyone?

We assembled the ingredients and then I had to heat up the milk to 90 degrees. Half of a gallon was in the freezer, so it's a little bit like melting an iceberg. The other half gallon was slightly sour, which I believe will only add personality to the cheese.

Once it hit 90 degrees, we added the calcium chloride and the mesophilic bacteria. Then we let it sit for about 45 minutes before heating it up a little more and adding the rennet.

It curdled really quickly! Then we let it sit again for a while. After this, we drained the whey off and hung the cheese to drip dry for about an hour.

My husband came up with this contraption. He's a genius!

After it dried, we broke it into "walnut-sized" pieces (I didn't know what size a whole walnut is; James said that they were bigger than pecans, but that didn't help much) and then added salt and some awesome herb mix James has. It smells delicious!

At this point, though, I'm not understanding even a little bit how this is going to form into a block of cheese. It's bits. What gives? Well, first, you put 10 pounds of pressure on it for about 20 minutes. This was kind of awkward, because the mold is both circular and it tapers (or, as James tells me, conical). So he jury-rigged this:

That's ten pounds of pressure via water! After the 20 minutes, we had to do 20 pounds of pressure for 24 hours! So then James rigged up this:

After it fell over once and gave our cabinets a nice rinse-down, we put the whole contraption back in the sink inside one of those five-gallon "Homer" buckets from The Home Depot.

This sat for 12 hours, then I turned the cheese over and it sat for another 12 hours. Because we didn't have a way to put pressure on the disc very evenly, it came out oddly-lumpy-shaped. But here was the result, and it's pretty much a block of cheese!

It's also pretty bland, at the moment. Here's what happens: It is sitting out for 3-5 days until it forms a skin. Then we might just wax it. I'll have to get some food-grade wax first, but apparently that's the best way to age this stuff. Then we age it for, ideally 6 months. SIX MONTHS, PEOPLE!! I'm hoping this is some dang awesome cheese that we'll be enjoying for Valentine's Day!

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