Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Easy Cheddar

I wasn't going to make a simple cheddar (simple meaning the actual "cheddaring" process is bypassed) because those posts are all over the internet. However in the end I relented, just so I can make a cheese I can eat sooner! Most of the cheese types I have planned require several months to age before tasting... and my list is growing!

So far, I want to make a Stilton-type (it can't be a 'real' Stilton because I don't live there); some Tommes, an Asiago, a Parmesan-type, Grana Pardana, Munajuusto Egg Cheese, Butterkåse, real Dutch Gouda, Jarlsburg, Reblochon, Brie (one of my very favs!), Colby and even some real (aged more than a year to be sharp) Cheddars. Can you tell I love cheese?? LOL

Anyway, I have a simple farm cheddar 'working' as I'm writing. I have just added the rennet to 2 gallons of milk, which was warmed to 90ºF and then a packet of mesophilic culture added. If I had wanted to add any cheese coloring (I don't even have any) now would have been the time. I added ¼ tsp. of calcium chloride diluted in ¼ cup distilled water along with the starter, to help make a stronger curd. When milk is heated for pasteurization, the calcium content drops, and calcium chloride brings it back up. (How much calcium is lost initially depends on the method of pasteurization, whether it is high temp flash, or lower temp for longer.)  

2 gallons of whole milk in a pot is huge... and heavy, a little over 17 pounds!

Once the rennet is added, there's a more reliable way to tell when to cut the curds rather than estimating a clean break. It's called the flocculation method. Actually it's fairly simple, but rather than reinvent the wheel, the instructions are here.

When the floccuation is finished, time to cut the curds into ½ inch cubes. After the curds are cut, the pot of curds and whey needs to be gradually heated to 100ºF, not an easy task since it only needs to climb 2º every 5 minutes. You could do this by setting the pot in a sink of hot water, but I chose to set my pot in a larger stockpot with water, and heat slowly with the stove. (I did start with hot water, about 130ºF.) As the curds and whey are heating gradually, you need to stir to keep the curds from matting. Also, this brings up larger pieces of curd that need to be cut smaller so their whey can drain.

After reaching 100ºF, cover and let the curds rest for 5 minutes. During the previous 30 minutes, the curds will have shrunk, releasing a lot of their whey.

The finished curds look like this, above.

After the short rest, scoop the curds out with a skimmer or ladle, and place in a cheesecloth-lined colander. There will be a LOT of curds. In fact, I'm afraid I may have too many for my one and only mold!

Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang out of a draft for one hour. Ideally they should be hung in a warm room temperature.

After they have drained for an hour, place the curds in a large bowl. It will probably be one big lump. Break up the lumps with your fingers to golf-ball size or smaller. Add 1 tablespoon of cheese salt, baker's salt, or any fine-milled salt you have on hand. A coarse salt or table salt will not do, and it needs to be iodine-free.

Next, line the mold with cheesecloth and put the curds in it. Fold the cheesecloth neatly over the top and press for 10-15 minutes with 10 pounds of weights. As I suspected, it was a tight fit!

After the 10 minutes, you can see there is a large amount of whey drained, shown in the plastic container, plus what the bamboo mat soaked up, and it has compressed a bit. Take the cheesecloth/cheese out of the mold, remove the cloth, put the cloth back in the mold, turn the cheese over and put it back in the mold, again covering the top neatly.

Double the weight to 20 pounds, and press for another 10 minutes.

Remove the mold, repeat the process of turning and re-dressing the cheese, and this time press with 50 pounds for about 12 hours.

I really must get some good weights!

So, it's time for bed for both me, and the cheese for its overnight 12 hour press under about 50 pounds. Sure hope I don't hear any crashes in the night!

After the cheese has been presses for 12 hours, remove it from the mold and carefully peel away the cheesecloth. 

Now it is ready to air-dry at room temps for 1-3 days, until it has formed a rind and feels quite dry to the touch. The time to dry will depend on room temps and humidity, and we have a rainy forecast for the next 2-3 days. The wheel should be turned several times so it can dry evenly. At this point, the wheel weighs 2.17 pounds, but it will lose additional moisture as it dries.

Once dry, it could be waxed (but I will vacpak it), and aged for at least a month in my cave. I wish I had made several so I could see how each tasted aged for 1 month, 2 months, 3 months...

Note: I made this cheese Feb. 20-21, sliced the wheel in half horizontally and vacuum-packed each half so I can taste one while letting the other age longer. I can taste the first one around March 25, and will post a tasting update. However, being very new to cheesemaking, I'm prepared for disappointment as well as success!


  1. This is what I should've done first! After my feta, I did parm. My impulsiveness wasn't checked by anyone, until I read in the forum about s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. I was going by a booklet, one of those "you, too, can make all these cheeses in no time!" that came with my kit. False confidence, apparently. I now have a little over an inch disc, about 4" in diameter of parmesan that I can't even taste for a year, at least, to find out what I KNOW I surely did wrong. I'm making your other cheese tomorrow, though, as well as feta. Almost instant gratification keeps the impatient months-long wait at bay!

  2. Steff, I cut that one open a few days ago, and it's not too bad. Needs a little more aging than 30 days, so I did a quick vac-pac of smaller sections and put them back in my bin in the root cellar.


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