Thursday, July 22, 2010
Making Cheese, Revisited
Back HERE I described how I make my Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese. The recipe is there, but I would like to show you, with pictures, more of how I do it. Above is a huge Tramontina stock pot with four gallons of raw goat milk in it. You can also see my instant read thermometer hanging from the stove vent hood by this marvelous piece of twisted wire I found one day when I was out walking:
The first thing to do is to gently heat the milk up to 90 degrees F. You can see that it is not there yet, but as soon as it gets there, I have to take the heavy pan off the heating element, and if I tried to do that AND take a picture, the camera would probably end up in the pot.
After the milk reaches 90 degrees, I add 1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic cheese culture, item number MM100-101 here. That needs to be stirred in very thoroughly.
Then, cover the pot and wait for 45 minutes:
Next, mix 1 teaspoon of liquid rennet into 1/2 cup cool water:
Bring the milk back up to 90 degrees F. and stir the dissolved rennet into it very thoroughly also:
I removed the pot from the heat again. After the rennet is stirred in, cover it and wait 30 to 45 minutes, until when you stick your finger into the curd, and pull it up, you get a "clean break" across your finger, like so:
Now it's time to cut the curd. I used my long bread knife. You need a sharp knife that will reach the bottom of your pan. I try to cut it in 1/2 inch cubes, going across one way, then at right angles to that and then at an angle in 2 different directions, trying to cut the little columns of curd into cubes. It is far from an exact science.
Ok, so next, using my left hand, I stir the curds and whey gently and use a sharp paring knife to cut up the big pieces into smaller pieces. I do this for 15 minutes.
Place the pot back on the burner. Every stove is different, but here is the setting I put mine on. The goal is to heat the curds and whey up to 100 degrees F. allowing it to take 1/2 hour to do so.
Stir it, frequently, while you are heating it. I use my hand for this also.
Here is what it looked like after heating:
Next, set the pot in a sink full of 100 degree F. water and put the lid on. It will sit like this for 30 minutes, and you must stir it several times. Again, I use my hand. That makes it so much easier to break up the curds, which like to stick together.
Prepare a large bowl by adding 1/4 cup non-iodized salt to it:
Line a large colander with butter muslin. I use a flat Birdseye diaper:
Line your cheese press with cheesecloth. I like to use this kind, as it is reusable, and I find it is just much easier to deal with.
Carefully pour the curds and whey into the lined colander:
After it has drained, put it all into the bowl with the salt and stir it up thoroughly with your hands. Be sure to break up the pieces that are clumped together. Then, pack it into your cheese press:
Fold the cheesecloth over the curds, as neatly as you can. Add the follower and the pressure gauge, or weights, if that is what you have, and press the curd for 10 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure. Remove the follower, turn the cheese cylinder over, replace the follower, and press for 10 minutes at 30 pounds of pressure. THEN, remove the cheese from the press, carefully peel off the cheesecloth. If you are using the kind I do, then re-wrap the cheese in that, but if you are using traditional cheese cloth, cut a circle for the top of the cheese, one for the bottom, and a long strip to go around the side. "Dress" the cheese in that. Put the cheese back into the press and set the pressure at 50 pounds. Let it sit until the next morning.
Remove from press, remove cheese cloth. I wrap mine in a clean (of course!) dish cloth and set it on a folded dishtowel in the refrigerator. I turn it twice a day and leave it there until it is nicely dried, which generally takes about 2 days. Here is what it looks like, ready to be waxed:
Then comes the exciting part. Here is the junky pan that I use as the bottom of my double boiler arrangement for waxing the cheese. I have a couple of old canning rings in there to hold the container of wax up off the bottom. Add a couple of inches of water to it.
You can see the stainless bowl I use for the wax. Also, I have a thermometer in there, but I never can seem to get the wax "hot enough." By the way, you MUST use a double boiler. Overheated wax will explode and burn you terribly. I knew a woman that happened to. To help prevent mold growth, wipe your cheese with a cloth dipped in vinegar and let it dry before waxing.
My waxing technique lacks finesse. Today, when I dipped it, I dropped it in accidently, and wax splattered all around. So, I had to fish it out and then proceed as best I could. You need two light coatings of wax. I also add a piece of paper with the date so I know when we can eat it. Here it is, sitting on a piece of waxed paper. I will store it in the refrigerator for 2 months before I cut into it. Every few days, I turn the cheeses over when they are in storage.
This makes a mildly sharp cheese. The longer it ages, the sharper it will become. If you discover mold growing on your cheese, just cut it off. It is not dangerous.
I hope if you've ever considered making cheese that maybe this demystified it a little bit. When I first started, it was "like pulling teeth." But now I have it memorized, I have my equipment gathered, and I really can almost make it in my sleep. :)
This post is linked to Scratch Cookin' Tuesday!