Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making cheese...

No really! Last weekend I made cheese.

Real cheese! Not simple Microwave Mozzarella or a spreadable soft cheese, but a real hard cheese. Now that it is done we need to wait 60 days to know if the results of this experiment will be good, but so far it seems like we made cheese, and it was pretty easy!

I made "Farmhouse Cheddar" which is not really cheddar, but is supposed to be a good first hard cheese. Here is how we did it...

First we went to the store (yes there is a cheese store) and spent $50 on a hard cheese making kit. So we got everything laid out. I decided to heat the milk on my induction burner because the goal was to heat it to just 86 degrees F which is pretty low and my stove is pretty powerful.

So then I heated up the milk to 86 degrees and added a starter culture to the milk.

Then, like with bread, you just wait.

We filled the sink with water that was 86 degrees and then put the pot of 86 milk in the sink of water. Then for an hour and a half you wait. Like rising bread. You have to be sure to keep the temperature at 86. That is pretty easy to do with the water, just add a little hot water every once an a while.
After an hour and half I added more hot water to rise the temp of the milk to 88 degree F.

Then you add the rennet to set the curds. We used half of a rennet tablet to do this. We crushed it and dissolved it in some bottled water. When it was all the way dissolved we added it.
Then we wait for another hour + while holding the milk at 88degree F. Again, we just added hot water to keep it at that temp, about every 15 minutes or so...
When the curd had a "clean break" which meant that it cut cleanly and the whey came up (that is why there is the broken area at the bottom, me testing (probably too much)).

After you cut it one way, you cut the other. Then you angle the knife and try to cut the pieces at the bottom of the 16 quart pot the same size as those at the top. I am not sure how well I did it.

But I ended up with a pot of curds and whey. I added a lot more HOT water to the sink and SLOWLY raised the temp of the curds to 100. The goal was to do so so that the temp went up by not more then 2 degrees every 5 minutes. With this slow heat being in the directions, the sink method is perfect, as it is hard to go too fast.

Then you "cook the curds" at 100 degrees for a half hour and this makes the curds get smaller and more liquid goes into the whey.
Then you drain the whey (be care full to remember to save some of the whey for your puppy dog, who will have learned from your Mozzarella making that when cheese making happens he has to be patient but will get a yummy dink). We lined a colander with cheese cloth and learned that we need a bigger colander! Then we added salt and "milled" the cheese by rubbing the salt in.
When we were draining the whey we put a piece of cheese cloth in boiling water which we use to line the cheese mold.Then we put the curds into the mold.
We added 10 pounds of weight and left the cheese for 15 minutes.
Then we flipped it over, put it back in the mold, this time with 20 pounds and left it for another 20 minutes.
This is what the cheese looks like after that. We then flipped it again and put it back in the mold.
Then we added 50 pounds of weight and left the mold overnight. (Note it is no longer on a cooling rack, they could not take the weight! Instead we put the mold on 6 galvanized washers so it can still drain.)
The next morning the cheese looks like this! The little bumps are from the mold. We then wiped the cheese with a saltwater brine. Then we let the cheese "dry" for 4 days. We flipped it a couple times a day.
After four days we heated cheese wax with a double boiler and then brushed wax on the cheese.
Next time I make cheese I am getting enough wax and a big enough container to just dip it. (Listen to me talking about next time!)
And here are the results of the project! A three pound wheel of cheese. We cut it into quarters so we can eat a quarter of it a month for four months, but first we have to wait 60 days to eat it, since we used farm fresh milk.
So that was my first cheese making project. And you know what? It was not that hard. Mainly I watched the Olympics during the process, a lot a waiting and not much doing. In hands on time probably an hour and a half, in total time eight hours or so.
But heck, it is winter, what else is a farmer to do?

(In April I will let you know how it tastes!)

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