I FINALLY get to make hard cheese! I’ve been waiting to get a cheese press, and I finally did it. Now, some people say, “Oh, poo! You don’t need a cheese press. You can use plastic pipes for molds and weights to apply the right enough of pressure.” Really? OK, yeah, you can. But, no. I read the instructions for different cheeses and they said things like, “Apply 10 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes. Then, apply 20 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes. Finally, apply 50 pounds of pressure for 12 hours.” So, I can make molds, buy weights, and have a clunky thing that may or may not work. Or…I can get a real cheese press.
It may not look like much, but it has springs that are gauged to specific weights. Press it and forget it. I was so excited to get going!
I decide to start with farmhouse cheddar because it’s supposed to be easy. First, 2 gallons of milk. And a pot big enough. I discovered my cheese pot is 2 gallons, which doesn’t leave any room for stirring and stuff. For this batch, I guess I’ll use my canning pot.
Cheese directions are crazy. Heat to 90 degrees, add starter, keep at 90 degrees for 45 minutes, add rennet, heat to 100 degrees, BUT increase heat slowly enough that it takes 30 minutes to increase 10 degrees, keep at 100 for 45 minutes, cut, set, drain, press. Easy, right?
That lumpy stuff at the end, there? I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be more clumpy, and less like soggy cottage cheese. I was super-careful to follow all the directions, but it was hard to know if I was doing the heating part exactly right.
When I took my cheese making class last year, I remember specifically the teacher saying if you followed the directions, you would have cheese. It may not be the cheese you thought it was going to be, but it would be cheese. Before taking that class, I probably would have dumped this goopy mess. But, what the heck. Let’s follow the pressing directions and see what happens.
The cheese mold gets lined with cheese cloth, then the cheese goop gets glopped into it. A disc, called a follower, goes on top, and the block over that. The wooden part gets tightened down, and the whey is pressed from the curd. Words like goop and glop are probably not supposed to be used at this point, but that’s what it is.
It’s set at 50 pounds, so I go to bed and hope for the best. I’m really afraid that I’m going to take it out of the mold in the morning, and it’s just going to sploosh all over the place.
Yeah, I know. It doesn’t look like cheddar. It’s still pretty crumbly. It has to set for 2-4 days to dry out, then it gets waxed and ages for 4 weeks.
This is after setting for about 30 minutes.
I wasn’t going to try another until my first cheese was done. Since I can see there are problems with this one, I’ll try another in a few days. I guess there really is an art to this whole cheese thing.