We spent the weekend with some friends who were kind enough to send us home with 2 gallons of fresh, raw milk. Knowing that to drink it right up would quickly end our enjoyment, we chose instead to make cheese.
Over the years, we have made many different varieties of cheese including Farmhouse (cheddar), Gouda (an all-time favorite), Caerphilly and Parmesan (we aged it for 9 months - it was out of this world!). Being somewhat greedy for a brick of homemade cheese, this time we opted for Caerphilly, which only takes two weeks to properly age (although in England and Wales (were it originated) they age it for up to two months).
My recipe came with my cheese press, which was imported from England. About 14 years ago, Sir Knight bought the Wheeler Cheese Press (I don't believe the Wheeler is imported any longer, however, New England Cheese Company seems to now make the same press) for me for Mothers Day. Since then, wheel upon wheel of cheese has been pressed, aged and enjoyed by this family. We have learned the importance of sterilizing everything that touches the cheese. We have learned that cheese must be tended, even after it is out of the press. We have learned that the quality of milk that goes into the cheese has everything to do with the quality of cheese that comes out of the press. We have learned which cheeses we like and which are a waste of milk. We have learned that experience is the best teacher.
What you need to make this cheese:
- A dairy thermometer
- A set of stainless steel measuring spoons
- A long knife or palette knife for cutting curds
- A bucket or vessel to contain the milk. (Stainless steel is best; plastic of good quality will do if it can be sterilized; never use galvanized steel or iron)
- Cheese cloth
- A good supply of hot water is necessary for bringing up the temperature of the milk by standing the container in a sink or wash boiler
- A cheese press
- Starter (Thermophilic)
- Rennet (not junket)
All equipment must be very clean and be sterilized by scalding with boiling water.
Use 2 gallons of milk, 1/2 morning and 1/2 evening milk. For this cheese, up to one third of the total quantity can be skim milk.
Heat to 90°F (goat's milk 85°F) (I heat the milk by putting my pot in a sink full of hot water), add 4 oz. starter (either direct set or cultured), stir well, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Heating water in the sink
At the right temperature
The starter (which I keep in the refrigerator)
Add 1/2 tsp. of liquid rennet (if your rennet is in tablet form, dilute with 2 tsp. cold water) stir well right down to the bottom of the bucket for at least one minutes, cover and leave for 45 minutes.
With a long knife, or palette knife, cut the curd at 1/2" intervals, then at right angles again, cutting it across and across. Using the ladle, cut spirally downward, starting in the middle at the top. Now turn the curds right over, cutting any large ones, and continue this stirring for 40 minutes while heating rapidly to 92°F.
Cutting the curds
Stirring in a spiral motion
Quickly heating (and stirring) to 92°
Now allow the curds to settle in the bottom of the pail then pour off all the whey.
Cut the curds into slices like a cake, turn them over and pile them up for more whey to drain away. Do this 2 or 3 times more at 5 minute intervals.
The whey has been drained and the curds cut in "cake-like" chunks
Now break the curd into walnut sized pieces and add salt at the rate of 1 oz to 4 lbs. of curd.
Ready to weigh the walnut-sized pieces of curd
Adding the salt (2 Tablespoons)
Have the press ready: line the mold with scalded cheese cloth, fill it with the curds, fold one layer of cloth neatly over the top, put in your follower, pile the rest of the cloth on top and put on the second spacer. Now put under 20 lbs. pressure for 10 minutes. Turn the mold upside down, replace follower and spacer and increase pressure to 30 lbs. Do this twice more at 10 minute intervals, increasing the pressure by 10 lbs each time and finally leave the cheese under the maximum pressure (50 lbs.) for 14-16 hours.
Sterilizing the cheese press (everything that touches the cheese)
Awaiting the next step
Spooning the salted curds into the press
Getting ready to put the cheese under pressure
Whey draining from the cheese
Under maximum pressure
Remove from the mold and uncover the cheesecloth. The traditional treatment of this cheese is to dry it by sprinkling all over with rice and flour and putting to ripen at 50°F for two weeks, turning it daily (this allows the whey to sufficiently drain). You can also air-dry it and wax it, but it needs an extra week to ripen.
Taking the cheese from the press
Removing the cheesecloth
Dusted with flour
Ready to age
Generally, I turn my cheeses twice a day - morning and evening. This keeps the cheese dry, thus stemming any propensity to mold. If I plan on keeping the cheese and not opening it right away, I will wax the cheese and continue to turn it about once a week.
There is nothing quite like homemade cheese. Not only is it wonderful to eat, but there is such a sense of accomplishment when you take a knife to that wheel.
We enjoy Caerphilly on crackers but have also grated it for use in cooking. The longer it ages the sharper it becomes, so if you age it for 3 to 6 months, it makes incredible macaroni and cheese.
Cheese is easy and fun, and, when you are culturing your starters, and incredible survival skill set.