Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheese in a Fortnight

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.

Caerphilly Cheese
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.


  1. what does your wheel of cheese weigh when it is finished? i have never seen this process of cheese making and found it to be very easy to understand. now, all i have to do is see if i can find a cheese press or have my hubby make me one..oh, and of course find a source for free milk too. i would love to give this a try!

    1. The wheel of cheese weighs 2lbs 6oz. It is a very nice size! Yes, cheese is easy to make - not the least bit intimidating once you start. Give it a try!


  2. Hi Enola,
    Your site is just the best. I eagerly await each posting. I am wondering how the flour works instead of waxing? Does it get gummy and sticky? Do you add more over time? Do you then wax it on top of a dusting of the flour? I've never seen flour used this way before. Thank you for the wonderful info.

    1. The flour just mops up the little bit of whey that continues to leach as the cheese ages (that is what the rice if for also). No, I have never had to add more and no, it doesn't get gummy and sticky. You don't wax until the cheese has aged enough for the whey to drain and a rind to form, so the flour is not used instead of wax. You can wax this cheese after two weeks (the amount of time to adequately remove the whey). Hope that answers your questions.

  3. Did you pasteurize the milk, because raw milk cheese should not be consumed for at least 60 days? This gives the lactic acid time to kill off the bad bacteria. The lactic acid is also what gives the cheese a sharper flavor as it ages.

  4. Check this out:

    Lots of information and just good pictures. Doesn't get much more primative then this.

    1. That was really neat! Loved the rustic nature of the cheesemaking!

  5. Where do you find your rennet? My local stores do not have any. Also, do you know of any way to make cheese without rennet for when we may not be able to find any?

    1. A lot of wine/beer making stores carry cheese making supplies also. Generally, I buy my starter and rennet online (at New England Cheese Company). Yes, I know how to make rennet out of calf stomach, however I have never done it. If I do, I will be sure to post.

  6. I am entering the end of year one for cheese making. It's incredibly enjoyable and really not that difficult to make cheese as good as anything you get in the store. I don't have a press yet and so make only relatively soft cheeses, but even those are very satisfying. My children (judging from the way it disappears) are really big fans.

    There are ways of making cheese using vinegar or lemon juice as the coagulating agent as well as using rennet.

    For cheesemaking supplies, our local brew store carries a fair amount. I have ordered from the past from The New England Cheese Company and been very satisfied.

  7. Miss Enola Gay, do you make the starter? If so, can you recommend a good recipe for it? Thank you so much!

    1. Unfortunately, I don't make my own starter. I have been looking into harvesting the local bacteria to make unique cheese. I will let you know if I come up with anything worthwhile.

  8. Enola,
    I 'm not sure you mentioned what you did with the whey.
    I hope you keep some of it. It is very very good for you.
    I make my own from organic yogurt.
    I put a couple of TBS, in a glass of water and some lemon juice- a very healthful tonic. Having a healthy digestion is critical. read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon if you'd like to know more.
    In TEOTWAKI or now, without health what do you have?
    Take Care!

    1. We love the whey! I mostly use it as the liquid when making bread. It makes the bread chewy, almost stringy. Whey does need to be used quickly as it goes back rather fast.

  9. I am also thinking about a time when starter and rennet might not be available to purchase. I’ve read many sources about using calf stomach and harvesting wild “starter”, but I’ve never tried these techniques. I, too, would be very interested in a post about both if you had a chance to get to experiment with either.


  10. Have you made mozzarella? Nothing better than fresh mozzarella cheese.