By John Maniatty
Farmhouse Cheddar is a great way to build experience as a cheese maker. It requires aging at a constant temperature of 55-65° F, with humidity between 65–85%. A basement may fulfill this requirement, or an old refrigerator, with a bowl of water placed on the bottom shelf. Of course if you have a cheddar cave, that's works also!
Here's what we'll need:
Knutz • 2 gallons fresh Goat’s Milk • Cheese Press • Stock pot • Cheese curd knife • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt • Cheesecloth or butter muslin • Colander • Slotted spoon • Thermometer • Bamboo mat • ½ rennet tablet, diluted in ¼ cup cool unchlorinated water • 1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter
Let's get rolling and have some fun.
The milk is heated to 85° F (90° for cow’s milk)
Add the mesophilic starter is added. Cover and allow the milk to ripen for 45 min.
Next, add the diluted rennet and stir gently with an up and down motion for about 1 minute. Cover and let set for another 45 minutes. The temperature should be maintained at 85° (90° for cow’s milk). I have a warm kitchen, and am able to keep the temp up right on my counter.
After 30-40 minutes, you should see a clean break. To check, I stick my knife in at an angle, and pull it straight up. The milk has now split into a solid and a liquid (curds and whey).
Cutting the Curds!
Now it’s time to cut the curds. Cut parallel lines about ½” apart, then turn the pan 90°s. Cut parallel lines ½” apart again, and turn the pan 90°s. Now, with my knife at a 45° angle, I retrace my first lines. Then, I turn the pan 90°s, and again retrace my previous cuts at a 45° angle. I do this two more times, and by the end, it’s hard to tell where my original cuts were! That’s OK.
Have a sink full of hot water (approximately 100° F) ready, and place the pot into the water. Bring the temperature of the curds and whey up to 100° F slowly by adding hot water to the sink while stirring gently. It takes me about 30 minutes to bring the temperature up, raising it no more than 2°s every 5 minutes. It’s important to continue stirring gently to prevent matting. As the temp raises, you can see that the amount of whey has increased, and that the curds have shrunk.
Once the curds have reached 100° F remove the pot from the sink and cover it. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and then pour the curds into your cheesecloth lined colander. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang them to drain for 1 hour in a warm spot, away from draft. It’s important that the curds stay fairly warm.
After 1 hour, take the curds and break them with your fingers into walnut sized pieces in a bowl, and mix them with the Kosher salt.
Line your mold with cheesecloth, and pack the curds firmly into it, then neatly fold the cheesecloth over the top. Apply 10 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
Remove the cheese from the mold, and gently peel away the cheesecloth. Turn the cheese over, re-dress it with cheesecloth, and return it to the mold. Then apply 20 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
Repeat last step, but press it at 50 pounds of pressure for 12 hours.
Remove the cheese from the mold and carefully peel away the cheesecloth. Allow the cheese to air dry at room temperature on a bamboo mat for 2–4 days, turning it several times a day so that no moisture collects on the bottom.
When the rind is set, it's time to seal your cheddar in wax. I tried 2 ways: painted on with a brush and dipped.
Brushed on wax; I'm no Picasso but it's satisfactory
My second cheddar...
Dipped in wax...much easier and neater.
To dip, melt some wax in a clean large can in a double boiler. Then dip the cheese halfway, allowed the wax to cool, and then dip the other half in. Do this three times, rotating the wheel to allow the wax to completely cover the cheese.
I'll be letting these wheels age for at least 6 months before I try them out.