Friday, March 4, 2011

Adventures in Home Cheesemaking

Taking advantage of a completely free day last Saturday after some out of town meetings were canceled, we got to work on our very first farmhouse cheddar cheese.

We actually tried to do it a few weeks earlier.  We got everything out and even started pouring milk--until we realized my 7 quart soup pot wouldn't hold two gallons of milk!  So for our anniversary I received what Jonas called: "A yuge pot!"  Which it is--it's as big as my canner, though without the unacceptable for cheesemaking chipped enamel.  Jeremy received a wooden cutting board for drying the cheese on.  Then we were finally actually ready to go.

It turned out o be a good thing we had the entire day set aside--home cheesemaking is a pretty big undertaking.  In the end I was glad we had the book, not just the kit.  The book gave us a bit more information that was helpful, though in reality both the book and the kit instructions would contradict themselves and each other--but we made it work.

Owen got in on some of the action.  Pouring the milk and cream.  We periodically called him back over to "come see" what was happening.

Jeremy cutting the curd after ripening and renneting.

We "cooked" the curd then hung them to drain.  

Then Jeremy took off to school for something or other related to "real work" or"progress towards graduating" or something like that and left me all alone to work from there.  It probably wouldn't have been as much trouble if I hadn't decided we should use the whey to make homemade ricotta while we were at it.  It has to be fresh whey so it was the only time to do it--but it was a lot of work for a little return--not as satisfying, though it did make for a delicious dinner.  

So after draining the curds I broke them up, salted them, and pressed them into the cheese mold and worked on creative ways to get 20 pounds of weight in the form of 5 pound bags of flour and beans to balance on top and press it. (I think what I really need is an old weight set off craig's list.)

24 hours later we had a beautiful round of homemade farmhouse cheddar cheese. It's almost done air-drying to form a rind. 

Then we will wax it and age it for two months in our new little old mini-fridge from the thrift store.  (Her name is Colby.)  A fridge isn't the ideal location for aging cheese this one will be set warmer than most fridges, but colder than most homes.  They say a cool basement is a great place to age cheese, but have I ever mentioned the dirt floor and awesome blue mold that grows on our luggage when we store it in the basement?  We're not going to store anything down there that we actually plan on eating. 

Jeremy says he's operating under the assumption that we did everything perfectly in our first try at real cheesemaking.  In two months I guess we'll let you know.

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