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Hot Pepper Havarti

Havarti is a very mild cheese when made as a plain cheese, but it is also a cheese that does not get in the way of anything you may mix with it and so it makes a perfect cheese to flavor.  This particular cheese I have chosen to flavor with dried heirloom hot peppers we grew in our garden this summer. 

To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.


 
Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

 
When the milk gets to 90 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of mesophilic culture over the top of the milk.  I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from www.thecheesemaker.com and have found his prices to be spot on competitive.  He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

Stir in the culture.  I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk.  Then, let sit for 30 minutes to ripen.  

After the 30 minutes are up, I then stir the cultured milk again and add a mixture of 1/2 cup water plus
1 1/2 teaspoons of liquid rennet.  I use a vegetarian rennet liquid because it works well for me every time.  Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.

 
Now cover and let the pot sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour maintaining the 90 degree temperature.  Just a note on maintaining temperature.  If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 90 degrees also.  But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that must heat to disburse.  I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance is not a problem.

In the meanwhile prepare the hot peppers for the cheese.  First, remove the stems from a few dried hot peppers and put them in a food processor.


After chopping the peppers.


Put the peppers into 4 cups of water and then bring to a boil and simmer for at least 5 minutes.  BEWARE - THIS PROCESS WILL CREATE QUITE A PUNGENT SMELL IN YOUR KITCHEN.  DO NOT BREATH RIGHT OVER THE POT!


Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
 After 45 minutes to an hour, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello (notice the time range - this is to make sure the cheese curd is firm before cutting) .  With a sanitized knife, I then cut the curd into pieces.  

Gently stir the curds for 10 minutes after cutting
and then let them settle.


Now, ladle off 1/3 of the liquid.  I find it is helpful to use a sanitized strainer and large measuring cup so that only the whey is taken out and not the curds.



See the line where the whey level used to be?

Now, add back in just about the same amount of 170 degree Fahrenheit water as the whey you just removed.  I heat up 2 quarts of water at a time in the microwave, 3 minutes each time, and stir it in until the entire pot temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


 
Stir the mixture every 5 minutes over a 30 minute period and then drain the majority of the whey off the curds.



Break the curds up and toss with 3/4 cup of pickling salt.


Add in the hot pepper mixture and stir well.


Let sit for 15 minutes in a covered pot. 





Next, put the curds into a large tomme mold, with natural cheese cloth and put the mold into a cheese press on medium pressure for 1 hour.


 
After an hour, take the cheese out of the cloth, turn it upside down and re-wrap it with a poly cheese cloth - it is much easier to remove the final cheese from this type of cloth then the traditional cloth, but I do use the traditional cloth for the first step because it is bigger and it makes wrapping and moving the curd a much less messy process.

 
Now the cheese, in the mold, sits on my counter under medium pressure for 6 to 8 hours.

 

In the morning, I take the cheese out of the mold.  Cut it in half (it is the only way I can shrink wrap my cheese since the full round is too big), place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few days to dry.  Then flip and dry for a few more days.

 
The cheese, when completely dried, will be ready to eat or store.

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