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Homemade Colby Cheese

For my son who prefers an "orange" cheese, I made a batch of Colby to encourage him to reach for the cheese drawer a little more often.  The main difference between Cheddar and Colby, and what gives the Colby its milder taste, is that the curds are washed in a watered down whey instead of being left to sit in the full strength whey. I have to admit the process is a bit more messy with transporting the whey and water back and forth, but entirely worth pleasing my mild “orange” cheese lover.

To start off, I partially skim 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 86 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.


When the milk gets to 86 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 1/2 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 1 hour to ripen.  
After the 1 hour is up, I then stir the cultured milk again and add 16 drops of annatto coloring (this is what gives the Colby the deep orange coloring).


After stirring in the annatto well, next add 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 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 30 minutes maintaining the 86 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.


Yes, it is a HUGE pot
After 30 minutes, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.  With a sanitized knife, I then cut the curd into pieces.  



Let stand for 5 minutes to firm up.



Now the heat goes to medium on the burner and the curds are heated and stirred until they reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  When the curds have reached 104 degrees they should look like this...


The curds are then let to settle while I sanitize the items I need to eventually press the final product.



Next, scoop off enough whey, making sure to save some for using during the week, until you reach a point where you can see the curds on the bottom.



Now, approximate the amount of whey left in the pot, and add an equiviliant amount of 104 degree water to the curds and whey in the pot. This process is called washing, and the washed curds are what give Colby its more mild taste.



Stir for 2 minutes, and then let the curds sit in the washed whey for 10 to 15 minutes while maintaining the 104 degrees.  


Next, scoop out the curds...


...and put them 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 is pressed under medium pressure for 12 hours.


After pressing, take the cheese out of the mold.  I cut it in half because it is the only way I can shrink wrap my cheese since the full round is too big, place it in a 20% salt saturated brine for 12 hours (6 hours on each side).


 After removing the cheese from the brine and placing it on a sanitized mat, I put it into the refrigerator to dry.  After a few days of drying on one side, I flip it and dry it on the other side for a few more days.



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

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