Homemade Leerdammer Cheese

Leerdammer is a cheese made in a very similar way as Jarlsberg, but it is Dutch instead of Norwegian.  And, other than the local origin being different for these cheeses and the fact that Leerdammer does not take as long to age (just about 4 weeks),thus developing a bit smaller holes, these cheeses have a lot in common when it comes to taste.  So,if you are a fan of Jarlsberg, like me, this cheese recipe would be a great one to try.
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 88 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

When the milk gets to 88 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of thermophilic culture AND 1/2 teaspoon of propionic bacteria powder 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.

After the culture has moistened for a minute or two, 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.
For this recipe, I let the culture sit in the milk for 30 minutes.  Then stir the milk again and add in a 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of rennet. 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 40 minutes maintaining the 88 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 88 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 40 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 the curds settle for 5 minutes...

...then stir the curds for 20 minutes.

Let the curds then settle again for 5 minutes.  Then proceed to scoop out about 25% of the whey (just until you can see the top of the settled curds).

Replace all the water you took with 88 degree Fahrenheit water. 

After stirring in the added water, the heat goes on again and the curds are slowly heated while being stirred until they reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit.  When this temperature is reached, turn off the heat and stir on and off for 15 minutes and then let rest for 30 minutes.

Next, remove about 16 cups of the diluted whey and replace with the same amount of cool water.  The temperature you are shooting for is around 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

The curds are then left to settle while I sanitize the items I need to remove the curds and press them.

Now, with very clean hands, I scoop the curds out of the whey and put them into a stainer that is lined with a natural cheese cloth.

Next, I just lift up the cloth and move all the curds into the tomme mold, with the cloth still around the curds, and put the mold into my cheese press with medium pressure for 10 - 20 minutes.

After the 10 to 20 minutes, 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 only 4 hours.

Finally, I mix 1 cup of pickling salt with about 2 inches of cold water in a plastic container (see below).  And place the unwrapped cheese into the salt water brine.  Just a quick note, I cut my cheese into 2 pieces at this point because when I long term store my cheese for aging I vacuum seal them and the full cheese is too big for the sealing bags I use.  If you want a full round you do not have to cut your cheese in half like I do.

The cheese should sit in the brine for a total of 20 hours - 10 hours on each side.  Then, after being in the brine all day, take the cheese out, 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.

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


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