Saturday, June 1, 2013

Homemade Stirred Curd Cheddar

To start off, I partially skim 8 gallons of milk.

Next, after sanitizing your cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on your largest burner. Until the milk is heated to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, 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 mesophilic culture over the top of the milk. I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from and have found his prices to be spot on competitive. He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

Rehydrate the culture by letting it sit on the top of the milk for a few minutes, then 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 the pot sit, covered, for 40 minutes to ripen.

After the 40 minutes are up, then stir the cultured milk again and add a mixture of 1/2 cup water plus 1/4 teaspoon of annatto coloring (this is what gives the Cheddar the deep orange coloring).

Then right away, add in a 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of liquid 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 30 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.

After 30 minutes, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello. With a sanitized knife then, cut the curd into pieces using angled cuts.

Just at the beginning of cutting

Right after cutting

Let stand for 5 minutes to firm up.

See how the whey has already started to separate

Now the heat goes to medium on the burner and the curds are heated and stirred until they reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When the curds have reached 102 degrees they should look like this...

The curds are then let to settle for 30 minutes.

Next, I pour off the whey, until you can see the surface of the curds. And then stir the curds on and off for 20 minutes. Finally, let the whole mass settle while you prepare the things for draining and pressing the cheese.

Drain the curds into a cloth lined colander, then immediately return the mass to the pot.

Cut up the mass with a sanitized knife and then sprinkle the cheese with 2/3 cup salt. Mix the salt and curds with your hands and then place them back into the cheese cloth inside a tomme mold.

Press the curds then at 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. The only reason not to use the traditional cloth for the first step because the traditional cloth is bigger and 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 12 to 18 hours.

Remove and then let dry at room temperature or in the refrigerator. 

 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.

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

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