Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homemade 5-Pepper Texas Jack Cheese

I know it has been a long time since I have posted a new cheese recipe, but as an adjusting "city dweller" I have found that cheese making has taken more of a hobby status in my life and the recipes I perfected on the farm have served me well to make over and over again as my family in turn consumes them directly out of our refrigerator.

But, one cheese that I have been working on this past year is a more spicy alternative to my Hot Pepper Havarti.  I have found that using fresh peppers (and specific ones in particular) make the cheese turn out fresh with  perfect amount of heat.

So, here we go. 

To make this 2 pound batch, you will need 2 gallons of raw whole milk and a mix of the following peppers:  1/3 of a sweet red pepper (or a single red jalapeno if you want it a bit hotter), 1/3 of a sweet yellow pepper, 3 orange habanero peppers, 1/4 of a sweet orange pepper, and 1 green jalapeno pepper.

Heat he milk to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was making an 8 gallon batch of Colby the same day.  The two gallon pot is on the right.

Next, measure 1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic culture and sprinkle it on top of the heated milk.  Let hydrate for a few minutes and then stir it in, with an up and down motion for at least 20 strokes to make sure the entire vat of milk is cultured.

I order all my cultures and rennet from

It is hard to see, but the culture is a bit yellowish and floats on the top of the milk when it is sprinkled on top.

When stirring with an up and down motion the milk will rise from the bottom and the top milk will be sucked down making sure the culture is evenly distributed.
Now, hold the temperature (put the lid and and keep the pot somewhere warm) and leave for 45 minutes.

During that wait time, cut up your peppers into very small uniform pieces, cover them with an inch of water and add in a pinch of salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes.  When the mixture has finished its boil time, remove it from the burner and cover the pot to keep the peppers warm.

When the wait time on the cultured milk is over.  Stir the milk a bit to incorporate the cream back into the milk (some separation always happens) and then mix in a mixture of 1/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of rennet.  Again use the up and down mixing motion and make sure to count at least 20 strokes.

Cover the milk again and hold the temperature for 40 minutes.

 When the hold time is done, cut the curds into even cubes.  This is done best with a long knife and at an angle to the top surface, turning the pot a 1/3 turn as you go.  Once the curds are cut, let them firm up by leaving them sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Now, with the heat on low, heat the curds up, while stirring, to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  This should take about 40 minutes.

One you have reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot. (As you can see, I switched thermometers.  Actually my digital one stopped working and I thought I would point it out since it is always a good thing to have a back up thermomemter around.  I have had batteries die, glass ones break, and ones just stop registering on me when cheese making and since cheese making requires such specific temperatures you never want to be without one when it is most necessary!)

Next, skim off as much whey as you can without taking out any curds (save it for fermenting or bread baking) and then ladle the curds into a strainer that is lined with a cheese cloth.

Now, before the cheese drops too much in temperature, put the curds back into the cheese pot and then add the pepper mixture and mix it all for about 10 minutes while breaking down the curds into small pieces so the peppers get evenly distributed.

Then put your curds into a prepared mould and press for 1 hour.

After the hour is up, flip the cheese over and then press for another 12 hours or overnight.

I am not all that thrilled with this smaller press, although is does the job, but as you can see the larger press I have is gravity driven with the jug to put pressure on the cheese and it turns out a much more uniformly pressed cheese because of the constant pressure, something that is very difficult to get with the screw press when pressing overnight.

In the morning, remove the cheese from the press and soak in a 18% salt brine for 12 hours (flipping half way to make sure the cheese gets evenly salted, and then place the cheese on a drying mat and allow to dry in the refrigerator until it has lost its excess moisture. 

Once the cheese is dry, you can wrap it in cheese paper, wax it, shrink wrap it, or eat it...that is usually what happens around here.  Enjoy!

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