On hard cheeses

Just because I am brave, I decided to make a pressed, aged cheese for my third attempt at home cheese making.

I had help with the selection, though.  When asked, my daughter said “Either feta or cheddah,” laughing.  I told her the cheddar had “delayed gratification” written all over it, as it should age at least 4 weeks before cutting into it.  And I chose to make cheddar because, unlike feta, I had all necessary ingredients.

A pressed cheese requires a press, of course.  I have a somewhat thrown-together setup made mostly with things found around the house, including weights from Tom’s fitness area and some pans from the kitchen.  The mold itself is entirely easy to make at home except for the small fact that PVC pipe (which is what mine is made from) is sold in 10′ lengths and there is no way I would ever need that much.  Of course you can use anything else, too:  an empty BPA-free can, say, with both ends cut out.  The follower is simply a piece of maple 1x wood cut to fit inside the pipe.  (I purchased both this press and a larger one from Caprine Supply as even I am known to throw the rare dollar at convenience.)  And I punched a pie tin (downward, no sharp ends inside) to drain the resultant whey.  There’s another pie tin below it that holds the punched tin aloft by four mason jar rings.

I told you it looks thrown together:  the drainage system, left, and the final pressing, right, w/ 30 lbs. in the pot.  That’s another mason jar acting as a plunger.  The white thing is the mold, and you can’t see the follower, and yes, those are washcloths soaking up the resultant whey.

You won’t need the jar rings after the first pressing.  Towels will do.  And:  anything you can do to stabilize the weights is helpful.  I did the first pressings on the floor in case the darned thing wanted to tip over (and it did) but…now that we’re on the last pressing the weights are safe in their pot atop the counter.

This cheese did take a good part of my day to make, but it was more busy work (checking temperatures, etc.) than active work.  It gets pressed under different weights for a total of 28 hours, then it gets to dry (covering the outside with salt), then waxed, then aged in the cellar.  Sounds like a lot of work but…good things take time.

11 responses to “On hard cheeses

  1. You make that sound fun.

  2. Excellent! I’m ready to move up from the mozzarella/cottage cheese/ricotta cheese stage to the cheddar stage. Did you inoculate it with some sort of cheddar starter culture? (I assume so). We get raw organic milk from our neighbor and I’ve been dying to get started on the cheese-making bandwagon (like I don’t have enough to occupy my time already!). I’m anxious to hear how yours turns out!

    • Just mesophilic starter as an inoculant, Blaithin: better known as buttermilk! And rennet, and salt. That’s it. It’s EASIER than mozzarella, surely.

  3. that’s pretty exciting stuff.

    I love the idea of intermittent work activities. Bread making and yogurt making are like that for me.

  4. Huh!? This is doable?
    You are my goddess. Not that I’m religious, or anything.

  5. Unless we ever get a milker, which is doubtful, since we only have a quarter acre, I probably won’t get around to making cheese, although I would like to. It’s just so expensive when you have to buy it, and first you have to find milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized.

    But I can enjoy it vicariously. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  6. Must try this soon. Cottage cheese is on the agenda for Sunday…

  7. I’m very impressed with your cheesemaking, El. I have a kit and recipe book around here somewhere, birthday present from way back that I haven’t used. I’m going to take your inspiration and get on to that this summer. What would you recommend a novice start with?


  8. It IS fun, Pamela, now that I have gotten over the fear that I will screw something up! There’s always more milk coming…

    Blaithin, I made a fresh pressed cheese just yesterday that is made like the cheddar but with a ton of fresh herbs and garlic…it’s for me, my mom and my mother in law to eat today on Mother’s Day! LOTS of things to do with that raw milk.

    Stef, it’s right up your alley considering how busy you’ve been lately. I did it while working. Granted I do my paid work while sitting in the kitchen (it’s just easier at the kitchen table) and so taking a few steps to see how warm the milk is was fairly easy to do. I am all about billable hours and this didn’t take away any of my time. Gotta get up and stretch the legs anyway!

    CC, well it’s doable if you’re motivated, and I guess I fit in that category but I like the idea of worship, to be frank. 🙂

    Paula! Some people would envy your quarter acre: I know one farmer who makes cheese on a lot less. But yes really the expense of buying it is very motivating to me. I can now eat it all the time!

    Emily, I haven’t made cottage cheese yet. Too many memories of my mother’s diets growing up or something. But really it’s my understanding that it’s not too hard to make.

    Brett, you mistake me for someone other than a novice!! Honestly, what do you LIKE to eat? That’s where I would start. Paneer and labneh (vinegar cheese and drained yogurt, basically) aren’t even really considered “cheese” by the snobs but they’re certainly easy to make. I think I would start with yogurt and work up from there in terms of difficulty. I would NOT start with mozzarella. Do not be fooled that it’s easy, no-fault cheese. It also depends on what kind of milk you get, too: Hope Creamery’s cream would do you proud if you want to make some clotted cream, say, or creme fraiche. The cheese world is your oyster, really, if you have your own buttermilk and yogurt cultures going. I think I am going to make brie next, actually…

  9. Just was given a gallon of raw milk from a friend who has some excess right now. Farm cheese is what I am going to make now, but I am very interested in your other cheese experiences. Thanks so much for sharing with all of us what you do (I am all the more appreciative of that as I know from my own life how hard it can be to take/find/make the time to blog).

  10. Yum! You always inspire me with your home made adventures.

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