Forging Fromage. This cheese has been ripening in my beer fridge for 3½ months now, sitting on a little bamboo mat, wrapped in cheesecloth and shortening, left inside a plastic lettuce container. It has had milk stored on top of it, today I dug the container out from under a rather large bundle of kale. (The beer fridge also does double-duty for unwieldly objects.)
I unwrapped it, washed it, and scraped away the hard outer layer. What was underneath tasted like... cheddar! Amazing. I do notice the slight miscolouring. We are not overly sensitive, but if you are.. cheesemaking may not be for you. We deemed it quite edible, and delicious!
adapted from Making Artisan Cheese, Tim Smith
2 gallons whole milk (7.6L)
1/4 tsp mesophilic direct-set culture (2mL)
1/8 tsp calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool water (60mL)
1 tsp liquid rennet (5mL) diluted in 1/4 cup cool water (60mL)
2 tbsp cheese salt (I just use pickling salt) (30mL)
Heat the milk to 86F (30C), then stir in the starter, cover, and ripen for 45 mins. Add calcium chloride. Maintain 86F (30C), add the rennet to the milk and stir for 1 minute. Cover and let it sit at 86F (30C) for forty minutes or until you can get a clean break. Make one cut with a curd knife to test for a clean break.
Maintaining the target temperature, cut the curds into 1/4 inch (6mm) cubes, and let them rest for 5 minutes. Slowly heat the curds to 100F (38C), stirring occasionally to prevent the curds from matting. This should take thirty minutes. Once you reach the target temperature, hold for an additional thirty minutes, continuing to stir. Let the curds rest for 20 minutes at the target temperature.
Drain the curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander and let them sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. You now have a large block of curd. Cut the block into 1/2 inch (about 1cm) thick strips, and lay then in an 8"x8" (20cm x 20cm) cake pan in a crisscross pattern. cover with a kitchen towel, and put the cake pan into a sink filled with 100F (38C) water, to a depth that comes just to the top of the pan. Make certain that the water does not get into the pan. Keep the curds at 100F (38C). Rotate the curds top to bottom every 15 minutes for two hours. Be sure to drain the whey from the cake pan every time you flip the curds. By the end of the two hours, your strips should be smaller and tough, with a smooth, shiny finish on the sides. Tear your curds into 1/2" (about 1cm) pieces, and put them back into the pan. Cover and let them sit in the pan in the 100F (38C) water for an additional thirty minutes. Stir the curds frequently to keep them from matting.
Blend in the salt by hand, and let the curds rest for 5 minutes at room temperature.
Pour the curds into a 2-lb (900g), cheese cloth-lined mould. Press at ten pounds for 15 minutes.
Take the cheese out of the mould, and peel off the cheese cloth. Turn the cheese over, rewrap it in the cheese cloth, and press at forty pounds for 12 hours. Repeat this procedure, and press at fifty pounds for 24 hours.
Take the cheese out of the mould, and let it air-dry on a cheese board for two to three days. Turn the cheese several times daily to allow for even drying.
Yield - 2lbs. (900g)
Cloth banding is the traditional way to form a rind on Cheddar cheese. The advantage to cloth is that the cheese can breathe more effectively than when covered in wax, and proper breathing gives the cheese a richer, fuller flavour. Cloth banding is easy to do, and it gives your cheese an authentic look.
Place the cheese on a clean sheet of cloth, trace the top and bottom of the cheese, and cut out four circles that are each wide enough for the cheese cloth to cover the sides of the cheese. Rub a thin coat of vegetable shortening on the cheese, covering the entire cheese. Lay the cheese cloth on the top and bottom of the cheese, adhering to the shortening. Repeat the process, layering a second coat of shortening between the two layers cloth.
Cover with the second layer of cheese cloth, and rub the fabric smooth to form a solid seal. Ripen at 55F (13C) for three to six months at 80-85% humidity, turning weekly.
The process of cheddaring occurs when the cheese maker takes the mass of drained curds, lays them out flat, cuts them into blocks, and then stacks them on top of each other. Over time, the curd blocks will shrink in size and become firm in texture as they continue to lose whey. The end result is a cheese renowned for its flaky texture and pleasantly tangy flavour.