Monday, June 21, 2010

When Life Gives You Thistles, Make Some Cheese!

What's missing when you have a fresh peasant loaf and a bottle of homemade ale? Some good cheese, of course! We decided it was high time to fill that void, so we set out to make some farmhouse cheddar. We ordered starter, rennet, and a mold from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and bought two gallons of good quality raw grassfed Jersey milk from a local Amish family. We visited their farm and got to see their happy cows and clean facilities, and we were really impressed! They also sell sheep's milk, which we may have to try another time!

So to make a farmhouse cheddar, you heat the milk gently to 90 degrees, add some mesophilic starter, and let it ripen for 45 minutes. Then you add the rennet and let it set at that temperature for another 45 minutes until it breaks, at which point you cut it into curds.

You slowly bring up the temperature of the curds to 100 degrees, and then drain them by pouring them into a cheesecloth and hanging it for an hour.

Once drained, you break the curds up into small pieces, and mix in some salt.

Then you pack them into a cheesecloth lined mold and press, applying 10 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes, then 20 pounds for 10 minutes, and lastly 50 pounds for 12 hours. Afterwards, the cheese is removed from the mold, the cloth is carefully peeled away, and it's left to air dry for 2 - 4 days, allowing a rind to develop.

At that point you can wax or bandage it, and let it age for a couple of months. Just as with all food preservation methods, so long as you pay attention to cleanliness, there's not much else to stress about.

We plan on making a mother culture from our store bought starter, and we've read that we can make rennet from our thistles! Now if only we had a cow...

1 comment: said...

Great job! Why not a post on Italian cheese making supplies? Best regards.