I love cheese. I love it so much that I learned to make it for myself. The process had a little bit of a learning curve to it but once i figured out what the milk was doing and what each step was supposed to look like, I starting really having fun.
So, how does one go about making some cheese? First step is to get yourself some fresh cows milk. It has to be fresh because the process of homogenization ruins the butterfat and prevents the cream from separating. You just can't make a good cheese with store bought milk. Pasteurizing your milk for safety will not damage your end results in any way and give you a little piece of mind, not to mention ensures the safety of your end product.
What else do you need to make cheese besides milk? A good digital thermometer, some cheese culture, some rennet and a cheese press. I'll tell you how to whip up an inexpensive do it yourself press at the end of this post...
Now, you have fresh milk. 2 gallons is what you need for this recipe. it's Colby cheese and is it ever good.
Put your 2 gallons of milk in a stainless steel stock pot. You don't want to use aluminum, it reacts with the culture and rennet. Enamel pots and all clad both work if you don't have stainless steel. Using your digital thermometer and a low to medium heat, slowly warm your milk up to 86 degrees. Add your culture(measurements differ from culture to culture) and mix thoroughly, top stirring as well as full stirring to make sure the cream is well mixed with the culture. Cover the pot and allow to sit at 86 degrees for 1 hour.
Now stir your cultured milk well, making sure your milk is still 86 degrees. Add your diluted rennet(per instructions for rennet type) making sure to mix well for even distribution. Cover the pot and allow the rennet to set for 30 minutes or until curds give a clean break.
Cut the curd into 3/8" cubes and stir gently. let the curd sit for 5 minutes.
Heat the curds by 2 degrees every 5 minutes until the temperature reaches 102 degrees. Stir gently to keep the curds from matting. Maintain the curds at 102 degrees for 30 minutes while stirring gently.
Drain off the whey to the level of the curds. While stirring the curds, add cold water to them until the temperature reaches 80 degrees. At 80 degrees, allow the curds to sit for 15 minutes. Stir every few minutes to prevent matting.
Pour the curds gently into a colander and allow to drain for 20 minutes.
Break the curds into thumbnail sized chinks and add 2 tablespoons of cheese salt or fine ground sea salt. Mix into the curds gently but thoroughly.
Place your curds into a cheesecloth lined mold and press at 20lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.
Remove the cheesecloth, turn the cheese over and redress, press at 30lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.
Repeat the redressing process but press the cheese at 40lbs for 1 hour.
Again, redress the cheese and press at 50lbs for 12 hours.
Remove the cheese from the press and allow to air dry a rind at room temperature for several days or until the wheel is dry to the touch on both sides. Turn the wheel a few times a day during drying to ensure it dries evenly. Once the cheese is dry to the touch you may wax it for aging. At least 2 layers of cheese wax applied with a non plastic (plastic bristles melt)bristled pastry brush.
This cheese is also very good eaten fresh. I allow my cheese to dry for 2 or 3 days depending on the humidity and place it in the fridge for another 3 days to develop a smooth flavor and eat it. Cheese here almost never makes it to the waxed stage.
the cheese press is a simple construction. I used 1" thick, 12" wide pieces of board cut 12" long and simply drilled holes in each corner. I used stainless steel all thread rod with washers and nuts top and bottom to hold the press more steady. I used pvc pipe for the cheese mold, cut a wooden chaser to fit inside it and sit on top of the cheese wheel, a 3" piece of pvc to put the pressure on the cheese wheel. The top piece of wood is held steady by washers and nuts on top. Lightly set against the wood so as not to change the amount of pressure the bricks on top are applying. I learned quick that without the nuts on top of the board, the cheese did not press evenly and caused the bricks to shift and fall off. The all-thread was not enough to hold it on it's own.
This isn't a perfect design and I have tons of ideas on how to improve it but it is an effective press and is easy and cheap to whip together. A good starter press without having to put a whole bunch of money into it and still have good cheese. I am actually still using this press plus another one just like it.
To achieve the weight I need for each stage of pressing, I use a combination of bricks and weight bench weights. The free moving top allows the weight to be evenly distributed and it always stays the same as the cheese presses. Just don't forget to move the top nuts down every now and then or your bricks will fall off!
You will also need some sort of catch pan under your cheese press. As the cheese curds presses down into a cheese wheel, it expels whey. I use an old lipped cookie sheet under mine. Use one that you won't be using for baking anymore as the whey is actually quite acidic and will rust up the cookie sheet and eat the non stick coating off.
Oh, I almost forgot... I can't help you find fresh from the cow milk near you but I can help you find the cultures and rennet to make cheese with. Visit Steve at the cheesemaker.com. the link is on the right sidebar!