Cheese Making must be an art, because it needs more than exacting conditions – it needs artistry. (At least that is what I tell myself as another hard cheese is waxed and placed to age in our cheese cellar; my fingers crossed – yet they feel all thumbs.)
Count me as doubtful, but it’s difficult to think that the cheese I make will rival that of the fresh dairy beautifully-aged cheeses.
But this blog isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it written by the fearful. So, I will record the history of our cheese-making experience.
As true to our homesteading passion, our cheese is produced from milk that is obtained by the family cow: Daisy Mae. As I write this, Daisy Mae is a year older than photographed here. She is a real trouper. We purchased her as a young four-month-old calf. (We tied her legs and tossed her into the back of a Yukon, since we don’t have a truck. She rode home with her head in my lap.)
I haltered her and walked her up and down our mountain trails, poked her, lifted her legs, and bugged her enough to desensitize her to most anything. Now, at almost five-years-old, she stands for the 80 school children as they try their hand at milking and learn where butter comes from. She is happy for their company and all the attention.
Daisy Mae is a Holstein cow. The breed produce a lot of milk – up to 8 gallons a day – with only about 10% cream. We separate her from her calf for the evening. I milk her in the morning and turn them loose together during the day. (This way I can collect enough cheese without having to milk her twice a day.)
Once I collect six gallons, it’s time to make cheese. (On the farm it didn’t take long to realize that a six-gallon pot was required.) This pot is full with fresh milk on the slow rise to 100 degrees to make Cheddar Cheese.
When the cheese reaches the correct temperature, the culture is added and left to mature. (This time can vary based on the type of cheese desired.) In this case, the culture matures for an hour before the rennant is added. The rennant is an enzyme that sets the cheese into a semi-hard state. It’s not quite as firm as Jello, but cuts in a hard break.
The cheese is cut into 1/2 inch squares by cutting in an X fashion, then diagonally through the curd. It is then left to rest as the cheese separates from the whey. Here’s where recipes can diverge, but always the whey is pour off and reserved for future bread recipes. (More on bread later)
The curds are then placed in cheese cloth and pressed for fifteen minutes, removed, re-wrapped, pressed again for thirty minutes. One last time the cheese, which has now become a solid block of curd, is removed, re-wrapped, and pressed over-night at 50 pounds. It air dries for three days, then is waxed to age from seven months to one year.
We’ve had the pleasure of tasting our smoked Gouda, which turned out nicely. We also make Ricotta, yogurt, buttermilk, and more. Next week I’ll try my hand on Brie (my favorite!).