There is something very satisfying about making your own cheese. Whether it’s just a basic soft cheese or a perfectly aged cheddar cheese, it’s just a beautiful feeling of achievement. For my husband and I, it was a lot of trial and error. We use raw milk from our milk cow and we have had a lot of failed attempts at cheddar cheese, but after making it for over a year I think we finally have it figured out! I would’ve really enjoyed having a step-by-step picture guide of what exactly to do, so I decided to do it myself, so hopefully this helps you out!
We make Farmhouse Cheddar most of the time, because it’s fairly quick to make (compared to Traditional Cheddar). You can use pasteurized milk or raw milk, but here is the big tip on raw milk: Use the freshest milk possible, let it be that day’s milk or just one day older than that, but don’t go much older than that. We can tell you this from experience. We would use milk that was a couple days old because it would take us a while to collect 2 gallons. What I found out is that since raw milk is not pasteurized it has lots of live bacteria present in the milk, it continues to get stronger the longer it is not used. When you then go put in your starter into the milk to sour the milk it combats with the bacteria already present in the older milk. The newer the milk, the less bacteria. We had lots of cheeses that turned out very bitter tasting because of the older milk and didn’t resemble the taste of cheddar at all. This was a huge revelation to our cheese making, so I’ll just use milk that is brought in that morning or the day before, but nothing older.
Things you need:
- 2 Gallons of Milk: Raw or Pasteurized (try to not use ultra-pasteurized)
- 1 packet of direct-set mesophilic starter or 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk starter (how to make cultured buttermilk).
- 1/2 teaspoon of liquid rennet
- 1 tablespoon of cheese salt (non-iodized salt)
- 3 gallon stainless steel pot (or bigger)
- Knife for cutting the curds
- Slotted Spoon (stainless steel)
- Cheese cloth
- Cheese press
Now, lets get started:
Put your two gallons of milk into your stainless steel container and put into your sink basin. If using raw milk make sure to leave the natural cream in and not skim it off, the cream allows the cheese to be more moist.
Fill your sink with hot water up to the point of your milk in the pot.
Put your thermometer into the milk and put the cover over the top to keep the warmth in. Allow to reach 90 degrees, but no higher
Once your milk reaches 90 degrees, remove from the hot bath and add your starter (I am using a homemade buttermilk starter in this picture).
Stir the starter in and set your timer for 45 minutes and allow your milk to “ripen.” As long as the top is on your pot it should stay at 90 degrees.
The next step is adding the rennet, we use animal rennet. Make sure the milk is still at 90 degrees.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water. Mix.
Add rennet/water mixture to milk.
Mix the rennet for 1 minute. If you are using raw milk where cream is present make sure to “top stir it.” Use shallow stirring motion that allows the cream to get throughly mixed. Allow to sit for 45 minutes
After 45 minutes passes you should see the cheese pull away from the knife as shown. If this happens then you are ready to cut the curds!
Our favorite part. Cut in 1/2 inch cubes (don’t worry, it’s not going to be perfect). Go downward strokes.
Then across the strokes.
Mix with your spoon, this will break apart your curds, so don’t go too crazy. The curds are supposed to be cut all the way through, so I usually just break them apart with the spoon.
The smaller you make the curds the easier the whey is released from the curd. This is why it is supposed to be uniform in size as best as possible, because you don’t want certain curds to release whey faster than others (however, it’s fairly forgiving, because it’s not going to be perfect).
This is the most frustrating part of the whole process. The book says raise the temperature by 2 degrees every 5 minutes for 30 minutes until it reaches 100 degrees… We find this impossible without special equipment, so just be patient…
This part of the process usually takes us around an hour, partly due to us going off and doing other things and forgetting to check on it. I say do it slower than faster the slower the whey leaves the curds the better. We typically are stuck at 90 degrees forever and then it shoots to 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes… You just have to keep playing with the temperature of the water.
Stir the curds every 10 minutes or so to make sure they don’t mat together.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to 100 degrees, now it’s time to drain the curds.
With a colander lined with cheesecloth (over a bucket to catch the whey so you can make ricotta of course), pour the curds into the colander.
Now you have some beautifully drained curds.
Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and allow to hang for 1 hour (preferably in a spot that’s not drafty to keep the curds warm)
After an hour your curds will be lumped together and strained nicely.
Break apart the curds into a bowl, they should be about the size of walnuts… Give or take.
Add 1 tablespoon of “cheese salt.” Basically any salt that not iodized.
Get your cheese press ready.
Line your cheese press with cheesecloth and put the curds into the cheese press.
Press the curds down trying to fill all the spaces.
Put the top of your press on and follow the instructions of your press of how many turns you need to apply the weight. Apply 10 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes.
See the whey drip out.
After 10 minutes take the cheese out, flip it and redress it and apply 20 lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes then you are ready to dress it and leave it for a while. Flip it again and redress it (I usually like to put fresh cheesecloth on at this point, but it’s not necessary). Apply 50 lbs of pressure for 12 hours.
Now after 12 hours (which if this ends up in the middle of the night a couple more hours won’t hurt until morning to take it out) take the cheese out and allow it to dry on a cheese mat.
Flip the cheese to the other side after a nice rind starts to form. (note: don’t buy a multi-colored mat, it bleeds onto your cheese). Also, don’t put it on a wooden surface, it’ll make the area underneath it wet, so you can put a towel down underneath the mat if you want.
We like to cut our cheese in half, since it is close to 2 lbs, so we usually package them separately.
After the cheese has a nicely developed rind (typically 1-2 days) it’s time to package it. We use a fancy Foodsaver, because we tried waxing it and it never turned out good, so we bought a Foodsaver, which works great for preserving cheese.
Label your cheese. I like to put the name of the cheese, when it was made and the earliest date it can be eaten. I sometimes add notes about how the curds looked, etc. Just in case it turns out really good or bad.
Add to your fully stocked cheese cave for at least a month. We bought a wine cooler because it keeps the best temperature. If you have a spot in your house that stays between 50-55 degrees feel free to store cheese there, but we don’t have any place that keeps a consistent temperature. Your supposed to flip the cheese everyday for the first week or so, but we always forget, so just flip them whenever you remember.
Congratulations on making your farmhouse cheddar cheese! I hope your proud of yourself and your amazing ability to change milk into cheese.
Remember, it’s a consistent learning process so if something went wrong this time and your cheese didn’t turn out well then try again next time. Even when our cheeses tasted “off” we usually added it to cooking recipes instead of adding it to a sandwich or eating it separately.
If you used raw milk it is important that you allow the cheese to sit for at least a month. It has something to do with the bacteria in raw milk get killed off if it is aged for an extended period of time before consumption (don’t let this freak you out, just practice caution).
Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try to help out as best as possible. This recipe comes from “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll. However, I add a lot of commentary that you won’t find in the book, which is why I decided to make this to help those who like a picture guide on how to make things. I know it would’ve helped me, especially since we use raw milk.