Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday cheddar check

Summer always seems to fly...the 4th has come and gone and we're well into the heat of summer. Fortunately after a very dry June the rains have returned with very outspoken thunderstorms. The DSL was knocked out last Sunday and has been intermittent since being repaired. We had a strong storm on Friday night and again on Saturday evening. The only fireworks to be seen there those from the the bolts of lightening across the sky.

Friday day was a big first for me. Steve has encouraged me to start making my own raw milk cheese so we pulled some books together, hit the web and found a cheddar recipe that met our needs. (Just as an aside, Steve submitted our own Providence for consideration, a cheese I now help make, to be included in the American Raw Milk Cheese Presidium held on June 29th.) I used 1/3 milk from the goats in the back yard and the other 2/3 from Sammy's milk fresh from his delivery. The recipe came from The Cheesemaker’s Manual by Margaret Morris for 25 gallons of milk. Neither Steve nor I had previously made cheddar although he saw demonstrations and I observed a cheddar make while attending the Cal Poly Artisan Cheesemaker's Short Course last September in San Lois Obispo. We sat down, planned the make and I went to work with my MS Word Tables and made a nice work sheet.

Once the milk was in the vat I checked the pH and slowly heated it to 88F. The culture was a nice farmstead blend called MA4001 which Samantha happened to have a supply of. I'm just getting into the details of all the different cultures starting with balancing the use of mesophilic and thermophilic but that is an entirely different discussion. Once the culture was added, the milk ripened for 1 hour and the pH checked again. I had a good indication the culture was working (the pH decreases by at least 0.1) so I added the calcium chloride and the rennet. After 45 minutes I checked the curb for firmness and cut it after 1 hour. The curd rested for 5 minutes and then I gently stirred it for 45 minutes while raising the temperature to 102F. The curds were then held at 102F for 30 minutes after which the whey drained away.

The cheddaring begins when the curd is piled up in the back of the vat. I cut the curd mass into 4 blocks and then piled them up where the work to press each other and continue to acidify. This turning and flipping is done for an hour, all while in the vat to keep the curd warm and moist. The final step of cheddaring involved cutting the curd by hand (since we don't have the mill that does it for you) into long strips that are salted and placed into the Kadova moulds Steve had in the basement from his Gouda days. Once in the moulds the cheese is pressed. The pressing was a bit rigged since we no longer have routine need for a cheese press. But a few buckets filled with water and carefully balanced will do the trick. The cheese was pressed overnight and taken out of the moulds on Saturday.

We will let the cheese dry a few days. I will then apply a bandage using the pork fat from our whey fed pigs. The result - a true farmhouse bandaged cheddar. In 3-4 months we'll know if my first cheddar making experience is good enough to sell.

This afternoon we used a trier to take a core plug of the wheel. We wanted to take a look because if you look closely you might see a mottled appearance where the curds are white against the cream color of the wheel. We were concerned that the moulding and pressing might not have fully melted the curd together. The core looked fine and better yet, tasted fine.

And just for kicks, this morning we made our usual Camembert and Julian, adjusting the culture for the decreasing protein in the milk that occurs during the summer. Our pH's were right on, the draining curd looked good. A very good Monday!


em said...

I'll volunteer as a taster! (but you knew that)

i didn't know it was so complicated. sounds like hard work!


Inky Ink Inc. said...

Who knew cheese was so scientific! Thought you just milked the cheddar goats for cheddar cheese, like chocolate milk comes from brown cows!

Anonymous said...

I have been making soft cheese and have just tonite built myself a cheese press. Tomorrow is the day for my first hard cheese. I hope that it goes well. I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading about your cheese adventures.