Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cheese Whiz

Keeping up  with nearly 4 gallons of milk a day from our generous cow LaFonda is a challenge. But Cadence is always up for a challenge, and has tackled this one by teaching herself to make cheese, using the book "Home Cheesemaking" by Ricki Carroll.
So far, Cadence has made the following cheeses:  Ricotta, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Cream Cheese, Paneer, Queso Fresco, Manchego, Parmesan, Romano.  Making cheese takes the better part of a day, and I haven't followed her through the entire process with my camera, but I have taken  photos of most of the stages - these shots are from different days, different cheeses.
Basically, a culture is added to the milk and it is heated up to a specified temperature, depending on what type of cheese is being made.  All of the types of cheese Cadence has made so far have been from  just two cultures, thermophilic or mesophilic. The temperatures and cycles of heating and cooling, and size of curds determine the type of cheese.
The milk forms a semi-solid mass which is then  cut up into curds (the size again depends upon what type of cheese is being made.)
The whey separates from the curds --at this stage it looks sort of like very large-curd cottage cheese. The whey is drained off (and  usually fed to our very happy chickens.) The cheese curds are formed into a disc shape and placed into the press to squeeze out the remaining whey.
Cadence and her dad devised a simple cheese press using a cylindrical plastic container with drainage holes drilled in the bottom, a length of plastic pipe that just fits inside the container, a metal plate screwed onto a dowel, a small ceramic plate, and some heavy weights. The metal plate pushes down on the cheese, the weights slide on the dowel to  press onto the cheese, and the plastic pipe serves as a spacer for the weights.
The first version of cheese press was too tall and top-heavy and was susceptible to catastrophic crashes.
Cheese Press 2.0 works great.  The entire press  is placed inside a large metal mixing bowl to collect the whey that is pressed out.
After being pressed, the wheel of cheese is then either  brushed with cheese wax or wrapped in cheesecloth, depending upon the  cheese. Some wheels, such as manchego, can be eaten fresh (the manchego has been delicious!)  Cheese that aren't waxed are allowed to dry  enough to form a natural crust.  They are all stored in a  cool, dark place to age. Our current "cheese cave" is an unused bathroom in our cool basement.  If it gets too warm we will move the cheeses to a refrigerator.
At this moment, we have  six large wheels of cheese curing in our "cheese cave." When you open the door you are hit by a wonderful aroma of parmesan!


Ribbit said...

Very cool! Have you done butter as well?

katiegirl said...

Wow, Cadence has been busy! The cheese looks great!