Monday, May 21, 2012

Cheese Making

I recently re-picked up a hobby that I tried to develop a number of years ago--cheese making.  You might recall this and this.  Well, needless to say, after the house-full-of-cheese-smoke experience, I didn't make too many more cheeses.  Additionally, the cheeses that I really wanted to make required aging at temperatures between 46 and 60 degrees for months at a time, and I've never had anywhere to age them.

Fast forward 6 years, and I now own a home with a basement and a little more personal money each month.  After spending over $200, and a lot of my free time in the basement, I finished the cheese room a number of days ago.  It's the space under the stairs in my basement.  I insulated the walls, put in a door, and installed a window air conditioning unit to keep it cool.  It maintains a temperature of between 46-54 degrees and costs me about $7/month in electricity.  I'm pleased with it so far.  We'll see how long the window unit continues to work.  I had to do some trickery to get it to pull the temperature down that low (the units only go down to 64 degrees under normal operating conditions).

Here are a couple of pictures of the room early on in the process.

And here's a picture of it completed.

 Since finishing the room I have made couple of hard cheeses.  I'll detail the first, called a farm house cheddar.  It's a cheater cheddar because you don't actually do the "cheddaring" process to make it.

Here's the milk in a pot, with the thermometer in it.  The milk needs to be kept at the right temperature for the right amount of time for all the bacteria to grow and produce acid and for the chemistry to take place to turn form a curd from the milk solids.

After sitting long enough, with the culture and rennet in there, this is what the milk looks like--the white blob in the center is the curd.  It's floating in (and filled with) whey.  Notice the cut on the left side--that is a "clean break" I made with the thermometer.  The fact that the hole stayed there, instead of just closing up, indicates that the curd is firm enough for the next step.

I cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes, and cooked them in the whey for a little while longer.  Then, I dumped the curd out into a colander lined with a cheese cloth.  After the whey drained out, I lifted the cheese cloth and hung it, so that more whey would come out.
 I let the curd hang for an hour, before turning it out, into this bowl.  I think it's cool how it reformed to the shape of the hanging bag.
 After breaking the curd back into little chunks, and mixing some salt with it, I loaded it into the press.
 I pressed it for about 15 minutes at a very low pressure (0.7 psi), then extracted it, flipped it, and pressed it again.
 This time, though, I pressed it at a higher pressure (3.2 psi) for 12 hours.
 After removing the cheese from the mold, and letting it air dry for a number of days, it was time to wax it.  I had to heat the wax up to 240 degrees,
 and then hold the cheese in the wax for 6 seconds to kill the mold spores that landed on my cheese during the drying process.
 After dipping it a number of times, to ensure that it was completely protected,
it was time to go down to the cheese cave, where it will age for at least 30 days.

You'll notice that I've got 2 other cheeses in there.  Both are goat's milk cheddar.  One is mine (it was a failure, actually, but we'll see how the final product turns out.  The other one, the taller one, is actually my bosses.  He is renting space in my cheese room to age his cheese.

Overall, I've enjoyed this new hobby, and I hope to to become more experienced with it, and one day actually make a cheese that people will like eating.  I'll let you know how that goes.


Gillian Mohlman said...

Thats so cool Mike! I want to come try some of your cheese. I want you to make Gouda cheese!

The Duke said...

You are such a patient boy! I could never do such a thing but I sure could eat your cheese. I love squeaky cheese so if you ever make any, let me know. I'll place my order right now.

Jason said...

Feel free to send some our way. We love going down to the Kalona Cheese Factory. They have a small store there also. We've bought jalapeno chedder, cheese curds, chocolate cheese, and several others. Still, extra sharp chedder is the best! Good luck. I hope it turns out well.

Michelle said...

I am impressed. Super awesome job on making cheese. I hope it turns out and tastes great too.

Dave and Tana said...

Yum! We are gonna wanna live close you your family when everything goes crazy one day, so self sufficient!

Jess and Jason said...

Mike, although you are truly one of the oddest people I know, you are also one of the coolest! It makes me happy to see you so interested in learning and doing new things. I sure hope your cheese room works out and that your cheeses are edible.

Regan said...

Oh, I wish you were still in Ohio! I really want to learn how to make cheese. I first saw it done years ago on a Sesame Street show and I've wanted to do it ever since.

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