I'm getting back into cheesemaking. I made a few really delicious ones back in ~2001-2002, but my aunt became very ill while I was nurturing a big blue one and I had to abandon it and go and look after her - the cheese was a stinking mess when I got back, and it sort of put me off. Also I needed to buy a new bit of rubber tubing for this:
It's an old waterbath heater that I rescued from work. It has a little propellor that circulates the water past the heating element into the red rubber tubing and spits it out on the other side of the sink (or water bath, or wherever the end of the tubing happens to be). It is thermostatically controlled, and is very handy when you're making cheese.
I also purchased this wee toy:
A pH meter. It was $80, which is quite economical when you think that a pack of pH test strips is ~$20. The test strips are fine when you just want to know what the pH of something is, but when you're tracking change to a target pH you use a lot of them and it gets very costly.
Here's my cheesemaking gear sterilising on the stove:
And here's the 8 litres of trim (low fat) milk and 1 litre of cream that I'm turning into cheddar and ricotta:
We can buy what's called "Farmhouse" milk, which is pasteurised but not homogenised - the cream floats on top - but the trim milk from the petrol station is about half the price. The farmhouse milk is 4.4% fat, the trim milk is 0.4% fat, and the cream is 38% fat, so I did the calculations and figured that 8:1 was a pretty good ratio of trim milk to cream to recreate full cream milk.
Here's the reconstituted full cream milk sitting at 30˚C after innoculation with half a cup of buttermilk:
Its starting pH was 6.68. After an hour the pH had dropped to 6.61 and I added the rennet. I used two teaspoonsful, as the bottle was old - left over from when I last made cheese. But I needn't have worried, I had a good curd after only 30 mins:
I'll use less rennet next time - don't know what effect too much rennet has, but best use a little as possible.
I cut the curds, they were supposed to be 1/4 inch cubes, but that's a bit difficult with stuff that wobbles all over the place, I think mine were closer to 1/2 inch.
I raised the temperature to 37˚C slowly. Too slowly probably - I was being careful not to raise it too quickly and went too far the other way. Anyway, it took closer to an hour than 30 mins, but I stirred the curds conscientiously so they wouldn't mat. They then sat at 37˚C for 45 mins, being stirred a couple of times during the first 30, then left to settle.
I then drained the curds through a colander and collected the whey to make ricotta with. The curds sat in the colander in the pot at 37˚C for 15 mins, then I sliced them and returned them to the pot for cheddaring. This involves holding them at 37˚C for two hours, and turning the curd slices every 15 mins.
More whey is expelled, and the curds become quite tough.
I had to weigh down the pot with 5kg of weights to stop it floating around in the water; the water heater has a minimum water level at which it'll work.
While that was happening I got onto the ricotta. Forgot to take a photo of the "before" whey, this is some of the "after" stuff. This pot was full to the brim to start with - I thought it was going to over flow as I heated it to 93˚C because it got quite foamy on top. Anyway, turned off the gas and I added 1/4 cup of cider vinegar when it got to 93, stirred it a bit, then strained it through muslin. I added 1/2 a cup of buttermilk to the curds before hanging them up to drain properly.
I gave some of the whey to my cats to see if they'd like it, but the vinegar must make it unpalatable because they didn't drink much.
Here are the ricotta curds draining:
And here's the 375g of ricotta afterwards:
Back to the cheddar. This is what the slices of curd looked like after cheddaring:
You're then supposed to "mill" it, ripping them into small cubes without squeezing them. Again, this is easier said than done, and I think my bits are a bit large.
I added the salt (two tablespoonsful of sea salt) and mixed it up before packing it into my muslin-lined mould.
My cheese moulds are all home made; from small straight-sided plastic buckets. I chopped the bottom off and drilled holes for drainage into the one I use for hard cheese. One of the nice guys in the workshop at work made me a wooden follower that slides down the inside of it. I wrap it in plastic so it doesn't get all wet and swollen.
I used 5kg of weights for 30 mins, then I unpacked it all, turned the cheese over and repacked it using 17kg overnight. This is what it looks like with 17kg of weights on:
Yes, those weights are from my dumbells. Makes me feels good that I have a use for them!
This morning I unpacked it all again, turned the cheese over again:
And repacked everything, adding my Lodge Dutch oven to the stack which brought the weight up to ~23kg.
And there it will stay until tomorrow morning, when I'll unpack it all for the last time and dry the cheese for a couple of days prior to bandaging it and setting it to mature in my beer fridge. I'm aiming to have a bunch of cheeses ready to eat at Christmastime, so my visiting brother and his family can get fat instead of me.