We have one more check on our list of things to learn!  We have made our first cheese!  What a process it was, too. 

We were actually inspired to do so when a co-worker of S’s described his experience making cheese from store-bought, pasteurized, homogenized milk.  He had a bunch of Junkit Rennet tabs left over, and gave them to S.  We figured if he could do it with that yucky “fake” milk, surely we could do it with our raw milk.  So yesterday, we took the plunge.  Here is our experience, captured in excrutiating detail:

First, we had to slowly heat 1 gallon of milk to 68 degrees.  Then we added some organic, whole milk, live culture yogurt to “inoculate” the milk.

JR adding the yogurt

JR adding the yogurt

After stirring the yogurt into the milk, the pot was covered and set aside to acidify for about 12 hours.  After the time lapse, we dissolved 1/2 a rennet tablet in a bit of water.  Then we slowly heated the milk to 86 degrees, and mixed in the rennet solution.  We again set the pot aside, undisturbed, until it coagulated.  We tested it for a clean break at 1 hour, 1 1/2 hour, and 2 1/2 hours.  At 2 1/2 hours, it seemed to have a clean break.  We then cut the curds as instructed by the Junkit instructions.

S cutting the curds

S cutting the curds

After the curds were cut, we slowly heated the curds to 96 degrees, meanwhile stirring with my hands.  As the pot got warmer (about 15 minutes), the curds began to contract, firm up, and sink to the bottom of the resulting whey. 

Stirring the curds and whey

Stirring the curds and whey

When the temperature reached 92 degrees, we strained the whey into a large bowl.

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I then worked the collected curds on the strainer a bit to strain a bit more whey out (they were still very wet).

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After removing as much whey as possible, I mixed 2 tsps of salt into the curds, pouring out excess whey as it collected in the bowl.

This working broke the curds into a firm cottage-cheese consistency

This working broke the curds into a firm cottage-cheese consistency

During the waiting times, we had fashioned a make-shift cheese press of sorts out of a casserole dish (to collect whey), a plastic cylinder (with lid and bottom removed), a section of a clean pillow case, and a glass bowl (to fit inside the cylinder), tin can, and rubberband for the press.  Once the salt was worked into the curds, the curds were put into the cloth-lined cylinder.

Ready for pressing

Ready for pressing

 Then we assembled our press. Don’t laugh too hard.

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This was left to settle overnight (about 12 hours).  This morning, I disassembled the contraption and voila!  

Homemade Cheese!

Homemade Cheese!

The cheese roll was then rubbed with salt.  Of course, we also had to steal a little taste!  Somewhat salty, but otherwise bland–I guess that’s why aging is required.  The texture seems right though.

Rubbing the cheese in salt

Rubbing the cheese in salt

Then the cheese roll was wrapped in a clean cloth, and placed in the fridge to age.  This cloth will have to be changed daily for a while, then as needed, as the whey will continue to seep out.  In my opinion, this is the torture part.  Geepers, I have just spent well over 24 hours making cheese, and can’t eat it for at least a month!  We’ll see if we can wait that long!

Wrapped and ready to age in the fridge

Wrapped and ready to age in the fridge

So….our first cheese. I have a new respect for cheese makers!  This could be a worthwhile endeavor if I made large quantities at one time, but that is a lot of time and effort for a measly one-pound loaf of cheddar!  That I can’t even eat for a while!  Nonetheless, it was thrilling and educational to do it.  For those of you who are more experienced (Terri!!) at cheese making, I would LOVE to know anything I did wrong or any shortcuts I can use for future reference! 

Now, what to do with 2/3 of a gallon of whey?!  “Heeere, puppy, puppy!”

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