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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fern's Cheddar Cheese

This is the third year we have made cheddar cheese and it is still a learning process. Some of the cheese is okay, but it has an after taste that isn't so good. The hard part is the waiting. Fresh cheddar cheese has no flavor. You have to wait at least three months to find out if what you have made is good or yucky! Like this one, looks pretty but was not good eating. But we don't give up trying. That's the key - keep at it - even if it takes a long time to get good results. This is our third year and we are still crossing our fingers.

The recipe I use comes from Mary Jane Toth's book Goats Produce, Too! I would highly recommend it for making goat cheeses. I have other cheese making books, but I started off with this one and haven't tried any of the others. I like the explanations she gives in the beginning sections. There is a lot of information about cultures and how to make which kind of cheese. It helped me have the courage to get started and try. I hope these posts might help someone else get started.

I have found that if I am going to make cheese, making two batches is just as easy as making one. It takes all day to process cheddar cheese until it is in the press for the last 24 hours and if I am going to spend that much time, I would rather get two wheels for the effort of one. 


The recipe calls for two gallons of whole milk, so I don't skim the cream from these jars. Here is the refrigerator before we get started. We need four gallons of milk.
We 'accidentally' bought stock pots a few years ago that make perfect double boilers for two gallons of milk during cheese making. The smaller pots handles fit over the lip of the larger pot and allow enough of the pot to be immersed in water to evenly warm the milk during the heating process. What a great accident!

The first step is to pour in the milk....

then scrape all of the cream out of the jars.

I recently ordered new thermometers from New England Cheese Making, that I really like. The increments are smaller so I can be more exact when heating the milk. This website has a lot of information about cheese making.

We add water to the bottom pot even with the milk in the top pot and heat the milk to 88 degrees.

While the milk is heating, we have time to wash up all of the milk jars.

We have limited working space in our kitchen, so frequent clean-up during projects like this are necessary.
  Since we are spending a lot of time with the cheese today. I am thawing out a bag of chili we made from our ground chevron. We will be butchering another wether before long and will post that process when we do. 


Whew! Now it's time for a coffee break!

The milk should be heated very slowly on a low temperature setting. If you heat the milk too fast your curd will be very tiny little lumps instead of a nice, slick, shiny, solid mass. My impatience has gotten the best of me more than once and I have learned this from experience. Well, I hope I have learned it by now. 

After the temperature reaches 88 degrees, pour in 1/2 cup of buttermilk and stir for 30 seconds. I culture the buttermilk using these packets I bought from Caprine Supply. That will be another post.
The cheese then sits to ripen for 45 minutes staying at 88 degrees. I have changed the recipe here because of the after taste we were getting. I read everything I could find to improve the flavor and one of the things mentioned is the acidity of the milk. This is determined by the animal you milk. The recommendation was to ripen the milk for a shorter period of time. The recipe calls for an hour, so I shortened that to 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, the recipe calls for adding 1 teaspoon of rennet to 1/2 cup of cool water then stir into the milk for 30 seconds. I got my rennet from Hoegger Supply Company. It is concentrated, so you only have to use 1/2 teaspoon for two gallons of milk.

After 45 minutes, the curd should be kind of slick and shiny. If you put your finger in it, it will be solid like custard and crack open when you lift your finger up.

Now cut the curd into 1/4 inch cubes. I don't know if I have ever gotten them to be 1/4 inch or not, I just do the best I can. This is my bread knife, but it is long enough to reach the bottom of the pot, so it works just fine.  

The curd on the right has been cut and on the left has not.

Let the curd rest for 10 minutes then slowly raise the temperature to 98 degrees while stirring occasionally to keep the curd from forming a large mass. This will cook the whey out of the curd so it will shrink.
After you reach 98 degrees, let the curd sit for 45 minutes stirring occasionally to keep the curd separated. 

Next, pour off the whey....

then pour the curd into a colander and let it drain for 10 minutes.


We pour the whey into old peanut butter jars (we like peanut butter!) and feed it to the chickens or dog, or water some of the garden plants with it to increase the calcium content of the soil. 

Next, return the curd to the cheese pot, break it up into small pieces.....

and add four teaspoons of salt. Stir well.

 Let the curd sit at 98 degrees for one hour. Stir occasionally to keep the curd separated and crumbly.

Now you finally get to put the curd in the cheese press. We bought this press from Hoegger Supply Company. It works well. There are many different plans to make your own cheese press, from simple to complicated. We chose to buy ours.

Line the press with cheese cloth and spoon in the curd. You will need enough cheese cloth to wrap over the top of the curd and cover it. Our press fits into an 8x8 baking dish. This catches the whey as it is pressed out of the cheese.
We decided to experiment this time and put all of the curd in one press. We usually use two - one for each two gallons of milk. Well, after we got all of the curd in, we couldn't hardly get the wooden follower in the mold, or crank down the handle. After we were well into the process, we decided it wasn't such a good idea after all. We will have to wait and see how the cheese turns out - in October. We won't do it this way again until we see if this wheel turns out okay. 

 It's nice to have a husband that will do the hard stuff! It's not very easy to tighten down the press since we have it so full. 

We don't have a way of measuring pounds of pressure with our press. It is more of a sense of feel.
 For the first press, tighten to 15 pounds for 20 minutes.

Then take the cheese out, turn it over and press it for 20 more minutes at 30 pounds of pressure.

Next, take the cheese out, remove the cheese cloth....

and put on a new one....

then press it at 30 pounds for 2 hours.

In the last press, take off the cheese cloth, put on a new one and press at 40 pounds for 24 hours. I tighten down the crank as much as I can, then check it several times during the 24 hour period. If I can tighten it some more, I do, so the cheese will have a constant pressure.

The cheese has to air dry for several days before it can be waxed and stored. Look for that process in another post titled Waxing the Cheese.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them. This is a learning process for me and we can learn from each other. Until next time - Fern.


  1. I found your step by step easy to follow and very informative.

    1. Thank you for your input. We are glad you found this useful. Waxing the Cheese will be posted in a few days after the cheese is dry enough to wax.

  2. Hi, I found your website looking for information on goats. I hope to get two does later in the year.

    In researching my garden I found a book that said stinging nettles can be used as a rennet. It did not give specifics, but as you were looking for non-GMO alternatives, I thought this might be of interest.

    May I recommend the book Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemingway, which despite the title is not a push on a "Gaia" worship outlook. It takes companion planting to a new level, and breaks down permaculture into simple informative steps.

    1. Thank you for the information, Valerie. I have briefly read about nettles and rennet, but haven't taken the time to really research it. I have been reading quite a bit about, and trying out companion planting in the garden and herb bed. Thanks for another resource. I hope you find some useful things here. We really enjoy our goats and the food they provide.