For my first real foray into making hard cheese, I decided on a "Farmhouse Cheddar" recipe from Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making.
This is supposed to be a good cheddar "shortcut" and pretty doable for a first-timer.
Heating the milk:
Oops! I heated it on the stove, rather than in a hot water bath...as a result, I think the temperature was not even throughout, and the milk wasn't quite as warm as it was supposed to be. It took the rennet more than twice as long to work (it's supposed to be 45 minutes), but eventually it curdled enough to cut into cubes.
After straining the curds into a colander, I'm left with a pot of Whey:
Draining the curds:
Yup, that's honest-to-goodness Cheese Cloth! The curds drained for 60 minutes. When I took them out, they were one hard, kinda rubbery, ball of curd. I broke them up into "walnut" sized pieces, according to the recipe (hmm... shelled or unshelled?), mixed in the salt, and then packed the curds into...
...my new press:
After pressing for 12 hours, the cheese came out of the press:
I then air-dried it for 5 days, turning several times a day, until it was dry to the touch.
Next step is waxing the cheese:
(That white square is just a label I added before the last layer of wax).
Then it was time for aging. Thankfully, the recipe only calls for aging for one month...
My second glitch: Because I didn't yet have a cheese fridge, I had to age it at room temperature. The regular kitchen fridge would have been too cold, but with room temperature you run the risk of mold and bacteria taking over. (It's supposed to be aged at 55 degrees & 85% relative humidity. Ahh, well...)
One month later:
Well, much to my surprise, the cheese came out quite nicely! The flavor was, well, interesting. It is somewhat "sharp" as a cheddar should be, but then mellow out and then you can really taste the milk. I think aging it another month would have really helped it out. More importantly, since I kinda messed up two key variables (heating on the stove, room temperature aging), we've come to the conclusion that this is more appropriately named the Beach House Cheddar.