October 13, 2008

Kickin' Jack

Made a batch of Jack cheese today... and decided to spice it up a bit for the winter months. Thanks to the festive speckles of green Habanero and red chili flakes, it's a perfect cheese for Christmas!

I'm not quite sure it's going to be spicy enough... but if that's the case, we'll just call it "Kickin' Lack" instead.

Thanks to Sean for the homegrown Habaneros and to Dana for the name!

2 gal. Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1/4 tsp. Direct-Set Mesophilic Starter
1/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride
1/2 tsp. Vegetarian Double-Strength Liquid Rennet
2 Habanero peppers, diced fine
1/4 tsp. Dried Red Chili Flakes
1 tbs. Salt

Notes: Boiled one pepper and chili flakes for 15 minutes in 1/2 cup water, strained the mixture, added the remaining water before renneting, added peppers during milling. Diced the second pepper and added it directly during milling.

Better living through technology

115VAC Gearmotor, 10 Rpm, 40 In-lbs Torque: $48.37

Polypropylene Propeller With Shaft, U-shaped Blade: $18.67

Stainless Steel One-piece Set-screw Coupling: $11.85

6-foot, 16-Gauge Extension Cord: $0.99

Not having stand there for hours, stirring the curds by hand: Priceless

October 5, 2008

Black Sand Cheddar

The "Black Sand Cheddar" will whisk you away to the stunning beaches of Hawaii. Aloha! Or something like that. In any case, it sounds a lot better than "Cracked-Pepper Cheddar," right?

Serve chilled, with a lime...

2 gal. Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1/4 tsp. Direct-Set Mesophilic Starter
3/4 tsp. Liquid Vegetarian Rennet
2 tbs. Cheese Salt
1 tbs. (approx) cracked assorted peppercorns (boiled in water for about 10 minutes, added at the same time as the salt

September 19, 2008

Cheddar Texturing

I've been really happy with the flavor of the Stirred-Curd cheddars so far... but the texture hasn't been quite right. It's been a bit crumbly and dry. Doing a little more research, it seems that the solution might be to use a little more rennet. (The vegetarian rennet I have says on the bottle it's "double-strength," so I had been using half what the recipe calls for...).

On Sunday I had some friends over and we made a batch of Stirred-Curd Cheddar, but used 3/4 tsp. of rennet instead of the previous 1/2 tsp. What a difference! The curds set significantly faster (about 45 minutes), and were ready for cutting after only 45 minutes. After that, everything seemed about the same--until taking the cheese out of the press. The curds knit together much more smoothly, as the outside of the cheese was much smoother and, well, "cheddar-like"... and the feel of the entire wheel of cheese is a little more rubbery* and feels like it has a bit more moisture to it.

I waxed the cheese this morning, and I'll report back in two months...

2 gal. Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk.
1/4 tsp. Mesophilic Starter
7 drops Cheese Coloring, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. Vegetarian Rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 tbs. Flake Cheese Salt

* in a good way.

August 25, 2008

Perfect Party Platter

Last Friday my friend Dana threw a little soirée, which ended up being a gathering of many of our friends. What better opportunity to share some cheese?

I put together a little cheese platter, with the Feta, Manchego, Horseradish Cheddar, and Jalapeno Cheddar. Dana also supplied some fig paste, which is a wonderful complement to the Manchego (Quince paste is also great). Overall: Great Success!

We've been enjoying the Manchego and Feta for a little while now, but this was the unveiling of the two cheddars. They had been aging for just over 2 months, and came out of the wax in excellent shape. Both had a faint trace of pink mold on the surface, which I simply scraped off.

The flavor was excellent--thankfully, we guessed right on the Horseradish and Jalapeno quantities. Spicy, flavorful, and intense. I still can't decide which I liked more.

The only other thing I still have to figure out is the texture... Both the cheddars were quite crumbly (almost like a Feta!), while the Feta is too soft and creamy. Darn it, I'll have to try again!

August 22, 2008

The Leaning Tower of Colby

Yesterday my friends Sean & Michelle came over to make a batch of cheese. We settled on Colby, as it fit our time requirements and the ingredients we had on hand.

The big difference between Colby and some of the other cheeses I've made is that Colby is a "washed curd" cheese. After cooking the curds, we drained off most of the whey (saving it for Ricotta, of course) and then replaced the whey with fresh 60-degree water. Not only does that lower the temperature of the curds (changing the moisture content of the final cheese--colder than 80 is moister, warmer is drier), but it also washes the milk sugar (lactose) from the curd and helps avoid making the cheese sour.

This is also my first attempt with cheese coloring. So far, it doesn't seem like it's done much... I'm wondering if the color will become more pronounced as it ages? (Though it does look like there's a very faint splotchiness to it, which actually seems like a traditional colby coloring). Time will tell, eh?

Here's Sean, stirring the curds!

And here are the curds after washing and draining. We then salted them and put them in the press.

Even though we pressed it at increasing pressure (flipping between pressure changes), the cheese came out a bit lopsided. Thankfully that won't affect the flavor!

2 gal. Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1/4 tsp. Mesophilic Starter
5 drops Cheese Coloring (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

1/2 tsp. Double-Strength Vegetarian Rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)
2 tbs. Cheese Salt

August 3, 2008

Goat's Milk Feta

I just finished my first batch of Goat's Milk Feta! Woohoo!
I'm actually quite surprised at how easy--and fast--it was. The only tricky part was finding the goat's milk (thank you, Trader Joe!). Otherwise, it's a pretty straightforward process that doesn't even require a press--and is wayyyyyy easier than cheddar!
The only downside: At $2.99 a quart, it's pretty pricey. Just for the milk, that's $12 a pound!
- Heat 1 Gallon goat's milk to 86 degrees, add mesophilic starter.
- 1 hour later, add rennet (still at 86 degrees).

- 1 hour later, cut the curds into 1/2" cubes, let set 10 minutes.
- Stir gently for 20 minutes.
- Strain into cheesecloth, tie up the corners, and hang for 4 hours.
- Cut into 1" cubes, add salt, place in covered bowl in refrigerator.
- Wait 4 or 5 days (haven't done that part yet), and then enjoy!

4 quarts Summerhill Pasteurized Goat's Milk (from Trader Joe's)
1/8 tsp. Mesophilic Direct Set Starter
1/4 tsp. Double-Strength Liquid Vegetarian Rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 tbs. Flake Salt

New double-boiler setup

Made a quick trip to Surfas Restaurant Supply yesterday, and picked up a nice 24-quart aluminum pot. Shown above is my 12-quart stainless steel pot resting inside the larger pot, which is filled with warm water. This will save a lot of water, since I was previously using my sink to hold the hot water, and had to keep adding more hot water as it cooled down. Now, I just need to turn on the burner on my stove for a couple of minutes, and voila!, back to the right temperature.

July 22, 2008

Suspected bomb turns out to be... string cheese

Okay, so I haven't posted here in awhile, as I've been so busy with work and haven't had time to make any cheese lately (dangit!). So I thought instead it might be nice to do find some interesting cheese-related news, and then post it here. A quick Google News search for "cheese" turned up this article. I couldn't make this stuff up....seriously.

CENTERVILLE, Utah (AP) — A piece of string cheese made to look like a bomb forced the temporary closure of a Centerville grocery store. Police were called to Dick's Market over the weekend for a report that a someone had left a device covered in duct tape near a dry ice cooler.

The store remained closed for two hours while bomb-sniffing dogs and a bomb technician investigated.

They eventually found the device was a piece of cheese.

Centerville police Lt. Paul Child said juveniles are suspected of planting the item in the store.

He says the closure caused thousands of dollars in losses to the store, including from milk, ice cream and other items that spoiled during the closure and had to be thrown out.

Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net/

Even more information (sort of): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Cheese_Incident

June 15, 2008

Manchego Tasting!

We couldn't contain ourselves any longer, and simply HAD to taste our Manchego! It's been aging for three weeks.
We sliced off the bottom inch or so of the wheel, and then cut it into little wedges. Dana and I couldn't remember exactly what store-bought Manchego tastes like, so we picked some up at Whole Foods. I was hoping to find a younger Manchego, for a more direct comparison, but apparently the foodies there only have the "good stuff." We "settled" for a 12-month Manchego, of course made from Sheep's milk.*
Doing a "blind" taste test (see above photo), we could definitely taste a difference--but they were still strikingly similar. The most notable differences were the age (ours, at three weeks, is much less mature, less robust) and the type of milk. When compared side-by-side, we could definitely taste the difference of the cow's milk vs. the sheep's milk, particularly in the aftertaste.
Overall, however, ours really did taste like Manchego! It had good texture, was somewhat creamy, and maybe a little drier than the one from Spain.
So, for this particular batch, we need to let the rest age for another 11 months, and taste it again! But I don't think we'll wait that long...
* We also "settled" on some Quince Paste to go with the Manchego. It was a tough call between the Quince Paste and the Fig Spread, but cooler heads prevailed. MMMmmmm!

Whey Ricotta

Making Cheddar produces a lot of extra Whey. I've been making Ricki Carroll's "Ricotta from Heaven" with the leftovers, which produces about a cup of ricotta. This time I wanted to branch out and hopefully get a little bit more.

Following her "Whey Ricotta" recipe, it's actually a little simpler. It involves adding some extra milk, heating the whey to 200 degrees, and then adding some vinegar to curdle what's left. Straining through butter muslin, and draining for about 2 hours, produced about two cups of Ricotta.

The texture was quite nice, but the vinegar flavor sticks around. It's subtle, but it's definitely there. Not sure if the vinegar flavor (and cost of an extra quart of whole milk) is worth the extra yield.

Dana just sent me this picture of her breakfast... Whey Ricotta on a bagel, with Balsamic Glaze. Mmmmm!

1.5 Gallons Whey, leftover from Stirred-Curd Cheddar
1 Quart Trader Joe's Whole Milk
1/4 Cup Trader Joe's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Flake Cheese Salt

Horseradish Cheddar & Jalapeno Cheddar

Yesterday my friend Dana and I made a special batch of Stirred-Curd Cheddar. We split it up into a Horseradish Cheddar and a Jalepeno Cheddar. Basically, we followed the Ricki Carroll's Stirred-Curd recipe, and after the faux-cheddaring process (draining the whey, then holding the curds at 100 degrees, stirring every 5 minutes), we then divided the curds into equal parts, adding 2 tablespoons Horseradish puree to half, and 2 tablespoons finely chopped Jalapenos to the other half.

The plan was to press both at once (I only have one press, after all). However, we quickly realized that both of these are rather pungent, and that the flavors would likely combine inside the press (even if they're separated by some cheesecloth). We wanted to avoid making a Horseradish Cheddar that tasted like Jalapenos, and vice versa. Even we're not that adventurous!
The workaround was to press the Horseradish first, while continuing to hold the Jalapeno curds in the pot at 100 degrees. We pressed at 10 pounds for 10 minutes, then flipped, and again at 30 pounds for 10 minutes. We then switched, holding the shaped horseradish wheel at 100 degress, while we pressed the Jalapeno for the same amounts.

Next we stacked the two in the press (each dressed in their own cheesecloth), and pressed at 40 pounds for 2 hours. After that we flipped, redressed, and pressed at 50 pounds.
The cheeses are currently still in the press--they'll be ready to take out of the press tonight. Last night I took the cheeses out of the press. Looks like we either pressed the horseradish a bit harder than the jalapeno, or we just didn't divide the curds evenly--the horseradish wheel is quite a bit smaller than the jalapeno wheel. Other than that, they're looking--and smelling--incredible!

2 Gallons Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1 Packet Direct Set Mesophilic Starter
1/2 tsp Double-Strength Vegetarian Rennet
2 tbs Gold's Prepared Horse Radish (Ingredients: Horseradish, Vinegar, Salt, Flavoring)
2 tbs Chopped Jalepenos (From a jar of Jalapeno Slices in Vinegar)
2 tbs Flake Cheese Salt

June 4, 2008

Officials seize illegal cheese

Tainted cheese fuels TB rise in California
Unpasteurized dairy products linked to reemergence of ancient disease

I just came across this interesting scary article about the perils of making cheese from unpasteurized milk. US Law says that if cheese is made from unpasteurized milk it must be aged for at least 60 days. That gives it enough time for any "nasties" to die off. Apparently many Hispanic immigrants in Southern California are eating queso fresco made from unpasteurized milk, and then catching a rare form of TB. Yikes!

Full article:

June 2, 2008


Last week my friend Dana came over to join in the cheese-making festivities. I've been wanting to make Manchego for awhile, and I was excited to have some help in the kitchen for this somewhat more involved cheese.

Manchego is from Spain, originally made with sheep's milk--but for our purposes, we opted for cow's milk. I believe Manchego is now often made in Mexico with cow's milk as well. It can be aged for anywhere from 5 days (Manchego Fresco) to 12 months (Manchego Aciete), developing a stronger flavor as it ages.

The biggest difference in the process is that we had to stir the curds very slowly for 30 minutes with a wire wisk, cutting them up into small rice-sized bits. After a few minutes the curds seemed to be staying the same size, but we kept stirring anyway...

We then cooked the curds, slowly bringing the temperature up from 80 degrees (they had cooled off a bit from the 86 degrees at which we curdles the milk) to 104 degrees, no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes. That took about 45 minutes... All the while stirring slowly to keep the curds from sticking together.

We then pressed the curds, flipping the block of curds several times (at 15 minutes and 15 lbs each time), and then again at 30 lbs for 6 hours.

After that, we it soaked the cheese in brine for 6 hours at 55 degrees. The last step was to dry it off and then coat it with olive oil to keep it from drying out while it ages.
I don't think I'll be able to wait the full twelve months... But maybe we'll see how it's doing after a couple of weeks.

2 gal Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1 packet Direct Set Mesophilic Starter
1/4 tsp Direct Set Thermophilic Starter
1/4 tsp Lipase Powder (L3)
1/4 tsp Double-Strength Vegetarian Rennet
4 cups Brine (leftover from Haloumi recipe... Originally 2 lbs cheese salt dissolved in one gallon water and whey blend.)
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to coat

May 31, 2008

Stirred-Curd Cheddar

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to try another Cheddar. This time I opted for Ricki Carroll's Stirred-Curd Cheddar recipe. It is still a bit of a cheddar shortcut, but a little more involved than the Farmhouse Beach House Cheddar, since you do need to "cook" the curds for about an hour (stirring every few minutes to keep them from sticking together). However, I think it differs from a traditional cheddar in that you keep the curds separate while cooking (cheddaring?) them, rather then draining them and them cutting the block of drained curds into strips.

This cheese also needs to be waxed before aging. I used my smaller press hoop to create a taller cheese--then cut it in half before waxing. This way I ended up with two one-pound wheels. I plan on aging one for two months, and the other a bit longer to see how it develops.

2 Gallons Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk
1 Packet direct-set Mesophilic starter
1/2 tsp. Double-Strength Vegetarian Rennet

2 tbs Flake Salt

May 28, 2008


Haloumi, my second hard cheese, is originally from Cyprus. It is traditionally made with sheep's or goat's milk, but can also be made with cow's milk.

The interesting part about Haloumi is that you press the cheese for several hours, and then essentially pasteurize the cheese in its own whey. After pressing into a hard block, I cut the wheel into four wedges, then cooked them in the whey at 190 degrees for an hour.

After giving it a couple of hours to dry, it is then soaked in a brine solution (two pounds salt per gallon of water... insanely salty!). I added a little bit of the whey back into the brine, to help add some flavor, and then started aging the cheese.

Haloumi has a very high melting point, so it's great for cooking at high temperatures (perhaps Saganaki?). It's best sliced thin and then pan-fried... Or just thrown on the grill!

Wikipedia Entry on Haloumi

April 19, 2008

Beach House Cheddar

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.

March 1, 2008

My First Cheese: 30-Minute Mozzarella

So, my buddy Sean twisted my arm and convinced me to start blogging my cheese making activities. Here we go!

This photo show the results of my first attempt at making cheese, about two months ago. It's a 30-minute mozzarella, which of course took me more like 60 minutes. Nevertheless, it was quite tasty!