By Ricki Carroll
2 gallons whole milk (You can use raw milk or store-bought)
1 packet direct set mesophilic starter or 4 ounces prepared mesophilic starter
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet (or 1/2 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1 tablespoon cheese salt
Cheese wax (optional)
1. Heat the milk to 90F. (If you are using goat’s milk, heat it to 85F.)
Add the starter and stir thoroughly.
Cover and allow the milk to ripen for 45 minutes.
2. Add the diluted rennet and stir gently with an up-and-down motion for 1 minute. (If you are using farm-fresh cow’s milk, top-stir for one minute with the flat underside of the ladle no more than 1/2 inch deep to blend the butterfat that rises to the surface.)
Cover and let set at 90F (85F for goat’s milk) for 45 minutes or until the curd gives a clean break.
3. Cut the curd into 1/2-inch cubes. (I think this diagram says more than a picture would.)
Place the pot in a sink full of hot water and slowly heat the curds to 100F, increasing the temperature by no more than 2 degrees every five minutes. This will take about 30 minutes.
Stir gently to keep the curds from matting. The curds will shrink noticeably in size as the heating continues and you stir gently.
The yellowish whey will grow in quantity as the curds shrink.
5. Cover the container and let the curds set for 5 minutes.
Pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander.
Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot and hang the bag in a convenient spot to drain for 1 hour. Do not hang in a drafty spot-the curds need to stay relatively warm.
6. Place the drained curds in a bowl and break them up gently with your fingers into walnut-size pieces.
Mix in the salt.
7. Firmly pack the curds into a 2-pound mold lined with cheesecloth, then neatly fold the cheesecloth over the top. Apply 10 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
8. Remove the cheese from the mold and gently peel away the cheesecloth. Turn over the cheese, re-dress it, and press at 20 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
9. Repeat the process but press at 50 pounds of pressure for 12 hours.
10. Remove the cheese from the mold and carefully peel away the cheesecloth.
Air-dry the cheese at room temperature until a nice rind has developed and the surface is quite dry. This can take 2-4 days, depending on the weather. (Mine took 5 days because the weather was fairly humid.)
Turn the cheese several times a day so moisture will not collect on the bottom.
11. Wax the cheese (see page 57 or Jim’s directions online. (I like a natural rind, so I simply rubbed it in olive oil after it was dry on the outside. As the days go by, I brush off any mold and rub again with more oil.)
12. Age the cheese for at least 1 month.
YIELD: 2 pounds