It’s All About The Cheddar

I finally finished the painting and now I have to wait three days until it’s fully dry so I can assemble the hundreds of pieces and put it in the crate (which I get to build in the meantime). There have actually been some foodular developments here at cookblog HQ, but they’re of various other process-heavy things and as such not ripe for the posting. But not very much visually dramatic is going to happen to this cheese over the next six months, even though the interior will be undergoing all sorts of cheesy alchemy as it transforms into sharp, crumbly cheddar, so I figured I write about it now.

“Cheddar” is also a verb. Did you know that? To cheddar your curds–inoculated per normal around here with mesophilic starter and set with rennet–you then slowly raise them up from 90˚ to 100˚(F) over the course of half an hour or so. This helps them acidify and contract, further expelling whey. Then you can take the long way to truly authentic cheddar, or the shorter way which is what I opted for given that I had dinner cooking at the same time and there’s only so much I am capable of, especially on behalf of you people. Essentially, you drain off the whey and then keep the curds at 100 degrees for an hour or two, stirring them from time to time, and then put them into the mold for pressing. The longer way involves letting the hot curds mat (form a solid slab) and then cutting it into strips and keeping them hot for a while longer. That’s the part I skipped. I’m not Superman. (Keep in mind that I could easily have lied to you and told you I did it the hard way and then you would think I’m Superman, but I didn’t so you don’t). Either way, a sink is an excellent place to cheddar, since the hot water tap and a digital thermometer allow for decent temperature control.

For the press, because I do not have a cheese press, I made do. Hard cheese molds have followers: inserts that fit snugly inside them and which the press can thus push on to compact the curd. I found that my big gochujang jar fits perfectly inside the mold, so I put a tuna can in the follower and topped it with the jar. On top of that I put a nice big kitchen bowl full of six liters of water, which we all know weighs six kilograms or a bit over 13 pounds. The gochujang is another kilo, so all told I pressed it under more than 15 pounds for about 24 hours, flipping it once around halfway. Here’s a shot Milo took of our super high-tech setup:

Once fully pressed, I let it sit out overnight to dry, then waxed it. You can’t tell from the picture, but that’s a double boiler setup I have there; I decided to ruin one of my small stainless bowls (and a brush) by making it a dedicated wax bowl (with matching brush). There’s nothing so relaxing as taking a break from painting in the studio to come back in the house and do some painting in the kitchen.

Now it’s in the wine fridge aging away. In six months I’m going to peel off the wax (it’s reusable) and see how it turned out. My goal is to make another one of these every couple or three weeks, so down the road there will always be something or other that’s ready to eat. Yesterday I found time to make another batch of Camembert, and I found that by increasing my weekly order I can make enough curd to fill three molds, meaning that in future we’ll have a more reliable supply of the soft cheeses too:

I figure that if I sort of alternate between hard and soft with each week’s batch of milk (now in larger quantity) that soon enough we won’t want for cheese in some form or another at any given time. The two smaller ones you see up above will ripen faster than the big one, allowing for still more variation in the maturity dates.

Take a look at the large round one above, and then at the cheddar pre-waxing below. It’s easy to see the effects of the weight, especially when you realize that there’s about twice as much curd in the cheddar and it’s not as tall as the other one. We’ll eat this cheddar on my birthday in November; come back and see how it turns out.

7 comments to It’s All About The Cheddar

  • El

    Cheddar=love

    Try some sage-y Derby in your rotation.

    OH and tip jar: when I am hungry I can’t do higher math so I always put the “OK to Start Eating” date on the label, too.

  • I love the scientific, high tech setup for squeezing your curds. Looks like the kind of thing I’d make, if I had half your industry.

  • Beautiful! I haven’t gone far in my culturing, but you are providing plenty of inspiration to branch out a bit!

  • Jules

    I am unable to find cheese maker’s wax locally, may I ask what your source for it is, please?

  • Peter

    El: Good idea.

    Zoomie: I’m a life-hacker!

    Kate: It’s remarkably easy and so satisfying.

    Jules: Yes you may. http://www.cheesemaking.com

  • Great stuff! I’ve had amazing success with cheddars- just finished eating the last of one that I made last october. While they are great after a few months, it is well worth the wait to let it age 6 months. I was also really happy with the Camembert I made last year. Happy to see some other cheese makers blogging!
    Cheers-Maygun

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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