To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.
When the milk gets to 88 degrees. Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of mesophilic culture over the top of the milk. I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from www.thecheesemaker.com and have found his prices to be spot on competitive. He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.
Stir in the culture. I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk. Then, let sit for 40 minutes to ripen.
After the 40 minutes are up, I then stir the cultured milk again and add a mixture of 1/2 cup water plus 1/4 teaspoon of annatto coloring (this is what gives the Cheddar the deep orange coloring).
Again cover and let sit for 15 minutes - maintaining the 88 degree temperature.
After the cultured milk with annatto has sat for 15 minutes. Stir again. Then add in a 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of liquid rennet. I use a vegetarian rennet liquid because it works well for me every time. Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.
Now cover and let the pot sit for 40 minutes maintaining the 88 degree temperature. Just a note on maintaining temperature. If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 90 degrees also. But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that must heat to disburse. I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance is not a problem.
|Yes, it is a HUGE pot|
|Just at the beginning of cutting|
|Right after cutting|
Let stand for 5 minutes to firm up.
|See how the whey has already started to separate|
Now the heat goes to medium on the burner and the curds are heated and stirred until they reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When the curds have reached 102 degrees they should look like this...
Next, I pour off the whey, making sure to save some for using during the week.
Now, in the pot, all I have left is the lump of curds. Over the next hour, I leave the burner on low and then every 10 minutes I turn the lump of cheese over in the vat so slowly the whole lump nets itself together. By the way, this process of slowly turning the cheese for it to net together is called "cheddaring" and that is why this cheese is called Cheddar.
When the cheddaring is complete, the mass is then cut into large cubes and tossed with 3/4 cup of pickling salt.
Next, I put the curds into a large tomme mold, with natural cheese cloth and put the mold into my cheese press on medium pressure for 1 hour.
Now the cheese, in the mold, sits on my counter under medium pressure for 12 to 18 hours - the next morning is close enough for me.
In the morning, I take the cheese out of the mold. Cut it in half (it is the only way I can shrink wrap my cheese since the full round is too big), place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few days to dry. Then flip and dry for a few more days.
Your cheese, when completely dried, will be ready to eat or store.