Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Homemade Chihuahua Cheese

This is a recipe that is my go to for those days I need to make cheese, but then again the day does not leave me a lot of time to fit in a lot of extra making steps.  Just a little history first:  Chichahua is a cheese that was first made by the Mennonites who immigrated to Mexico and northern Belize.  The process for making this cheese you may notice is a bit similar to Cheddar, and the taste is very similar too, but it tends to be a lot more forgiving.

To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.

Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

When the milk gets to 90 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 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 30 minutes to ripen.  

Next, 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 30 minutes maintaining the 90 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
After 30 minutes, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.  With a sanitized knife, I then cut the curd into pieces.  


Let stand for 5 minutes to firm up.  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...


The curds are then let to settle for about 15 minutes while I sanitize the items I need to remove the curds and press them.

Next, I
scoop the curds out of the pot and into a strainer.

Now, in a smaller oven proof pot that has been sterilized, I dump the lump of curds.  Over the next half-hour, I leave the oven on warm and flip the curds a few times (about every 10 minutes and pour off any excess whey that is released from the cheese). 

The mass is then cut into large cubes and tossed with 2/3 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.


After an hour, I take the cheese out of the cloth, turn it upside down and re-wrap it with a poly cheese cloth - it is much easier to remove the final cheese from this type of cloth then the traditional cloth, but I do use the traditional cloth for the first step because it is bigger and it makes wrapping and moving the curd a much less messy process.

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.

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