Monday, January 26, 2009

Cheese Fest

It's been a cheese-making festival around here. I've been making a number of cheeses lately, taking my ideas and recipes from Ricki Carroll's "Home Cheese Making" book. Starting out with a simple recipe called Farmhouse Cheddar, I practiced by making about 4-5 one-pound blocks of it. One of them has hot pepper spice added to it, that one should be really good.

It is supposed to age for at least 4 weeks, but my son and I got impatient at the 3-week mark and broke one open. Though you could tell that it was a bit immature, it was starting to develop that slight acidic bite that some cheeses have. It is also a bit flakier/more crumbly than regular cheddar, but was it oh-so-good! My son and I ate a half-pound one evening, and another half-pound a few days later.

After making a number of Farmhouse Cheddar batches, I made several pounds of gouda. There are a couple of differences in making gouda versus cheddar. For one, you 'wash the curds' as it is called. After cutting the curds into about 1/2 inch cubes and heating to about 100 degrees, you replace the whey with warm water. This is done 3 times before the curds are drained and pressed. Also, after the cheese is pressed, it is soaked in a strong brine for anywhere from 3 to 12 hours, depending on the recipe you follow.

I plan on eating at least one of the blocks of gouda after 4 weeks, but also plan on aging one for 6 months. I LOVE aged gouda and now know why it is so stinkin' expensive.

My camera is still broken, sigh... However I have another digicam that is really cheap but will suffice in a pinch, and I was able to get a few pictures of the process.

This is my high-tech cheese press. The molds are PVC pipe, the weights are free-weights, and the pot is a large stock pot that I have.
This is a 1-lb. block of gouda after being removed from the mold, and ready to be soaked in the brine.

This is the gouda while soaking in a strong brine for 12 hours.

Another picture of my high-tech cheese press. Don't knock it, it works great.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cheese Head

I got interested in cheese making recently, and of course, had to try it. This looks like this will be fun. I started my first hard cheese Friday night, a Farmhouse Cheddar. My instructor is Ricki Carroll and her book 'Home Cheese Making'. No stinkin' wonder cheese is so expensive; it takes a LOT of milk and forever to let it age. This cheese should age for a minimum of 60 to 90 days, but I know I am going to cheat and at least try it at 30 days.

I started a batch Friday, Saturday and today (in between church services) and they are air drying on my counter for 2-4 days to develop a rind. Then I will be coating them in wax and letting them age. I am thinking that if I start one batch per week that will keep me in cheese heaven. The problem is, it will take me 60-90 days to see if I totally botched them up and destroyed them. Early cheese makers probably went through the same trials.

I wish I could take more photos of the process, because if you know me personally I take pictures of everything. However, after 11,000 pictures my digital camera (Minolta Dimage 5) the shutter button on my camera is stuck, and I'm not sure what I can do about it.

So recently I have cured my own ham from a 3 lb. pork loin and smoked it, started cheese, made some buttermilk, sour cream, butter, made 5 lbs of breakfast sausage, and started 5 liters of red-wine vinegar. Not bad for a wanna-be do-it-yourselfer!

More to come on the upcoming cheese, and hopefully pictures too. Soon to come - homemade bratwurst.


PS: check out the pictures of Cowgirl's smoked prime rib on her blog ( Oh my goodness gracious, I have to do this now!