The more cheese, the better! That’s what we always say. So many of our favorite recipes include a generous helping of cheddar cheese or are topped with it, so we thought it was time we learned how to make it ourselves.
The whole cheddar-making process takes just over 60 days minimum to go from milk to cheese, and the longer the better. So if you’re patient, plan on impressing your guests by serving them your homemade cheese at Christmas. Keep your eye on the prize, people!
To get started, you’ll need just a few handy tools and ingredients:
- Large stock pot
- Long knife (doesn’t need to be sharp)
- Cheese wax
- Cheese press
- 2 gallons of whole milk
- 1/8 tsp. calcium chloride diluted in ¼ cup of water
- 1 packet direct-set mesophilic culture diluted in ½ cup of cool water
- ¼ tsp. double-strength liquid rennet
- 2 Tbsp. sea salt
We’ve broken the process into 10 steps to make it simple to follow along:
- Get started by bringing 2 gallons of milk to 85°F in your pot, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn. As the milk starts heating up, add your diluted calcium chloride. Once the temperature reaches 85°F, add the diluted mesophilic culture. Once combined, cover and let the mixture ferment for one hour.
- Next, it’s time to stir and fold in the diluted rennet using an up-and-down motion with your spoon. This helps to make sure that the rennet works its way through all the milk. Once mixed, set your cheese aside for another hour.
- When the curd and whey start to separate, you know it’s ready. (When this happens, you’ll see a layer of mostly clear whey on top of the curds, with the curd pulling away from the sides of the pot.) Take a knife and carefully cut the curds into 1/4-inch cubes and set aside for five minutes. No stirring in this phase!
- Slowly bring the curds to 100°F on the stove, stirring frequently. The curds will start to shrink. Keep stirring for another 30 minutes once the pot has reached 100°F, making sure that the temperature stays right at 100°F. (We recommend enlisting the help of a friend to take turns on the stirring duty!) Then, let the curds settle to the bottom of the pot and leave it alone for 20 minutes. Pour the curds into a colander, put the colander on top of the cheese pot and leave them to drain for 15 minutes.
- Pour the curds (that now should look like jelly) onto a cutting board. Cut the cheese into five even slices and place back into the empty pot and cover.
- These next steps are called the “cheddaring process” and will give your cheese that delicious flavor we all love. Fill a sink with 102°F water and place the curd-filled pot in it. You want to keep the temperature of the curds right around 100°F turning the slices about every 15 minutes for the next 2 hours.
- Once finished, your curds will be shiny and firm. Remove them from the pot and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Back into the pot they go, cover and place the pot back in the hot water.
- After 10 minutes, gently stir with a wooden spoon (or you can use your fingers), and cover. Repeat this step two more times, letting sit for 10 minutes between each time. Then, take the pot out of the sink, add your salt and gently stir to evenly combine.
- Line your cheese press with a piece of cheesecloth and carefully place the curds into the press. Wrap the cloth around the cheese and press with about 10 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes. Remove the cheese from the press, unwrap, and flip it over. Re-wrap using a new piece of cheesecloth and press with 40 pounds of pressure for 12 hours. Do this process once more, but at 50 pounds of pressure, for 24 hours.
- Remove the cheese from the press and let it air-dry for 2-3 days until it is smooth and dry. Then, wax and age your cheese between 55-60°F for at least 60 days. (Pro tip: you can use your wine refrigerator for the aging process.)
And finally, slice into your beautiful creation and savor the fruits (or should we say cheese?) of your labor!