INGREDIENTS TO TURN ONE GALLON OF MILK INTO ONE POUND OF CHEESE
one gallon freshest milk (the fewer bacteria present, the more predictable the cheese)
2-3 sachets of "Set-milk" see: mesophilic starter culture in shop on line
1/4 tablet rennet
thermometer, reading -10 to 110 C (0 to 225 F) (I prefer centigrade, but have included Fahrenheit numbers as well)
wooden mixing spoon, whisk or other stirring device
Stainless steel pot 1 , 4-6 qt., with lid, with a thick metal bottom (Al or Cu) to spread the heat, sanitized.
8" strainer or colander (A colander does not allow whey to flow through as fast as a strainer.)
large handkerchief, sanitized by boiling
cheese pressing frame (4" diameter, 5" tall can, about 20 oz, ends removed, save one end for a follower)
1. INOCULATE THE MILK: The evening before you plan to make cheese, warm 1 gallon of the freshest milk to 20 C (68 F) in the sterilized pot. Thoroughly blend in the inoculum of 2-3 tsp setmilk . Cover the inoculated milk with the sterilized lid. (The function of this inoculation with bacterial starter is to have the milk fermenting bacteria make lactic acid which lowers the pH so that the rennet will be able to act on the casein.)
2. INCUBATE OVER NIGHT: Let sit at room temperature (R.T.) overnight (20-22 C).
3. WARM THE MILK: The next morning, warm milk up to 30 C (take care not to burn it). Meanwhile, dissolve ¼ tablet of Rennet in ¼ cup cold water.
4. ADD THE RENNET: Add dissolved rennet to the warmed milk , stir to mix thoroughly. Cover, let sit undisturbed for approximately an hour. Be patient. Do not disturb the milk until it has coagulated.
5. ACHIEVE A CLEAN BREAK: Test for completed action of rennet ( "clean break "): Probe a clean finger into the (hopefully) gelled milk and lift. If the gel is firm enough to break cleanly as the finger is lifted, go to next step. (If the milk is gelatenous and flows across your finger , let sit until a clean break is obtained. Do not stir. This may take as long as 1-2 hours.) Be patient, do NOT disturb the milk.
6. CUT THE CURD: Once a clean break is achieved, cut the curd with a long knife : begin at edge of pot, cut straight down to bottom. Cut repeatedly parallel to first cut, but increasing the angle of the knife until reaching other side of pot. Rotate the pot 90 degrees, cut as before . Rotate and cut two more times, yielding ½ inch cubes of curd .
7. SETTING THE CURD (RAISE AND HOLD THE TEMPERATURE): Place pot over a low fire, stir curd with cleaned bare hand by reaching down to bottom, gently lifting and stirring . Cut larger curds as they appear. Do not mash or squeeze. If you wish to save some soft cottage cheese, remove a portion of the curd at this step before you raise the temperature. Continue stirring for 15 min to prevent the curds from clumping together. Heat curds to 34 C (92 F) for soft curd cheese, or as high as 39oC (102oF) for very firm cheese. The setting temperature makes a great deal of difference in the consistency of the curd/cheese.
8. SEPARATE CURDS AND WHEY: Stir and maintain desired temperature until curd has contracted to consistency of firm scrambled eggs . Remove from stove. The curds should sink in whey. (Ops, did they float3 ?) Decant off when through a strainer (you may line the strainer with clean cloth if the curd is very fine grained ). Save the whey for ricotta if you like. Place curds in a large bowl .
9. ADD SALT: Sprinkle two tsp. salt over curds, working with hands to mix . Pour off accumulated whey. (The salt is necessary so that the cheese will not spoil as it cures. I tried it without salt and it spoiled. However, unsalted, uncured cheese may be frozen until use.)
10. PRESS THE CHEESE : Use sterile large white handkerchief to line a smooth-sided 4" x 5" tin can from which both ends have been removed. Place still-warm curds in the cloth , cover curd with the corners of the cloth, lie the cut-out end of the can on top, and place heavy weight to press down. Let sit for 12 hours or so.
11. CURE THE CHEESE: The next AM, remove from press, remove cloth, rub outside of cheese with salt and rewrap with fresh handkerchief. Place wrapped cheese on a rack in the refrigerator. Replace "bandage" daily (as long as it continues to become wet). When a dry yellowish rind forms (about one to two weeks), dip in melted wax , store in refrigerator for about a month (if you can wait that long) or longer for sharper cheese.
1 Avoid aluminum pots, the acid will dissolve them and possibly overload you with aluminum.
2 Sterilize the pot just before use by pouring ½ inch of water in the bottom, covering, and bring to a rolling boil for at least five minutes. Pour out the water, replace sterile lid, keep sterilized pot covered until you are ready to add the milk.
3 If the curds float, you have a gas-producing contaminant in your starter or your milk was contaminated. You need to pay closer attention to handling your milk, and/or purchase fresh starter. The bacteria which form bubbles may be a form of Escherichia. However, it does not necessarily ruin the cheese, but does make it iffy. Many CO2 formers are non-pathogenic. Indeed, you might WANT bubbles in your finished cheese. Think about Swiss cheese... However, to be safe, age your cheese for at least two months because pathogens do not survive this extended aging. In addition, you will have a little more difficulty separating the curds from the whey if the curds float.