Image from MyRecipes.com
That's right, this month's cheesy challenge is Cheddar! Time to roll up our sleeves and conquer that perennial favourite - let's show cheddar who's boss!
From Wiki:Cloth-Banded Cheddar
Cheddar cheese has been produced since at least 1170. A pipe roll of King Henry II from that year records the purchase of 10,420 lb at a farthing per pound (£3 per ton). One suggestion is that Romans brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France, where it was adapted. Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 30 miles (48 km) of Wells Cathedral.
Cheddaring refers to an additional step in the production of Cheddar-style cheese where, after heating, the curd is kneaded with salt, then is cut into cubes to drain the whey, then stacked and turned. Strong, extra-mature Cheddar, sometimes called vintage, needs to be matured for up to 15 months. The cheese is kept at a constant temperature often requiring special facilities. As with production of other hard cheese varieties in other regions worldwide, caves provide an ideal environment for maturing cheese; still, today, some Cheddar cheese is matured in the caves at Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge.
The curds and whey are separated using rennet, an enzyme complex normally produced from the stomachs of new-born calves (in vegetarian cheeses, bacterial-, yeast- or mould-derived chymosin is used).
adapted from Making Artisan Cheese, Tim Smith
2 gallons whole milk (7.6L)
1/4 tsp mesophilic direct-set culture (2mL)
1/8 tsp calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool water (60mL)
1 tsp liquid rennet (5mL) diluted in 1/4 cup cool water (60mL)
2 tbsp cheese salt (I just use pickling salt) (30mL)
Heat the milk to 86F (30C), then stir in the starter, cover, and ripen for 45 mins. Add calcium chloride. Maintain 86F (30C), add the rennet to the milk and stir for 1 minute. Cover and let it sit at 86F (30C) for forty minutes or until you can get a clean break. Make one cut with a curd knife to test for a clean break.
Maintaining the target temperature, cut the curds into 1/4 inch (6mm) cubes, and let them rest for 5 minutes. Slowly heat the curds to 100F (38C), stirring occasionally to prevent the curds from matting. This should take thirty minutes. Once you reach the target temperature, hold for an additional thirty minutes, continuing to stir. Let the curds rest for 20 minutes at the target temperature.
Drain the curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander and let them sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. You now have a large block of curd. Cut the block into 1/2 inch (about 1cm) thick strips, and lay then in an 8"x8" (20cm x 20cm) cake pan in a crisscross pattern. cover with a kitchen towel, and put the cake pan into a sink filled with 100F (38C) water, to a depth that comes just to the top of the pan. Make certain that the water does not get into the pan. Keep the curds at 100F (38C). Rotate the curds top to bottom every 15 minutes for two hours. Be sure to drain the whey from the cake pan every time you flip the curds. By the end of the two hours, your strips should be smaller and tough, with a smooth, shiny finish on the sides. Tear your curds into 1/2" (about 1cm) pieces, and put them back into the pan. Cover and let them sit in the pan in the 100F (38C) water for an additional thirty minutes. Stir the curds frequently to keep them from matting.
Blend in the salt by hand, and let the curds rest for 5 minutes at room temperature.
Pour the curds into a 2-lb (900g), cheese cloth-lined mould. Press at ten pounds for 15 minutes.
Take the cheese out of the mould, and peel off the cheese cloth. Turn the cheese over, rewrap it in the cheese cloth, and press at forty pounds for 12 hours. Repeat this procedure, and press at fifty pounds for 24 hours.
Take the cheese out of the mould, and let it air-dry on a cheese board for two to three days. Turn the cheese several times daily to allow for even drying.
Yield - 2lbs. (900g)
Cloth banding is the traditional way to form a rind on Cheddar cheese. The advantage to cloth is that the cheese can breathe more effectively than when covered in wax, and proper breathing gives the cheese a richer, fuller flavour. Cloth banding is easy to do, and it gives your cheese an authentic look.
Place the cheese on a clean sheet of cloth, trace the top and bottom of the cheese, and cut out four circles that are each wide enough for the cheese cloth to cover the sides of the cheese. Rub a thin coat of vegetable shortening on the cheese, covering the entire cheese. Lay the cheese cloth on the top and bottom of the cheese, adhering to the shortening. Repeat the process, layering a second coat of shortening between the two layers cloth.
Cover with the second layer of cheese cloth, and rub the fabric smooth to form a solid seal. Ripen at 55F (13C) for three to six months at 80-85% humidity, turning weekly.
The process of cheddaring occurs when the cheese maker takes the mass of drained curds, lays them out flat, cuts them into blocks, and then stacks them on top of each other. Over time, the curd blocks will shrink in size and become firm in texture as they continue to lose whey. The end result is a cheese renowned for its flaky texture and pleasantly tangy flavour.
Image from Mama Earth Organics
So! You may have noticed that this is a cheese that takes some time. I won't announce a finish date for the Cheddar at the moment, we will keep in touch in the comments and see how everyone is coming along with this challenge and decide together when we are ready to unwrap our treasures. Get started as soon as you can, so we are all cheddaring together. We will do other dairy challenges in the mean time whilst the cheddar rests.
Don't forget, we are still working on June's Gouda! Using the recipe we provided or your own, email in your gouda challenge by July 31st.
*Not too many of us have pro equipment. I personally use a slow cooker for my heating and tend to use whatever I can find for pressing. I am thinking of hitting up the Home Depot this month to see if I can find some good shapes in the plumbing supply section to make homemade moulds out of. Cheesing can be creative business.
Please let us know any tips and tricks that you have come across in your home cheese-making or if you would like to write a guest post for Forging Fromage. (Involving cheese, cheese-making, or dairy of course!)