Friday, July 2, 2010

July's Cheesy Challenge - Cloth-Banded Cheddar!

Image from

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:
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).
Cloth-Banded Cheddar
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)

Banding Cheese
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.

Artisan Advice
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.

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!)

Happy Cheesing!


girlichef said...

omg, Awesome!! I'm so excited...and nervous...about making Cheddar!!!

Pam said...

I have to got to order a kit and start with some easy ricotta or something!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Pam - absolutely! Ricotta is a great cheese to start with - and you don't need any special items or ingredients.
Feel free to email in your ricotta post, and any other rewinds you do, and we will include it in the next round-up.
Happy cheesing!

Rebecca said...

Oh boy! This is gonna be so much fun (and I agree re: feeling nervous, too). If it weren't so danged hot here this week, I'd start this immediately, but I think I'll have to wait until next weekend.

Btw, I'm debating doing the bandaging with lard vs. shortening. I've been told that lard is really the only way to go, though I realize it's not an option for everyone. What do others think?

Rebecca said...

Pam, I agree -- go for the ricotta. It's simple, no special equipment required, is ready to eat after only a couple hours, and tastes wonderful, especially if you mix in some fresh herbs. Go for it!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I was thinking the same thing, re the heat. We are having a heatwave right now.. might start next week too.
And shortening vs. lard. I hadn't heard that - but I have no problems using lard. Go lard! ;-)

ap269 said...

I haven't started my cheese adventure yet, and I will start with all the easier cheeses, but I'm already wondering how you guys are going to control the temperature and humidity during ripening (Ripen at 55F (13C) for three to six months at 80-85% humidity)?

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

We do have to get creative here to replicate the cheese making conditions at home. If you had a wine fridge, that would be great. I use the warmer part of the regular fridge, in a container with a little dish of water in it for further humidity, turning occasionally, to ripen cheese.

Foodycat said...

I've been having enough trouble ripening the gouda for a month! I don't know that I am up for this challenge.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Foodycat - did you have blue cheese in the same area? I know it can inoculate other cheeses.

Rebecca said...

For aging, I'm just doing it my refrigerator, but I want to buy a (used) wine cooler/fridge. I know people who also use small (dorm) fridges or small chest freezers with a thermostat controller that keeps it at 55 degrees. For humidity, most people I know put a pan of water or a soaking cloth in the container or fridge along with the cheese. It's not perfect, but it works okay.

Rebecca said...

What type of cloth are folks using for bandaging? Cheese cloth, butter muslin, other?

girlichef said...

I'm not sure what type of cloth I'm going to use yet...been wondering that myself. I'm gonna wait to hear what others are using.

I've been using our 2nd fridge in the garage for cheese thus far, but I think once I get down to cheddaring, I'm gonna plug in my trusty, beloved, old dorm fridge...ahhh, memories. I knew I kept it around after all these years for more than just nostalgia.

Rebecca said...

I attempted the cheddar yesterday and just removed it from its 12-hour press to flip it and put it in for its 24-hour press. I have a sinking feeling that it's not right. There's a lot of openness between the curds, even after 12 hours at 40 pounds. :-(

We'll see what it looks like this time tomorrow, but I'm thinking I'll be trying again this coming weekend.

For the wrap, I'm thinking that butter muslin will work. That's what I plan to try, anyway!

Foodycat said...

We'd had both blue cheese and unpasteurised camembert in the fridge, so I think that was what made my gouda suffer. It tastes fab though!

I think I will do my first couple of months of cheddar in the fridge and then move it to the spare bedroom when the weather cools down!

Rebecca said...

Hi everyone -- My cheddar is on it's third day of air drying and it's ready to wrap today, but I see a small spot of black mold on the outside (unfortunately, along one of the gaps between curds where the wheel isn't smooth). I've read mixed things on what to do: cut out the mold, wipe with brine/vinegar, and then wrap; or pitch it (some black molds are VERY bad).

Hate to pitch it, but if it's going to be dangerous, I should. I wanted to try it again anyway so that I could get better curd knitting, but kind of want to leave this one around to see how it turns out.

Are any of you seeing the same thing with your cheddar? Do any of you have opinions/experience with this?

I have to say it looks/smells great otherwise!

Foodycat said...

My milk is just on to heat Rebecca - you are a long way ahead of me! With the gouda, I cleaned it off with brine and vinegar.

Foodycat said...

At what point do you do the cloth banding? Is it after the air drying?

girlichef said...

Reb & FC...You guys are light years ahead of me...I haven't even started mine yet. R- yeah, black mold is pretty careful whatever you decide. sounds to me like it IS after the air the point when you're ready to "put it away" to age!?

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

You guys are ahead of me too - I want to start Tuesday. Still have to make a mould for the pressing. I learned the hard way with my gouda not to use the colander or anything that doesn't have a flat bottom for the multiple flipping and pressings! I have a crumbly product from it having to reshape so many times - but it is tasty!
I am off to home depot tonight to find something that I can make into a mould.

And for the banding - I have never seen butter muslin here - just planning on using cheesecloth.

Happy Cheesing!

Foodycat said...

The special gouda mould that I bought didn't have a flat bottom! It's rounded.

I'm not happy with the moulds I used for the cheddar. It's going to look like a chef's toque.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I wouldn't mind a bit rounded - I just found that with my really rounded colander - that I had to reshape it every time I flipped it. Made for a crumbly final product.
Looking forward to the chef's toque! :-)

Rebecca said...

I ended up pitching my cheddar. Just didn't want to mess with that black mold. Before doing so, though, I cut it in half to look (and take pictures) and even after just 3 days of drying, it looked great. Beautifully knit curds inside (smooth) and it smelled like cheddar already. Kinda disheartening to pitch it, but I'm ready to try again.

Might have to wait a week or two as Willow is due to kid tomorrow and I may be up to elbows in kids for a bit.

Btw, I used a "hard cheese mold" from for both the gouda and the cheddar and it worked well. PVC tubing will work, just make sure to drill holes for whey drainage.

Can't wait to see how everyone else's cheeses are doing. I'll blog my cheddar misfire anyway, and then hope to blog a success the next time.

Rebecca said...

FC - in case someone else didn't answer you yet - yes, you do the cloth banding after 2-3 days of air drying/flipping.

Foodycat said...

Such a shame about the cheese! I will be doing the cloth banding on mine tonight.

Actually, I only have enough cheesecloth for one, so the other will be waxed.

caveagedblog said...

Great site! I follow Tim Smith's recipe when I make cheddar and it has turned out great! I still wax as my aging area is a bit inconsistent when it comes to temp and RH.

I saw in one of the comments about using cheese cloth as opposed to butter muslin. I think that will be fine. Cheddar curds are so firm and of a size that there shouldn't be any problem.

Good luck!