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Fresh Cheddar Cheese Curds | If pressing and aging cheese sounds too complicated, I've got an idea for you! Learn how to make easy homemade cheese curds instead. They're squeaky, healthy, and melt like a dream! | TraditionalCookingSchool.com

Homemade Raw Cheddar Cheese

This raw cheddar cheese is delicious! And if you don't have a cheese press, feel free to eat the curds fresh and un-pressed! Adapted from The Cheesemaker’s Manual. 1 gallon of milk makes approximately 1 pound of cheese.
Course Cultured
Author Wardee Harmon

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 gallons raw and/or whole milk I used goat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon mesophilic culture I used Danisco MA19, can also use MA4001
  • 3/4 tables vegetable rennet good quality*
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Put the milk in the pot and slowly over a couple hours warm it to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Keep it covered to preserve heat.
  2. Sprinkle the mesophilic culture on top of the milk.
  3. Stir in very well.
  4. Cover and allow to culture or "ripen" for 45 minutes to 1 hour, keeping the temperature at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer, turn burner off and cover pot with a bath towel to keep at temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, dissolve rennet in about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
  6. After the ripening time, pour the water-rennet mix into the milk, and stir well.
  7. Cover the pot again and allow the milk to set for 30 to 45 minutes, until a firm curd forms. Once curd forms, if cut into with a knife, it should make a "clean break" -- where the curd splits and whey pours into the crack. See picture here.
  8. Then cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes. Click here to read some good basic directions for making those cuts.
  9. Be very gentle with the curds at this point. In fact, after cutting them, just let them sit for 5 minutes, undisturbed. Keep the cover on to keep them warm.
  10. Then turn on the burner (if it isn’t on already) and heat the curds to 102 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of 40 minutes or so.
  11. During this time, stir gently every 5 or 10 minutes to keep the curds from sticking and make them smaller.
  12. Keep the curds at 102 degrees Fahrenheit for an additional 30 minutes.
  13. Stir occasionally. Curds should be firm and a bit stretchy, surrounded with lots of whey. They should hold together if pressed. For more info on a texture test, check out The Cheesemaker’s Manual.
  14. Let the curds settle at the bottom of the pot.
  15. Pour off about 2/3 of the whey into another pot or container. You can keep this raw, cultured whey for lacto-ferments or soaking where a stronger flavor works well (such as veggie ferments).
  16. Then transfer the curds to a colander, leaving the remaining whey in the pot.
  17. Put the colander to nest inside the pot, so the curds are suspended over the warm whey. This begins the “cheddaring process” which gives the cheese its squeaky texture.
  18. Let the curds drain for about 1 hour.
  19. Cover the colander with a piece of cheesecloth and the pot lid.
  20. Keep the burner on low if necessary to keep the whey warm.
  21. During this hour, turn the slab of curds over a few times to make sure they’re draining well.
  22. Take the slab of curds out of the colander, put it on a cutting surface, and then cut it into chunks.
  23. Then cut the chunks into slices.
  24. Put them in a bowl and toss with fine sea salt until just slightly oversalted. Remember that some of the salt will leave with the whey that gets pressed out.
  25. If you don't have a cheese press, these curds are fresh and ready to be eaten! Delicious!
  26. If you do have a cheese press, line mold with cheesecloth — could be the same piece that covered the curds during the cheddaring process.
  27. Fill the mold with the slices of curd.
  28. Using your press’s setup (follower, etc.), press the cheese at 10 to 15 pounds for about half an hour.
  29. If the pressure loosens during this time, tighten it up again.
  30. Take the cheese out of the mold, turn it over, and put it back in the mold (cheesecloth and all). This makes it pretty on top and bottom.
  31. You’ll need a tray to catch the whey that drains during the pressing.
  32. Continue pressing overnight (or 12 to 15 hours) with continual pressure, working it up to 35 to 45 pounds for the duration.
  33. Once again, check frequently if the pressure loosens and adjust the press as necessary. What happens is the cheese gets smaller and shorter, but the press stays in the same position — thus the pressure on the cheese gets relieved, and we need to come in and tighten it up again. Not all presses work like this, but mine does.
  34. Take the cheese out of the mold.
  35. Air dry it at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.
  36. Eat fresh, or age for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  37. Wax it for longer aging.
  38. Mild cheddar develops in about 4 weeks, medium in about 2 to 3 months, and sharp in 6 months or more. Allow longer aging times for cheeses made from pasteurized milk (another reason raw is better!).