Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Cheddar Saturday"

I spent the entire day Saturday devoted to making cheddar.  Quite the experience!  Of things I've never done before while making cheese that I did this time:  used annatto, cheddaring process, flavoring curds before pressing.  I can add to that list waxing a cheese when I wax them on Tuesday.  The recipe made just over 3 lbs of cheddar.  Instead of making one large tomme mold of plain cheddar, I opted to divide the curds into thirds to make one plain, one port flavored, and one beer flavored cheddars, each about 1 lb.  Thankfully, I have three smaller tomme molds.

Not much to say about using annatto except that it is an intense colored natural dye.  But when I put it in the milk at the doseage specified, the milk was only as yellow as butter.  But the dye stayed with the milk protein, and the curds got slightly darker.  After pressing, the cheese is developing it's color better.  The curding and cheddaring process were easier than I thought, but time consuming.  I spent 45 minutes stirring the curds in the whey as I raised the temperature from 88F to 102F slowly over that period as the recipe indicated.  Then there was 45 minutes of cheddaring, where the curd mass was in a water bath to maintin the 102F temperature, flipping the mass every 10 minutes.  Not as messy as I thought it might be.  The pic to the right of the cheddaring process is rotated.  No matter what I do to the pic before uploading, the blog decided that this is the direction it needs to be in.  But you get the idea.

Here's a pic of the curds in port and beer before pressing.  This also went way better than I thought it might.  The only problem with soaking the curds to flavor them is that the curds cool down and don't knit together as well as with the plain cheddar.  When I took them out of the press, a few cracks appeared where the individual curds meet.  I put them back in the molds and press and increased the pressure.  I'll leave them there a few more hours to see if this helps.  Even if it doesn't, the cheeses get waxed in a couple days anyway.  So as long as I handle them carefully, it shouldn't be a problem.  If you're interested, the port was Warre's Tawny Port, and the beer is a Belgian style Trappist beer from Canada (La Fin du Monde - or "the end of the world")  It's one of my favorites, and is a strong beer to pair well with cheddar.  I really like the marbling effect the port had on the cheese.  Very pretty.

When I wax them, I decided I need to identify them some way to keep the different kinds separate.  I think I'll print up small labels and after waxing, place the label on the cheese and wax over it to hold it in place.  Somehow, I don't think a sticky label will work well on wax.

Finally, the four gallons of milk I used resulted in about three gallons of whey.  Cheddar is a lower yield cheese, about 10-11%, compared to 15-18% for many cow's milk cheeses.  So the whey had lots of milk in it for ricotta.  So I made ricotta too.  I got about a cup and a half.  Normally, I only get between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of ricotta from other cheese whey.  But because I used annatto, my ricotta is peach colored.  But who cares, it still tastes the same.

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