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Farmhouse cheddar

clean breakIngredients:

10 liters whole milk, goat or cow. If you are using Jersey milk, skim off the cream first, or you will have a very greasy cheese. If you have a larger cheese press, then you can use a larger volume of milk. Cow's milk will usually yield more curds than goat's milk.

1/8 tsp mesophilic starter culture (I use CHOOZIT MA11, available from New England Cheesemaking) with up to 12L RAW milk, ½ tsp with up to 12L pasteurised milk . Otherwise, follow label instructions on the mesophilic culture you use.

1 tsp rennet (Renco Junket Rennet) diluted in ¼ cup cool, NON-chlorinated water. With pasteurised milk, you may have to use more junket rennet, or purchase cheese maker's rennet liquid of tablets. You will have to experiment.

Scant ¼ tsp of calcium chloride, if necessary. Dilute in ¼ cup cool, non-cholorinated water. Pasteurised milk will need to have calcium chloride added to help restore the calcium balance to the milk, as calcium is destroyed to some extent through the heating process. Late-lactation raw milk will have less 'body' than the rest of the milking season, and may need to have calcium chloride added as well to help with the curdling process. Use calcium chloride according to package instructions.


Heat the milk slowly to 32C. Remove from the heat, stir in the starter culture, slowly stirring it in for about a minute. Cover and leave for 10-15 minutes in a warm place, and certainly out of any drafts. You can safely leave it for 45 minutes if the room temperature is even and there are no draughts.

If using, add the dilute calcium chloride, stir in well.

Add the dilute rennet, and stir very slowly for a few seconds, using an up and down motion rather than a circular stirring motion. Try to stop the milk moving before you cover it up and leave it again for 30-45 minutes, for the curds to set to clean break stage.

When the cuts are at the clean break stage (see photo on right), cut the curds into 1 cm pieces, as uniform as you can. This ensures that the whey drains from the curds at an even rate, so you don't have any soggy places in your curds. Clean break means that when you insert a knife in the set curd, and pull gently to one side, the curd will pull apart in a clean line, and not fall apart into little pieces.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes after giving it a good stir to make sure you haven't left any large pieces.

Set your covered pot in a sink or insulated basin, and fill with hot water, keeping your thermometer in the pot to get a starting-point reading.

You are only raising the temperature a few degrees to 38C, but you must do it slowly to ensure the release of the whey. If you do it too quickly, the curds will not shrink properly. You are looking to raise the temperature about 1C about every 5 minutes. It will take about 30 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so, drain out some of the water from the sink or basin, and add more hot water.

When you have the curds to the proper temperature, ladle them into the strainer/colander and hang to drain for about an hour, out of a draft, so they don't cool too quickly. They need to be pliable for the 'cheddaring' process.

cheddarCheddaring is the process in some hard cheeses, when the curds are broken into small pieces before they are pressed in a mould, which gives the cheese a dense and somewhat crumbly texture during the aging process.

Break the ball of curds into chunks about the size of a walnut, into a large bowl. Sprinkle with about ½ tbsp of sea salt. I find that flaked salt blends into the curds much better than a fine salt.

Line your mould with cheesecloth, and place the curds into the mould. An 8L batch of milk will just fill your mould nicely. Fold the cloth over the top, and press for 10 minutes on a light pressure (4.5kg or 10 pounds). If you don't have weights of a pressure gauge, just press till you start to see whey flowing well from the bottom of the mould.

Remove the cheese from the press, unwrap, turn over, rewrap and press again at 9kg/20 pounds for 10 minutes. Again, if you don't have a gauge or weights, press till the whey starts to flow out the bottom.

Repeat the process above one more time, but press at 23kg/50 pounds overnight or for around 12 hours.

Remove from the mould and gently peel away the cloth. Air dry the cheese at room temperature on a wooden board or sushi mat until a rind has developed. This can take 2-4 days depending on the weather. Turn the cheese 2-3 times a day to that moisture doesn't become trapped underneath.

This cheese should be aged for at least 4 weeks. Ideally, you will have a place that is about 11C and 55% humidity for the perfect aging. I use a wine chiller with a tray of water set on the bottom shelf.

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