We would like to share our experience with some softer pressed cheeses, like our Feta and our White Cheddar that needs to be pressed, waxed, and aged. Though it takes some planning, it really isn’t hard to do at all. Looking at it as individual steps, instead of a whole process, and it’s far easier than you think. Though we aren’t actually sharing recipes with you, (YET), we do want to share the process to encourage you to give it a try! So cheese please!
Cheese needs only four things to make: milk, cultures, salt, and rennet (or other curdling agent, like lemon juice or vinegar). We use just plain old Kosher salt. You can make cheese without cultures, just herbs to flavor, like the Indian version Paneer or use Buttermilk as a culture. We like using cultures, including buttermilk, it gives us far more variety in cheese making. Your first step is having milk of course! Most recipes call for 1-2 gallons of milk. But let’s talk about DIY cheese equipment hacks first….
Pots & Pans: You need a way to safely heat your milk to temperatures required for the different cultures. You also need to maintain the temperatures over a period of time. You can use a ‘cheese vat’, however, a pot in a pot works just as well. Make sure its stainless steel or enamel, never use aluminum. Aluminum will leach into your milk, also it’s easier to control the temperatures using stainless steel or enamel (like using a double boiler).
(What happens if the pot gets too hot? Or say you need to lower the outer pot temperature to maintain temps over a period of time? Simple solution is to take the inner pot out, place the outer pot in the sink with cooler water or take hot water out and adjust with colder water. Always use the thermometer to make sure you are going were you want to in regards to the temperature! Once its, the outer pot, is where you want it, just add the inner pot back in.)
1. Cut/Drill holes into the lid for draining your cheese as you press. Sand to smooth any rough spots.
2. Now, cut the bottom off, this will be used as your ‘follower’, the piece that separates the top of your cheese to whatever weight you will use when you press the cheese.
3. Find a pan or dish that will fit under the ‘bucket cheese press’ to catch any whey that will drip during the pressing process.
4. Weights, well now, that is easier if your pressing 5-10 pounds or less. Use whatever you can. Rocks, gallon jug filled with sand, shot, etc. We used a quart jar with lead shot adjusting the weight by adding or removing the lead shot.
1. Drill holes in the PVC pipe for draining purposes. Make sure the pipe will fit a quart canning jar or an old glass mayonnaise jar.
2. Buy a cap for the PVC pipe. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage as well.
3. Use a grill or roasting rack to place it on, over a glass or stainless steel dish for draining while pressing.
4. Use a jar filled with water, sand, marbles, well you get the picture. Understand you can’t get this in higher weights for the hard cheeses, but you can manage 5-8 pounds easily.
For this we use a stainless steel pie pan. Use the lid from our food grade bucket set up (above). We used a small cheese cake pan, upside down, with the bottom used as our follower. Because the cheese cake pan isn't stainless steel, we use cheese cloth to line the pan. With this set up, we were able to use a gallon glass jar. Again we used old lead shot. This gave us the ability to do weights up to 38 pounds. To adjust the weight, we just take shot out or add shot to it as needed. When we needed 40 pounds, we added a bottle of olive oil. Below is our set up……
When making harder cheese you will need to dry your cheese for a few hours to up to a few weeks. You need a way for air to circulate around the cheese. For this we used a dehydrator tray from an old broken dehydrator. We placed a stainless steel pizza pan underneath to catch any drips. Because we have animals, dogs & cats, running around the house we wanted to keep hair off the cheese, as well as any bugs that might be around. We use a cloth paint strainer, gallon sized, and place our tray inside. A clothes pin keeps it shut while the cheese dries. Cheese needs to be turned every 12 hours until dry to the touch.
(Occasionally you may find dark spots on your cheese, as it dries. This is easy to fix. Using a TBSP of Kosher salt, add just enough water to make paste. Using a paper towel, literally wash the spots on the cheese to remove them. These spots are starts of mold on your cheese. This is due to: damp air while drying; no salt added to the cheese prior to pressing; not enough salt in the brine (if required) when soaked; or any number of things.)