Cheddar is without a doubt the most recognized cheese in the United States. This is a changed version, suitable for the home cheese maker.
You may be surprised that this cheese is not colored. While the orange color does not change the flavor, for some, cheddar just isn’t cheddar without it. I have had people ask for “yellow cheddar” and tell me it doesn’t taste the same if it is not colored. Of course, this is a misconception, but for some, the color is as important as the flavor. So add annatto if you wish: to add, use at a rate of 23 to 30 drops per gallon (1.0–1.5 ml) for a lightly colored cheese. Increase as desired for intense color.
Farmhouse cheddar is a hard cheese that is a little rustic in appearance, but similar in flavor to traditional cheddar. It’s a good choice for the first-time hard cheese maker; because of a few shortcuts, it won’t take as much time to make as a true cheddar. You’ll be able to eat it after they make it, and it will also improve with age.
Adding the calcium chloride is optional, but it helps to firm up the curd. I recommend using it if you’re working with processed or store-bought milk.
A cheese press provides the means to add pressure to the cheese which will cause it leach out excess whey. Presses can be something as simple as a brick (covered in plastic wrap for cleanliness) or a more complicated affair, combining weights and followers to press the cheese in a thorough manner. Presses are available at cheese-making supply houses.
A follower is used to press cheese in an even manner. A follower can be made from a hard piece of plastic or a wooden disc cut to the same size as the mold.
Cheese press and follower
3 gallons whole milk (cow or goat’s milk—or a combination of the two)
1 pint heavy cream (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons of 30 percent calcium chloride in 2 tablespoons distilled water
¼ teaspoon Mesophilic DVI MA culture
1 teaspoon plus 4 tablespoons noniodized salt
½ rennet tablet dissolved in ¼ cup distilled water
Combine the milk, cream, and diluted calcium chloride in a 16-quart stockpot or double boiler. Slowly heat the mixture to 86°F (30°C), stirring to prevent the milk from scorching. Turn off the heat and add to the culture. Mix thoroughly. Cover the pot and allow it to rest at 86°F (30°C) for 1 ½ hours.
Slowly increase the temperature of the milk to 90°F (32.2°C). Stir 1 teaspoon flaked salt into the rennet solution. Stir this solution gently into the milk. Turn off the heat and let the milk set covered for 1 ½ hours or until the curd shows a clean break.
Using a long-bladed stainless-steel knife, cut the curd into ½-inch (13-mm) cubes. Indirectly heat the curds to 100°F (37.7°C) by increasing the temperature no faster than two degrees every five minutes. It should take 30 minutes to reach 100°F (37.7°C). Gradually heating the curds is best done in a double boiler or a sink full of 100 to 110°F (37.7 to 43.3°C) water. Stir frequently to prevent the curds forming a mass. Adjust the temperature of your sink water as needed.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it in a sink. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and allow the curds to drain. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of salt over the curds and gently mix it in, using your hands.
Place the curds into the plastic cheese mold lined with cheesecloth. Pull up on the sides of the cloth to avoid any bunching. After pouring all the curds into the mold, lay the excess length of cheesecloth evenly over the top of the curds. Place the follower on top of the curd and set a 4-pound (1.8-kg) weight (such as a container holding a half gallon of water) on top of the follower. Press the cheese for 15 minutes.
Remove the cheese from the press and take it out of the cheesecloth. Place the cheesecloth back in the mold and return the cheese to the mold upside down. Fold the excess cheesecloth over the cheese and again put the follower on top of the cheese. Now press the cheese with 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of pressure for 12 hours.
Remove the cheese from the press as before and unwrap the cloth. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt with ½ cup of water. Using a corner of the cheesecloth, lightly apply this saltwater wash to the cheese. Place the cheese on a bamboo mat to air dry for 1 to 3 days; turn it over twice each day. When it starts to form a yellowish rind and is dry to the touch, it is ready to eat or wax for storage.