The following recipe is one I use for my cheesemaking class, where we make curds for fresh eating. It is a Colby recipe and I find that the flavor for fresh curds is best when it is made with a combination (about half and half) of storebought buttermilk and plain, live-culture yogurt.
2 gallons whole milk
2/3-cup yogurt or buttermilk OR 1/4 teaspoon powdered mesophilic culture
8-10 drops annatto, diluted in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water, if desired
3/8 tsp calcium chloride, if using pasteurized milk
1/16 teaspoon powdered calf rennet or ¼ tablet vegetable rennet (or as recommended on your rennet package) I've also used 2 Junket rennet tablets. All rennets should be diluted in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water
1/8-cup Kosher salt
4 gallons whole milk
1 1/3 cup yogurt or buttermilk OR 3/8 teaspoon powdered mesophilic culture
12-14 drops annatto diluted in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water, if desired
¾ tsp calcium chloride, if using pasteurized milk
Scant 1/8 teaspoon powdered calf or ½ tablet vegetable rennet (or as recommended on packaging). Dilute in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water. I’ve also used 4 Junket rennet tablets
¼ cup Kosher salt
In a large stainless steel pot set in a hot water bath over medium heat, warm milk to 86oF, occasionally stirring gently. Turn off heat.
If using yogurt to culture, whisk until thin and homogenous, add about ½ cup warmed milk and whisk again. If using powdered culture, sprinkle over about 1 cup of warmed milk from kettle and allow to dissolve. Stir culture (either type) into kettle of warmed milk, using an up and down motion to thoroughly mix culture into warmed milk. Cover and allow to ripen approximately 1 hour, maintaining temperature.
Dissolve calcium chloride in ¼ cup cool water. Gently stir into milk. If using, dilute annatto in ¼ cup cool water and stir thoroughly but gently into warm, cultured milk. Dilute rennet in cool, non-chlorinated water. Stir diluted rennet into milk gently, only for about 30 seconds. Use spoon or skimmer to stop motion of milk. Cover and allow to set for 30-60 minutes, maintaining temperature.
Check for a clean break (see Terminology). If necessary, allow to set another 10 minutes – do not cut curd prior to achieving clean break. Once a clean break has occurred, cut curd using a long-bladed knife. If making curds for fresh eating, cut curd into 1 inch cubes. If making pressed Colby, cut curd into ½ inch cubes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes to heal the curd.
Turn heat on low and slowly warm curds to 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit, adjusting the heat as necessary to have the temperature rise by only 1-2 degrees every 5 minutes. Stir slowly and gently about every 5-10 minutes to prevent curds from matting. During this time, the curds should shrink. Allow curds to settle for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove whey to the level of the curd. Add fresh, 60o water, stirring gently, until the water temperature is 80o. Allow to set for set at 80o for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent matting of curds.
Pour into cheesecloth-lined colander and allow to drain. Stir salt into curd with hands, if the curd has matted, gently pull it apart. At this point, the curds can be used for fresh eating as cheese curds.
To proceed with making into Colby:
Pack warm, salted curd into cloth-lined mold. Pull cloth up over curds and place circle of muslin on top, keeping wrinkles out as best you can. Place follower in top of mold and place mold in cheese press. Press at 20 lbs for 30 minutes. Press at 40 lbs for 1 hour. Remove from mold, turn and redress, return to mold and press at 60 lbs for 12 hours.
Remove cheese from press and let dry on a cheese mat at room temperature for 2-3 days, turning twice a day, until dry to the touch and no longer wet on the underside when you turn it.
At this point, cheese can be coated with wax, larded, or larded and bandaged. For the first week, turn daily. For the second week, turn every 2-3 days. Thereafter, turn once per week. Age for 6 weeks to 2 months.