I had seen a Horseradish Bacon Cheddar in a store over the past week and I couldn't shake the idea of doing one. Before I jumped in and committed the time and money to an original make, I wanted proof of concept. I chose one of our favorite and inexpensive local Cheddars as the candidate for this experiment.
While I could have selected, cooked, and chopped fresh bacon, I found a viable bacon candidate to fill in for this trial. I already had the wasabi powder in my pantry; it had been sitting in there begging me to be used for over a year.
I left the cheese loaf out at room temperature overnight. Yesterday morning I unwrapped it, sliced it, diced it and placed the cubes in a large bowl. I measured out about 3 tablespoons of bacon bits (22g) and 1 1/2 tablespoons (8g) of wasabi powder. I added an equal amount of distilled water to the wasabi to create a wet paste. Then I mixed the bacon and wasabi paste with the cheese cubes.
I wasn't sure what mould to use for this trial. I reasoned that the Reblochons would each hold about half the curd so I used two of them. Pressing for a bit, it became clear that the curd was going to compress down and create wasabi bacon cheese pancakes. With that in mind, I moved the curd to a mould that I have used satisfactorily in the past. After putting the curds into the Plyban-lined mould, it became clear that this mould was going to be a problem as well. There are actually two microperf moulds in use, with one inside the other. It works best with curds from 3-4 gallons of milk. Anything less and it bottoms out and doesn't press. Arrggh!
My workaround was to place a Reblochon follower on top of the curd, followed by the second microperf mould, and then press as usual. The Reblochon follower separated the two moulds and permitted pressing to proceed. As you can see, the curd came up around the follower. Not a huge problem...I snipped off the "lip". I tasted the snipped lip pieces...ooohhh, nice.
Neither too much bacon presence or wasabi. The wasabi seemed to just change the overall cheese flavor and to mellow it out. Hmmm, I may have something here.
I used around 8 psi to squeeze the reluctant cheese cubes together. I was thinking I might have to crank it to 20 psi because the cubes, bacon, and wasabi really wanted to go their separate ways. When the cheese was pressing, quite a bit of butterfat (looked like orange oil) was released. When I removed it from the press, I wiped the "oil" off and then vacuum-sealed the cheese wheel..
I'm thinking this might work well for a Gouda. My experience has shown that a Gouda can be made and vacuum-sealed in the same week. When the curds get moved to the mould, why not incorporate the bacon and wasabi at that time? It would be a 3-gallon make to permit the pressing to proceed without a hiccup as I saw here.
Now for a little aging to allow the bacon and wasabi character to influence the cheese....