Ok, glad to hear your curds are loose, not that I want that for you but it's good to hear it's not just me.
Serious Question: Do you get that nice tofu like mass and the clean break like you see in pictures on the web or do you get a break like mine seen here:
Right now I've email every single person on the web who claims to be an expert on cheese making to see if everything I'm doing is correct or if there something I should be doing to get that clean break where it's a solid Jello mass where no residue comes up on your finger.
As far as what the dairies have told you what were you told about the brand you do use, for me and the rest of us who want to call a dairy.
Do you find the shape that comes out, pressed by it's own weight, come out nice?
How does the hot knife and water work, is it easy to smooth out the sides?
Why are you adding the rennet at the same time as the culture. From what I know the purpose of the culture is to produce acid which helps coagulate the milk. If you add it at the same time wouldn't that be a little too late? Not criticising, just curious. Also where did you get your recipe from? Thanks.
Okay, I had to do the quote thing or I wouldn't have remembered the questions.....
1. I took a look at your curds and I have to say that mine are usually a bit more firm. I have seen sets such as yours but that was on a prarie farms brand of milk that I've never had much luck with.
Once I switched to a different brand (made in Chester, Illinois) I've gotten a good curd that will "break" around my finger.
I will say that it's seldom that I've gotten a curd like I saw on one of Tea's posts. I think it was on her Colby attempt. That was one of the best looking curds I've ever seen.
Usually I will see a good break around my finger and then the gap will fill with whey. It's certainly not a perfect set but it's acceptable for store bought milk.
2. As of this date I've corresponded to two dairies. The first I called and the second I emailed.
The first dairy I simply asked to speak to someone about their pasteurization method and lucked out and got this guy that was a wealth of information.
He actually seemed happy that I called and gave me information concering the history of the diary and the steps of pasteurization.
This particular dairy heats their milk to 186 degrees F for a few seconds and then just as quickly cools it to 38 degree F. This is certainly not optimal for cheese making but this is by far the best cheese milk I have found locally. From what I've read, any milk that is heated over 171 degrees F does get damaged as far as cheese making is concerned so there's no doubt that raw milk would be better.
This gentleman did tell me that they used to make cheese at his dairy with this same milk. That made me think that it was usable and convinced me to give it a try.
As for the Prairie Farms milk (the dairy I emailed). They heat their milk to 176 degrees F for 15 minutes. Now according to what I've read, this should be the better of the two milks to use. Unfortunately I've never been able to get a good curd with this milk, regardless of this fact.
I'd simply suggest calling any local dairy or sending them a quick email. Maybe you will luck out and get someone who is interested in your efforts. The guy I talked to at Chester diary actually seemed fascinated that I was making cheese at home and we talked for probably 10 - 15 minutes.
3. When I unmold my Stiltons they look like they could collapse at any minute. The curd is very grainy looking with large cracks and fissures in the "log". What's surprising is that when I handle the log it is very firm and holds together really well. It's the fissures and crevices that will allow a good veining to take place after the piercing (at least, this is what I've read).
I will say that my first attempt was veined beautifully. Once the ugly outer surface was cut the veining inside was beautiful. Now remember this was on a cheese that was only one month old and was not handled properly from the first.
4. The hot water dipped knife works really well. You do have to put more pressure on the cheese than I would have initially thought, but it doesn't damage the surface at all. What you are basically doing is scraping cheese from the high spots and using it to fill in the low spots. I usually start on the top surface and then move to the sides. After you get the feel of it, it's pretty much like buttering a piece of bread or icing a cake. From what I've read,(and experienced) this step is necessary or the rind will not form.
5. I use the Stilton recipe on schmidling.com. There are a lot of different stilton recipes on the web but this one seemed fairly easy and according to the site, yielded good results. His recipe called for adding the rennet at the same time as the cultures and from what I tasted on my first attempt it worked out well. I'm not sure that you really want to produce a lot of acid with a Stilton. That's probably why both are added at once. If you want to check this recipe out, just google schmidling.com and then go to his recipe section.
One thing I do NOT agree with is using a whisk to cut the curd as he suggests. This will produce a jelly like mass that will not easily seperate from the whey. When I followed this instruction, I did end up with a good final product but it came at lots of extra effort from draining and draining and draining.
From what I've experienced so far, Stilton is not a hard cheese to make but it can be a hard cheese to take to the final product in good shape. Regardless the one that I cracked on Christmas Eve is the best blue cheese I've tasted.
Not too dry, yet not too creamy. Not too salty but with a definate "bite". Great blue flavor and incredible veining. I can't wait to taste one of these after they have aged for the proper two to three months.
Hopefully this answers your questions. You have no idea how big of a kick I'm getting out of being able to offer you advice on a certain type of cheese. I'm pretty sure I've read every one of your posts on this forum and consider you to be a natural teacher and very knowledgable.
Now, if you will tell me HOW to give you a cheese, I will do so for all of the help you've given me! (believe me, I've looked and can't figure it out)