Author Topic: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps  (Read 1418 times)

Offline runandeat

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farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« on: January 25, 2009, 08:52:33 PM »
Hi,  After about a year of generally successful soft cheeses using Ricki Carroll's book my 13 year old son ventured into the world of pressed cheeses.  Started with the Farmhouse Cheddar recipe which seemed successful as we followed it.  We were able to get a small dorm fridge up to 52 degrees and 80% humidity and left it for just over a month.  We tried it tonight, and while not awful -- it was fairly odd tasting.  There was almost a sour milk taste to it -- like a hint of yogurt instead of the sweetness that I associate with cheddar. The texture was good.  There was a bit of a slimy edge under the wax - do we need to worry about that.

Any advice for a couple of total beginners as we progress?  The book says this cheese ages in a month - would longer have helped?  Also, while it dried for a few days after pressing should we have kept it somewhere super clean.  It just sat out on our kitchen counter -- no mold or anything.  We live in LA so it's pretty dry most of the time.

He's eager to get another batch going.  Any advice for relatively forgiving recipes?  We're ready to try some long aging ones if the dorm fridge modification seems to work -- unlikely to have another option on that front.   Recipes advice from the book would be great - -though links ok too.

Thanks.


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Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2009, 07:46:09 AM »
Well,  congrats on your first cheese, that is great. 

as far as advice goes,  my only real advice is this.
1>just do it.  Nothing subsitutes for getting your hands dirty.

2>Let that cheese age.  That slime is a bit of moisture/whey that is still being expressed from your cheese.  You might want to let the cheese form more of a natural rind before waxing next time.

3>Invest a bit of time and money to create a sanitary workspace.  I would recommend getting some Cleaner, followed by a rinse.  I keep some spay bottles of the rinse around.
Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas

Offline chilipepper

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2009, 10:57:37 AM »
Congrats also on your first cheese...the good thing about making your own is that they are somehow always good even if not what was expected! :)

I also agree with Wayne's suggestions... just keep making cheese!!

How are you pressing your cheese?  Did you have it wrapped in cheese cloth in your press.  I've found that the cheesecloth really help get the ball rolling on a good rind.  I also then will let it air dry for a couple of days on the counter until it is dry to the touch.  Once dry, I wax it and store it as close to possible to 50 degrees in my cellar. 

You certainly can not be over sanitary with your process!  To continue on the suggestions Wayne has given... if you have access to a brewing store get yourself some StarSan (the rinse Wayne recommended) and sanitize everything that will be in contact with your cheese (kettle, spoons, thermometer, knives, colander, cheesecloth, countertop ....get the picture).  Coming from a home-brewing background (as many of us here are) we are already fairly well versed in the department of sanitizing. 

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress and keep asking questions if you need help!

Offline runandeat

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2009, 02:38:36 PM »
Thanks so much for your replies.

Can you educate me a bit on the sanitation piece please?  How critical is it and what are the risks?  I think we did a pretty good job -- ran everything through the dishwasher, cleaned the counters, etc.  But nothing like the products you recommend.  What are the risks with a less clean process?  Mold?  Bad flavor?  Ruined cheese?  How?  Cheese that just doesn't work?  Sickness?  Death? 

Any ideas regarding the rather sour taste of this batch -- I have to say it's kind of growing on me!  Is that an aging issue?  Or did we blow it earlier on?  It melts nicely and slices well so I know we got some things right.

Also, can you point me to a few good recipes or ideas for our next step?  We definitely will keep making and learning.  This is kind of my son's hobby.  He is an excellent cook and can follow a recipe beautifully, but I worry that he may be in over his head a bit.  He doesn't have extreme curiousity or scientific process about this (he's 13 afterall) and there is also the patience piece with aging cheese.

Are there cheeses that will be rewarding with short or even no aging?  Which ones are particularly forgiving?  We'd like to get a bunch going on different timescales of aging?  I'd welcome advice with some clearcut steps that will help him to keep learning how the process works.

Thanks again for your encouragement.

Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2009, 02:48:27 PM »
There is a distinction between being clean, and being sanitary. 

Sanitary is a median step between clean and sterile. Cleaning removes bulk debris, and sterile is devoid of all microscopic life forms.    Achieving sterility at home is impractical.

But, since much of cheesemaking is about controlling the biological spoilage of milk, you want to make sure of two basic things.  One, your critters are the only ones growing in your cheese, and minimize any phage in your cheese.

Many of the Brewers and Winemakers in this forum adopt a policy of clean before and after each use.
Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas


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Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2009, 07:17:40 PM »
There is a distinction between being clean, and being sanitary. 

Sanitary is a median step between clean and sterile. Cleaning removes bulk debris, and sterile is devoid of all microscopic life forms.    Achieving sterility at home is impractical.

But, since much of cheesemaking is about controlling the biological spoilage of milk, you want to make sure of two basic things.  One, your critters are the only ones growing in your cheese, and minimize any phage in your cheese.

Many of the Brewers and Winemakers in this forum adopt a policy of clean before and after each use.


The StarSan is an excellent sanitizer, and is probably the easiest of the various things to use.  Brewers like my husband swear by it. 

Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2009, 07:18:10 PM »
Btw, welcome to the forum!

Offline saycheese

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2009, 08:50:00 PM »
Sanitation is very important.  I threw away a couple of cheeses before I learned that because I just couldn't eat them-- too sour.  StarSan is great stuff.  Highly recommend it.  Also you can boil all your equipment in your cheese making kettle with about 2 inches of water in it for about 25-30 minutes and that seems to work well too.  Anything that touches the cheese curds should be sanitized to minimize contamination with microbes you don't want in your cheese, giving the good microbes a fighting chance to establish themselves and grow during the aging process.

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2009, 12:16:59 AM »
Welcome to the Forum Run.

As per your questions, as far as  I know nothing will kill you, if it tastes off don't eat it, but dissect it to see how everything knitted together and how the rind is different from the center and so on. You can learn a lot from taking apart a cheese you can't eat. Oh, the worst you can get is food poisoning, and that would be the extreme, I would think, but you would only get that by consuming too much of a spoiled cheese. If you have enough strength to write a post you're fine  ;D

There are many 'instant gratification' cheese you can make. 30 Minute Mozzarella comes to mind as well as Ricotta and so on, visit the other sections of this board and you'll find some recipes there. Most soft cheeses are ready in a timely manner.

The best thing about Star San is it's an acid base, not burn you acid but citric (I believe or something along those lines), so you can use it without rinsing it off and it won't affect your wine or beer. Now having said that and hearing it from top brew sources I still always let it dry or rinse it off before using an item dunked in it, not because you'll get sick as if dish-soap were still in a glass (it's completely harmless in the diluted form you'll use), but as I don't want the acid in it to change the acid in what I'm making, this could totally baseless but it's easier than calling the manufacturer.

As being anal about sanitation take it seriously but with Star San it's really easy. I just have a 3 gallon bucket and mix it according to directions and stick everything that will fit in the bucket I'm going to use that day. Then I take it out, as long as it's been in a few minutes, rinse it in the sink and go. As far as ahead prep do what Wayne said and get a spray bottle of the mix and water and spray down your counters and the area you're going to use, wait a few minutes and go, no need to wipe it off, but you can.

As far as the sourness I can't comment until you post a recipe you used, you can just say you used the ricki carroll farmhouse and we'll know, but if it's something else let use know. Then list what you're ingredients were and where you got them and if you used the correct amounts, the ripening time and so forth. That'll give us a better understanding of your situation.
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Offline runandeat

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2009, 10:23:19 AM »
Thanks so much everyone.  This is all really helpful.  We are gearing up for another try this weekend so will definitely take all of your sanitation advice into account.

We have had good luck with many of the soft/instant gratification cheeses in Ricki Carrolls book.  Thanks.  I'm wondering if there is anything more of a middle ground - pressed with relatively short aging.

The cheese we made is actually growing on us.  I wouldn't call it a cheddar taste exactly, but last night we enjoyed some crackers with a tiny bit of dried apricot and a slight melt to the cheese.  It was really quite good -- but with a bit more sourness than I expect.  The recipe was Ricki Carrolls Farmhouse cheddar with Trader Joes organic whole milk.  We followed the recipe to the letter I think.  All of the steps seemed to work.... aged it in a dorm refrigerator at 52 degrees, 85% humidity for exactly a month.  We live in LA so our milk options are limited to grocery stores for now:  Trader Joes, Whole Foods are both very close though.  The TJ goats milk has been great for many soft cheeses so we may play with that this weekend.

Thanks again.


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Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2009, 10:35:52 AM »
"pressed with relatively short aging."

As you point out, short is a relative term.  I just ate some 8 year old cheddar.
Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2009, 02:11:42 PM »
Run, if you shop at trader joes don't buy the organic, buy the cream top, which is right nex to the organic and, at least up here, comes out to be the same. They don't sell cream top in gallon sizes but 2 half gallons cost the same as the organic, and again at least up here, come from the same dairy. The cream top will give you a much better set and cheese. Just pour out half of the milk and then shake like crazy until the milk disolves. Sometimes it doesn't dislove completely then when you heat up the milk it should disolve. Good luck.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline saycheese

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Re: farmhouse cheddar and advice for next steps
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2009, 03:34:56 PM »
Monterey Jack is a good place to start with hard cheeses, I think.  You get a good idea of what it takes to keep temperature constant for a period of time and some practice waxing a cheese.  Also-- if it tanks you are only out one gallon of milk instead of two.  It ages a minimum of one month so that's alot better than a 10 month parmesan.  Just a note-- you might want to make the Jack with reduced fat or skimmed milk for a harder cheese.  Whole milk will give you a tasty but semi-soft cheese per Ricki Carroll's recipe and my one experience with Jack cheese as well.  Most of all, have fun!