New to cheese making and hit my first problem. This post will be a little long as I'll try to include all of the pertinent details I am aware of. I do not measure TA or pH yet.
Previously, I made two 4 lb cheddar wheels following Morris' recipe. Everything went as planned and at 5 and 4 months respectively, samples of each are really tasty. Texture, taste, appearance, aroma...all very nice. However -
On my third attempt, I tried to make the port wine variation from 200 Easy Recipes (Amrein-Boyes). The make was the same as my previous two batches up till the soaking in port part. After 24 hours in the press, I took the cheese out of the mold and I could see that the individual milled curds where barely fused together. They would better be described as loosely stuck together and broke apart easily into the individual milled curds from light handling.
I didn't know what to do except to try to repress them. I placed the loose curds in my double boiler and warmed them to about 95-98 over about 30 minutes. A recut most of the partially flattend curds into more slender pieces again. After warming them, I put the 6" mold into the press under 300 lb pressure (10.6 psi) where it remains. I am planning to check it in 24 hours, redress it and continue to press as needed. I skipped the preliminary press weights because I was concerned about the temp dropping two quickly as cause of problem and I guessed that having already been pressed for 24 hours, I wouldn't be expelling more whey by jumping straight to the max pressure for my system.
1) Is it possible to salvage the cheese in this way?
2) What went wrong? Was it only a case of more time needed in the press? If the pressure was adequate for the first two wheels (they were actually done at 7.8 psi), what would be the reason for lack of fusing this time?
3) How to avoid this in general for regular cheddars (did I just get lucky with my previous attempts?
4) For port wine cheddar specifically, is it ok to soak the milled curds prior to pressing per the authors instructions or is the lack of fusing common with this approach? What is proper technique to add port wine or porter or stout in hard cheeses?
I am concerned that soaking the curds in port wine did something to affect the fusing that normally occurs. Has anyone used the 200 Easy port wine recipe / technique with success or is this an idea that maybe wasn't tried out by the author? I warmed the port before soaking the curds.
Outline of the make below. (temps and times were all hit very closely)
4 gal Snowville whole cow's milk, non-homogenized, pasteurized (same as previous batches)
warmed to 86
Ripened for 45 minutes
added 3/4 tspn CaCl
added 12 drops anatto
1/2 tab rennet
Clean break at 45 minutes
Cut curds, rested 5 minutes
cooked curds to 102 F over 50 minutes
Rested 40 minutes (texture test was so so at 30 minutes, but good at 40 min)
drained, stacked, rotated slabs over 70 minutes
cut slabs to 2" x 1/4 ribbons
Soaked in warmed port for 30 min (temp settled at 98)
Drained for 5 minutes
Tossed with 1 tblspoon salt
loaded into mesh lined mold
Pressed at 0.7 psi (20 lb) for 30 minutes
Pressed at 7.8 psi (220 lb) for 2 hours
Pressed at 10.6 psi (300 lb) for 22 hours
Pressing was done in my basement which was 66-68 degrees. Previously pressed on first floor at 68-70.
Any help is appreciated.