In a recent post, I described how I got interested in making cheese at home. Here, I will show a few photos of my most recent effort. But first an Italian word: caseificio (dairy). Remember that the Latin word for cheese was caseus: caseificio indicates where cheese is made. At regular intervals now, my kitchen becomes a miniature caseificio.
After we finished eating the cheese shown in the photo above, I made another one, using again the instructions for Farmhouse Cheddar from "Home Cheese Making" by Ricki Carroll. Again I halved the quantities and used a quart of fresh goat milk (latte di capra) and 3 quarts of non-fat cow milk (latte di mucca scremato), instead of whole milk. This time, however, I used some direct-set mesophilic starter and, when the cheese was dry, I coated it with red wax. Since I made the cheese on November 3, I decided to call it the "Election" cheese and I labeled it to that effect.
I then decided that it was time to graduate to a 2-gallon milk batch and also to try another hard cheese recipe from the same book: Stirred-curd Cheddar. Like the previous recipe, this one does not require the process of cheddaring: I'll try doing that when I become more experienced. This time, I took some photos to share. Because I am a total newbie, I need to pay close attention to every step and every detail, and cannot concentrate so much on photographing. As a result, the photos are not as inspiring as I would have liked them to be.
First I warmed up the milk (a mixture of fresh goat milk and cow milk, some non-fat and some reduced-fat, to continue my experiments in lower-fat cheese production), then added the starter and let it rest. I then added the rennet (caglio). The first important thing happens: the milk sets. I cut the white mass into cubes, called curds. The second important thing occurs as the temperature is slowly increased: the curds become smaller and denser. It's fascinating to watch this happen. The photo on the left shows the curds at the beginning of the heating process.
I drained the curds (cagliata), setting aside the whey (siero di latte) to make ricotta later. I added some salt, then let the curds rest. Then, it was time to take out the cheese press. Here's the cylinder with the fresh curds, before the first period of pressing. The pressing occurs in stages, each one longer than the one before and at increased pressure. At the end of each stage, I took the curds out and turned them over.
About 26 hours after I first drained the curds, the cheese came out of the press in its full (still a bit moist) glory, wrapped in a piece of cloth. Once unclothed, I left it to dry for three days and turned it over at regular intervals to allow for even drying. During the drying period, I kept the cheese on a wooden cutting board placed over the fridge. Finally, I waxed the cheese and, to honor the national event that had just taken place, I called it the "Presidential" cheese.
Now Election Farmhouse Cheddar and Presidential Stirred-curd Cheddar keep each other company in the cool environment of our garage, where they will age (invecchiare) for some time. The former will be ready for tasting in early December, while the latter will have to wait until the new year before shedding its red coat. Making hard cheese is an exercise in patience. Before trying it, I gained some experience by making soft cheese, like Neufchâtel (this version of the recipe I used has helpful photos).
I find that making cheese is an intense activity, probably because I am still so inexperienced and therefore anxious about every step, and partly because after putting the curds in the press, I make ricotta, which takes another good hour. However, fare il formaggio (making cheese) is very satisfying, even at the basic level at which I am operating.
I am submitting this post to the year long Cheesepalooza project, organized by Valerie of A Canadian Foodie . Caerphilly is one of the cheeses that the group has made in December 2012, so I am contributing my adventures to the effort. This post contains the roundup of the event.