A few days later he met me for lunch like this:
He said it only took a couple of hours and "it was fun."
Never one to tread with common sense or jump in bit by bit I scoured my recipe ideas and decided I wasn't going to make a simple cheddar which gets pressed under 40 lbs of effective pressure (which would only take about 8 lbs of weight given the more or less 5:1 mechanical advantage using this press). No, I found a recipe for what was a reasonably simple cheese to prepare, a young red Cheshire. The only "hard" part about it (ha, little pun!) is that it presses for 48 hours with the last 24 hours being pressed under 120 lbs!
|The beginning of the pressing; at the end, there were 3 gallons of water at the left on the arm plus a gallon and a half on the right as counter-weights to keep the poor press from tipping over!|
It's also the first cheese I made using added cheese coloring (annatto, a plant-derived coloring often used to color many foods, is the standard cheese coloring; it's available with kosher certification from the same place I get most of my other cheese-making ingredients, getculture.com). The coloring can interfere with the rennet action if not added properly with the right timing, but I think I got it right. And here's the cheese right out of the press, ready to dry and then age a few weeks to be ready just in time for the Maryland Cheese Guild's 3rd annual cheese contest at the Montgomery County Fair in a few weeks' time. It's lopsided, it's got a bowed bottom (haven't we all), but it's definitely a young red Cheshire cheese!
In case you're wondering, Cheshire comes in red (like this, colored), white (same just uncolored; some find the coloring makes it more appealing looking on the plate, I guess maybe it's a North European thing to prefer colorful food), and blue (think blue cheese; it has added bacterial strains which create that same smelly character along veins in the cheese). It can be young, aged only about 3 weeks; or it can be aged far longer for a more mature cheese. And it's fun! Except for the 4' long cheese press taking up a whole counter for 2 days.