Thursday, August 1, 2013

Picture fading cat, smile, and cheese!

A really nice guy on Facebook with years of experience making cheese and teaching others how to do it (at Pennsic and similar venues) shared several of his recipes freely with me and then posted a great schematic of how to make a basic Dutch cheese press online.  I emailed the schematic to me wood-working father (Hi, Dad!) and asked him if it was something that we could do.  Dad has all the equipment and years of making incredibly wonderful furniture, built-in pieces, and ornamental woodworking, so from what I could tell it was not something that would take much time--a few cuts in some small wood pieces from the hardware store and a few screws and bolts.  I mean even I could more or less tell what to do, I just don't have the equipment or experience to use said equipment.  The task in theory could be completed with a hand saw and hand drill, just not quite as quickly and easily.  Dad's answer was that he had a few questions for me about exactly how it worked together because he'd never seen such a thing "in action," but that yes it could certainly be done.

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,  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.

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