Not being able to purchase cheese making supplies in my local area I ended up ordering some off the internet. Last week finally the kit I ordered arrived. I was so excited! Finally I was going to be able to make real cheese! The kit I ordered is called from cheeseconnection.net and was supposed to come with everything needed to make hard cheese and the recipes as well. Since I am a beginner cheese maker I thought maybe a kit was the way to go so I could experiment for a bit with different recipes and then order more supplies once I decided which cheeses we like the most. The cost of this kit was $29.99 plus shipping. As it turns out... It was way overpriced for what I received and I won't be ordering from this company again.
Not only that but of the 10 different hard cheese recipes I received in the lovely little booklet sent with it, only one... ONE! can be made with the supplies sent. I was pretty disappointed. Sigh..... Lesson learned. At least I have the recipes and can order my supplies elsewhere. The two main ingredients missing are Thermophilic culture and citric acid. There are other items which would have been nice but cheese can still be made without them, such as the colorant used in cheddar. I don't plan on coloring my cheese anyway so no worries there.
I figured I might as well get started as my fridge was loaded with milk waiting to be used and since I can only make the Monterey Jack with the supplies at hand that's what I did. Here's how it went. Be forewarned! If you decide to make this cheese you need to have a lot of free time. It's not difficult but there is a lot of waiting time so you need to be around for about four hours.
Monterey Jack Cheese
2 gallons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon Mesophilic culture
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet or 1/2 rennet tablet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1 tablespoon cheese salt
2 gallons is almost too much for my pot but I managed to fit it in... just!
Heat the milk to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have fresh milk from today's milking this is pretty easy as by the time you strain it, the temperature is almost perfect. Add the Mesophilic culture and slowly mix it in without creating bubbles. Not sure why but I was very careful. Cover and allow to ripen for 30 minutes while keeping at 88 degrees. All these temperatures were pretty easy for me to maintain but I'm not sure how easy it would be without a wood stove to place the pot on. I found if I put the pot on the far end of the stove the temperature stayed perfect.
The little thermometer that came with the kit came in handy but I had to find a holder to make it stay in place as it didn't come with one.
Add the rennet and again slowly stir without creating bubbles for 1 minute. Now cover and let it set for 30 to 45 minutes at 90 degrees. Using a long sharp knife cut the curd into 1/4 inch cubes. Now let set covered for 40 minutes.
The curds are cut but hard to see as they started to sink right away.
Slowly heat the curds by 2 degrees every 5 minutes while stirring slowly to keep curds from matting until the temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This took me about 38 minutes and I really didn't stir the whole time... Maybe every 2 or 3 minutes I would give it a nice slow stir, probably should have done it the whole time but I'm not good at standing still for long.
Drain off the whey to the level of the curds and set for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes while maintaining the temperature at 100 degrees. Wow! I just spent 3 hours making cheese!
Now we are almost there!
Ladle into a muslin lined colander place over the sink or a large pot to drain. I'm not draining the whey down the sink! Sprinkle with cheese salt and mix gently then allow to drain for a while. I think I left it about 5 minutes.
Put curds into a muslin lined mold and press with a three pound weight for 15 minutes.
I filled an empty jug with water until it was 3 lbs and used it as the weight. The mold in the kit was too small so I found a lovely bowl with slats in the bottom to use as a press and the slatted lid to give some room between the bowl and the plate so the whey would have room to press out.
Remove from the mold, peel away the muslin and turn cheese over. Redress with muslin and put back into the mold. Press at 10 pounds for 12 hours.
I filled the jug up with water and it was almost heavy enough. Then I popped it all in the refrigerator over night. Not sure if you are supposed to but I just didn't feel right leaving it out over night. Need to do more research on this....
Now you are supposed to let the cheese air dry for 1 to 3 days at room temperature turning twice a day until dry and then wax it. I don't have any wax. This cheese is supposed to be aged for 1 to 4 months or 60 days if you use fresh milk. I figure there is nothing we can do but eat it fresh until I get more supplies.
Of course I had to taste it. Yum! It's very mild at this point though and I can't wait until I have the supplies to be able to age it.
2 full pounds of cheese made!
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