Beginner Mode

Cheesemaking 2: Cheddar and More



After last week’s practice on simple cheeses I was more able to narrow down my goal for my experience with cheese making. That goal, as I mentioned in the last post is:

S.M.A.R.T. Goal:

Learn to make a soft mozzarella like I had in a sandwich at Purdue in 1 month and learn how to make an edible cheddar cheese in 5 months.

This week I made a few more simple cheeses and made my first cheddar. Since it takes such a long time to get an end product from making cheddar, I needed to get this going. More research uncovered more subskills and materials necessary for making hard cheeses.


  • Cheesemaking Youtube videos by Gavin Webber
  • Facebook Pages: Culture Magazine, Enjoy Cheese, Learn to Make Cheese, Artisan Cheese Makers


  • Pressing – this can be tricky depending on your set up. I originally tried to balance weights on top of an unbalanced press. Be careful that your set up is stable and that your cheese is actually receiving the correct amount of pressure.
  • Bandage wrapping – a technique for preventing mold growth directly on the cheese by directly wrapping the cheese in cheesecloth instead of waxing
  • Precision and note taking – follow the instructions of your recipe to a T. Capture all details in your cheese notes so that you have a record of what went right and what went wrong. You will have forgotten all the details by the time you crack open your wheel.

Materials – these are suggested and there are a lot of work around/home brew solutions for each item needed, so feel free to make or buy!

  • Milk – always will be whole cow’s milk whenever unspecified, pasteurized and homogenized.
  • Cheese cave – there are a lot of options out there for this including retrofitting mini fridges or full size fridges with a thermostat to trick them to 55F. However, you can get a wine fridge for a comparable price and they are already set to 55F. Add a humidifier and you have a good set up. Or if you have a cellar, even better.

  • Hygrometer/Thermometer – for measuring the humidity and temperature of your cave. Ambient humidity and temperature are usually around 45% and 72F in a house but you want your cave to be 75% and 55F. These meters will help you make sure your cave is performing adequately.
  • Wood/Bamboo mats or wood boards – for aging your cheeses on
  • Cheese press – Can provide 50lbs of pressure. You can rig one or buy one. There is a ton of info on the internet. I got a small press for $40 on Ebay and I’m trying to talk some friends into making me a larger Dutch press for the future. Basically you just need a base and then some metal or wood pegs to hold another piece of wood above it. Your mold goes between the two pieces of wood and then you add weights to the top.

  • Cheese mold – a 3” diameter mold for 1 gallon of milk, a 5” diameter mold for 2 gallons of milk. You can make an easy one by sawing off the top and bottom of a plastic pitcher and then drilling holes into the side.

  • Curd knife – any long knife that can reach the bottom of your pot. Does not need to be sharp.
  • Citric acid – can be purchased from Amazon. Used for coagulation.


This week I practiced paneer and ricotta, revived kefir grains and then made a bandage wrapped farmhouse cheddar.

I don’t have pictures of the paneer or ricotta but they are both very simple and similar to make.

Remember to sanitize tools and work surfaces before beginning.

Paneer –

  • Heat 1 gallon of milk to 195F, stir constantly near the high end so it doesn’t scorch
  • Remove from heat
  • Add ½ c. and 2 Tbs. lemon juice OR 2 ½ tsp citric acid dissolved in 1 ¼ c. warm water and stir for 1 minute
  • When you see the curds and whey separate, add cold tapwater until the temperature of the pot is 115F.
  • Pour into a cheesecloth lined colander
  • Wring out the whey and then flip the cheese in the cheesecloth
  • Hang the cheese to drain for 1 hour
  • Press the cheese for 2 hours under 10lbs pressure
  • Unwrap cheese and place in cool water for 2 hours

Ricotta –

  • Heat 1 gallon of milk and 1 ½ tsp salt to 190F, stir constantly near the high end so it doesn’t scorch
  • Dissolve 1 tsp citric acid in 1/3 c. warm water, divide in 2 portions
  • Add 1 portion of citric acid solution and stir for 5 seconds
  • Remove from heat and cover for 20minutes.
  • Remove curds from pot to a cheesecloth lined colander with a ladle or skimmer leaving the whey
  • Drain curds for 15-30min
  • Reheat pot of whey and add 1 ½ tsp salt and proceed from beginning of recipe. The whey will produce even more curds.

Both recipes involve heating the milk and then curdling it with an acid. The subtle differences in the recipes produce a block of paneer or the loose curds of ricotta. Both cheeses are best eaten the day made and take only a few hours at most to make.

If you decide to make a commitment to kefir because you love it like I do, you will want to buy live kefir milk grains (there are water grains too that grow in water). With the freeze dried cultures, you can use a quarter cup of the end product and add to milk heated to 86F and let sit for 12 hours. You can propagate your culture about 6-8 times before it loses vigor. Kefir grains are live bacterial cultures that can propagate indefinitely. Unfortunately, they need to have fresh milk daily and can be a pain in the ass if you don’t want to commit to a daily culture.

I ordered my live grains from Fusion Teas on Amazon. The grains required about 4 days, changing the milk each day to revive from the stresses of mailing. The amount of grains grows each day as well so you can easily pass some to friends if they are interested in kefir. 1 Tbs. grains makes 2-6 cups of kefir so you will quickly be swimming in a sea of kefir.

To propagate kefir:

  • Sanitize pot, wooden spoon and thermometer in boiling water.
  • Heat milk to 86F (do not skip this step or your growth will be retarded)
  • Pour milk in mason jars
  • Add kefir grains with wood implements ONLY
  • Loosely cap or if you can replace the canning lid with cloth for airflow
  • Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours

Fun extra:

  • Drain room temperature kefir in cheesecloth overnight and you will have kefir cheese! A smooth, spreadable, tangy cheese than you can add garlic and herbs to and eat with crackers or bruschettini.

Farmhouse cheddar –

While the other cheeses are pretty simple, this was a bit more complex so if you want to make this, look up the recipe! I watched Gavin Webber’s video on how to make a cheddar and bandage wrap it before I made this. A farmhouse cheddar is slightly different than a traditional cheddar. It doesn’t have the cheddaring step! Cheddaring happens after draining the curds but before pressing the cheese. It involves cutting, stacking and milling the curd. This process involves a change in pH and continues the draining process.

Here are the steps to a farmhouse cheddar:

  1. Heat and rennet the milk (CaCl2 before the rennet)
  2. Wait until curd forms and gives a clean break
  3. Cut the curd
  4. Cook the curd
  5. Drain
  6. Salt and hand mill
  7. Press at 10lbs for 10min
  8. Press at 20lbs for 10min
  9. Press at 50lbs for 12 hours
  10. Air dry for 2-4 days to form a rind
  11. Wax or bandage wrap the cheese
  12. Age for 1 month

I’ve only done this process once so in the ensuing weeks I hope to provide more detailed info about each step and with a traditional cheddar. The benefit to a farmhouse cheddar is it is ready in 1 month versus the traditional takes 3-6months depending on the sharpness you want.

What many books stress is to keep a cheese notebook and really monitor everything that happens. Temperature and time is important and every little thing you do can make a difference on the final flavor of the cheese.

I was quite proud of my first little wheel and am very excited to make many more!

To recap:

  • To make a cheddar or hard cheese, you need the additional supplies of a cheese mold, cave, press and wax.
  • Remember to keep your work space clean and document your process.
  • Making your first cheddar will likely take you all day. Allow enough time because you cannot rush the process. Thoroughly read the instructions before beginning so you are prepared for each step.
  • Start tasting more cheeses so you know what you want your cheese to taste like

L to R: Sage derby, porter and horseradish cheeses from Whole Foods. Beautiful!

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