Cheddaring at The Art of Cheese, Longmont, CO
My second class at The Art of Cheese was the Cheesemaking Bootcamp. We covered brining your cheese, piercing a blue cheese, aging your cheese with rubs, washes and leaf wraps, an introduction to alpine and swiss cheeses as well as the process of cheddaring. For your sanity, and mine, we’ll be limiting todays entry to the cheddaring process and the cheeses we tasted that day. Did you know that there’s a separate process involved to make cheddar cheese than other cheeses, well you’ll get to learn all about it today!
As you may imagine, we spent the entire day at the Art of Cheese in order to cover all those topics. Actually it was a three day course but I only attended the final day in order to learn the cheddaring process. The process itself is longer than other “cheese makes” because there are additional steps involved, and took about 6 hours of classroom time.
We told you the basic steps to make cheese in our first entry from The Art of Cheese.
Since cheddar is pretty labor intensive, Kate, our instructor, emphasized the importance of using a good farm fresh milk. These can be on the expensive side so there are a couple of “beginner” cheddar recipes you can try if you’re just starting out (Farmhouse Cheddar or Milkmaid Cheddar)
We were going to make a tricolor cheddar that day, so we had three different pots of milk. Goats milk is naturally very white where cow’s milk usually has a yellowish tint. Did you ever notice this? It’s an easy trick on how to figure out which type of milk was used for cheese. Wondering why? Well, goats instantly convert beta carotene (from the grass they are eating) into Vitamin A, removing the color pigments. This also makes their milk higher in Vitamin A than cow’s milk. Our third pot had cow’s milk with a natural food color added to it, called annatto. This is made by grinding up the seeds from achiote trees, found in tropical regions, and is typically used to make cheeses very yellow. Just a few fun facts for you about the color of your cheese!
Your cheddar cheese make will begin with you heating all the pots of milk and adding your bacteria and rennet. It may seem hard to believe but just these two steps take almost 2 hours. Next step is to cut your solidified milk into curds. Check if the milk is ready by making a slit in the pot and lifting up to open the slit. Cut the milk horizontally and vertically to see your 1/2” cubes appear.
The temperature of your milk is a huge part of the cheesemaking process.
A helpful hint is that you can heat milk fast although you need to heat your curds slowly. When cooking the curds, watch your temperature, if the heat suddenly increases, you can remove the pot from the heat. Then keep stirring and put the pot back on the heat once the temperature drops. If you’ve made cheese before (or read our first entry from the Art of Cheese), this should all seem pretty familiar.
Where things change are in the upcoming steps. After cooking the curds for 30 minutes you are ready to drain and mat your curds! While draining some of your whey, put enough to the side to keep as a heat source in your pot. This next step needs to stay warm, and will also use a gallon sized plastic bag filled with warm water. You will mat the curds by pushing them into the bottom of a colander. The action of you pushing the curds into the colander works the fermentation of the cheese. See the photos for more explanation. These cheese mats are characteristic of cheddar cheese in particular. Follow the recipe below to prepare your mats.
The next step is the actual “cheddaring process”. We had a mat from each pot of milk so there was a white one, a light yellow one and a dark yellow one. You “cheddar” by stacking these mats on top of each other while using the hot whey, hot bags, and colander from the previous step. Then rearrange the layers and stack again. This will occur in 15 minute increments for a total of 2 hours.
Once your cheese mats are cheddared, its time to mill them. Milling is when you cut the mats into curds. This might be a little confusing since they were curds before too but these will be the “curds” that you would find in Wisconsin. You can see how they are more of a solid curd now since they’ve gone through the cheddaring process. Once you have your curds, there’s only one step left and that’s to salt them. After sprinkling some salt on the curds, it will be absorbed and you’ll put a little more on. That’s it, now they’re ready to eat.
Although the recipe for making cheddar cheese is longer than other recipes, I thought it was pretty cool that there was something ready to eat at the end! Cheese curds are usually squeaky when they are first made but that’s part of their draw. If you’re not a fan of all that squeakiness, you can put them in a sandwich bag and wait a few days for that squeakiness to go away.
After you make these curds, it’s possible to create a wheel of cheddar cheese, if you’d wish. This is another thing that’s a little different about this specific cheese. You’ll be pressing together those squeaky curds instead of the wet squishy curds in the other recipes. Also there’s multiple steps in between to make it cheddar before you add it to the form. The curds will form bonds to stay together in the shape but when you cut the cheese open, it will be crumbly in texture instead of one unified block.
Have you ever heard of bandaged cheddar? I feel like it’s a little fancier than regular cheddar. You still press the curds together and create a wheel but then you wrap the wheel up in butter muslin. This is an aging technique. First coat the wheel in coconut oil, lard or fat, next start wrapping the “bandage” around the cheese by using strips and circles of butter muslin. You want to use at least 2 layers of fabric around the wheel. Press the wrapped wheel back into the form to get the air out of the fabric, then remove from the form and set the wheel on your shelf to age. There will be mold that grows on the fabric but that’s ok because it won’t really get on the wheel and that’s why we put it there.
While we’re talking about cheddar, have you ever noticed there are both mild and sharp cheddars? A cheese will become more sharp when you spend even longer cheddaring (rearranging those stacks) in your recipe and then aging the wheel of cheese. So those sharper cheddars have been aged for quite a while. I remember we found a 12 year cheddar once in New York. After my introduction to aging cheese, I can’t imagine spending 12 years on one wheel of cheese!
Now that you know all about Cheddar Cheese, we’ll discuss a little more about the Cheese Bootcamp. Since it was an all day class, lunch was also included. Everyone took a little sample of each farm fresh treat and gathered outside on the patio to eat. It was a really nice break in the middle of all that cheesemaking and education! We even had some wine and a handmade goats milk ice cream for dessert!
Also mixed into the class we tasted a bunch of cheeses, because everyone who wants to make cheese, definitely enjoys eating it too! We began with the tri color cheddar from the last cheddar making class. It was all aged and ready to eat. What a beautiful mix of all three colors of milk! Kate actually kept a few curds from our class to press together in a mold and serve at her next cheddar class.
The other cheeses we tried were a mix of Haystack cheeses, one of the local cheese brands in Colorado, and examples of some the cheeses we received recipes for in our cheesemaking packet.
Haystack Smoked Cheddar
Jarlsberg recipe in our packet
Haystack Red Cloud
a new cheese from Haystack
Haystack Gold Hill
Castle Blue from our packet
It was cool to taste both a handmade cheddar and one from Haystack. The haystack version was very flavorful with notes of milk and smoke. Jarlsberg is an alpine style cheese similar to swiss. We were able to sample both a cows milk version as well as a goats milk version. The goats milk cheese tasted saltier and had a drier texture than the cows milk cheese. The cow’s milk version was more mild with a moist texture but neither really had a distinct aroma.
Red Cloud, is a cheese that gets its name from its orange rind. How fun to see what a washed rind cheese would look like since we were learning about them in class that day. It had a pungent funk, crunchy exterior and a flavor that moved into my nose. Strong but also yum! The new cheese from Haystack had whiskey added to it but you could smell and taste the alcohol. Despite that, there was caramel aromas, a dry sweet flavor and some funk, pretty nice. Our final Haystack cheese was Gold Hill, their “Best in the USA” prize winner. It’s a Spanish style cheese like Manchego that uses pasteurized milk. It smelled really rich, had a dry texture and a buttery flavor. Really good, my favorite of all the cheeses!
We wrapped up our cheese tasting with the Castle Blue, another recipe from our packet. As part of our bootcamp, we’d be piercing our own wheel of Castle Blue to take home so Kate wanted to show us how it might turn out. This blue tingled my nose and mouth and had a soft smooth texture. I thought it would be great with wine. This week, Neil and I tasted our example that I created in class. See our IG post about it @winecheesefri.
There’s so much more I could tell you about my day at Cheese Bootcamp but I hope you enjoyed learning all about cheddar and the new cheese we had a chance to try. It really was such a find to come across a cheese school in my neighborhood. There’s still one more class that I attended during my time in Colorado but if you’re up on our Social Media, you’ve already seen some of our Camembert photos.
Find the full recipe (provided by The Art of Cheese) to make the Cheddar Cheese Curds below.
Cheddar Cheese Curds (aka Squeaky Curds)
This recipe was adapted from Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell 2 gallons of milk yields approximately 2 pounds of curds
1. RIPEN THE MILK: Heat 2 gallons of milk to 70 degrees. Add 1 packet or 1/4 tsp mesophilic culture. Continue heating to 90 degrees. Cover and let ripen for 1 hour.
2. COAGULATE THE MILK: Dilute 1⁄2 tsp liquid rennet in 1⁄4 cup non-chlorinated water and add to milk, stirring with an up and down motion for 1 minute. Let set for 45 minutes.
3. CUT THE CURD: Cut the curd into 1⁄2 inch cubes using a knife for the vertical cut and a large skimmer spoon or angled knife for the horizontal cut. Cover pot and let curds rest for 5 minutes.
4. COOK THE CURDS: Slowly heat the curds to 102 degrees over a 30 minute period, stirring the curds continuously and cutting any large pieces as you go. Once you reach your time (30 mins) AND temperature (102 degrees), hold that temperature and continue stirring for 30 minutes. (if checking pH, you want to reach 6.2 – 6.10).
5. DRAIN AND MAT THE CURDS: Scoop the curds out of the pot and into a colander, pressing with your skimmer or hands to form a mat. Set the colander on top of the pot above (not in) the whey to help hold the heat in your curds. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
6. “CHEDDAR” THE CURDS: Cut the slab into two pieces and stack them on top of each other. Cover and let set for 15 minutes. Then flip them so the bottom piece is now on top. Take a large zip lock bag and fill with warm water (98-100 degrees) and place on top of the stacked slabs. Continue restacking every 15 minutes until a total of 2 hours has passed. (if checking pH, you want the final level to be around 5.3)
7. SLICE THE CURDS: Place the pieces of matted curd on a cutting board and cut into 1 inch strips. Then cut these strips into 2 inch pieces.
8. SALT THE CURDS: Place the cut pieces of curd back into the colander over the warm whey and sprinkle with 1 1⁄2 tsp of Kosher salt. Stir with you hands for a minute or so. Cover and let set for 5 minutes to allow the salt to absorb into the curds. Then add another 1 1⁄2 tsp of salt and stir well. You can add more salt to taste if you like a saltier cheese and/or you can add spices and flavoring while you are adding the salt if you like flavored curds.
9. FINISH AND EAT: Cool the curds to room temperature and once you can’t see the salt any more (meaning it’s all been absorbed) your curds are done. Eat and enjoy!
10.STORE: You can store your curds in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (they’ll lose their squeak in a day or so). You can also freeze them.
To make a pressed wheel of Cheddar, follow these steps after Step #8:
1. Place salted curds in a form lined with dampened cheese cloth.
2. Place a follower on top of the curds, and press with 10 pounds of pressure for 15-30 minutes.
3. Remove the developing wheel from the press and form, flip the cheese, redress and re- load into press and press for 20 pounds for about 15-30 minutes.
4. Repeat step #3 and then press at 30-40 pounds of pressure for 12 hours.
5. Remove from press and air dry at room temperature for 1-2 days, flipping at least once a day, until all sides are dry to the touch.
6. Age for at least 2 months with the aging technique of your choice: natural rind, waxed rind, cloth bandage, rub, etc. The longer you age, the more flavorful and sharp your cheddar will be.