Cheese making, like baking, is really all about mastering the art of reading and following a recipe. If you mess up or get sloppy along the way you end up with either an inferior product or a complete failure. Cheddar is one of the more complicated hard cheeses I’ve tried to make because it requires a) the addition of a specific culture and b) slow curd cooking combined with a special process known as cheddaring. This is the act of stacking the curds until the texture changes to that of cooked chicken. Weird, right?
The process of making cheddar can be broken down into a few steps. You allow the milk to culture (I use raw milk even though the recipe says to pasteurize it), bring to 86 degrees, add your rennet and let it set a curd for about 45 minutes. Then you cut them and slowly cook the curds to about 110 degrees over the course of an hour. At which point you strain them for a few minutes, then cut them again into four pieces, stack them until they achieve the chicken consistency mentioned above, cut them again then press them for about 24 hours. At this point you let your cheese wheels form a rind, then you wax them.
This is a huge over-simplification of cheddar making and I urge readers NOT to attempt to make cheddar from the above instructions. The web site I had been using is currently offline, however here is the link and hopefully it will come back up so anyone interested in doing this themselves can follow more detailed instructions.
The real bummer about making cheddar is that once you have it waxed you have to let it age for about three months before you can eat it. So even though I have these lovely cheese wheels, I cannot eat them until January of next year. So I have no idea what it tastes like or if it is even edible. Luckily cheese wax is fairly inexpensive and I can buy it locally at Santa Fe Homebrew Supply where they also reassure me that it can be reused.
So, I will try to get back to you all about this in January and let you know how the cheddar worked out! Hopefully it will be worth the wait! Until then, Happy Eating.