Farmhouse Cheddar is a simple pressed cheese, usually only aged for a month, so as to be enjoyed right away. It is solid and can be sliced though a bit crumbly. It is best to start with fresh raw milk, either goat or cow. If using goat milk, make sure it is no older than 2 days to avoid a "goaty' flavor. You can start with pasteurized milk from the store, but not "ultra-pasteurized" or "ultra-high temperature" treated milk. The higher temperatures will have damaged enzymes necessary for the cheesemaking process. Hopefully they will be labeled UP or UHT.
2 gallons of fresh milk
1/4 teaspoon of 'Mesophyllic A' freeze-dried cheese culture
1/2 to 1 tablet vegetable rennet, or 4 drops liquid animal rennet
salt to taste
Pasteurization is not necessary, but provides predictable results. In a large stockpot that will hold the two gallons bring the milk to just to 162 degrees Fahrenheit over medium high heat. Make sure the temperature of the milk doesn't go over 172, or a noticeable sulphur smell will develop once the milk cools.
Quickly cool the milk back down to 90 degrees. You can speed this along by floating a clean plastic food storage tub, or zip-top bag, filled with ice on the top of the milk. Another method is to place the whole pot in a sink filled with ice water.
Add the 1/4 teaspoon of culture and stir to dissolve. Allow the cultured milk to sit undisturbed for approximately a half hour. Maintain the 90 degree temperature by either turning the stove on and off very briefly, or placing the whole pot in a sink filled with warm water.
If using liquid rennet, add the four drops and briefly stir to mix. If using a rennet tablet, cut the rennet tablet in half. Crush one half to a fine powder between two spoons and add to the cultured milk, stirring briefly to dissolve and mix. Again, maintain the temperature at 90 degrees. Allow to sit for 15-30 minutes, or until it looks like white Jello when touched with a spoon. If it has not set, increase the temperature slightly and add another finely crushed 1/4 tablet of rennet.
Cutting The Curds
Once the curd looks like white Jello, cut it into squares with a long smooth knife. Increase the temperature to 100 degrees, by either turning the stove on and off briefly or placing the pot in a sink of hot water. Do not overheat. Drain the curds when yellowish-green whey forms between the squares, about 10 minutes.
Scoop the curd squares out into a fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, or into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Stir to facilitate draining and break the curds apart. Drain for an hour or so, stirring every ten minutes or so. It's at this point you can add salt to taste, about one to two tablespoon.
The drained curds should be moist but crumbly.
Depending on what style of press you have, either wrap the curds in the cheesecloth and place in the press, or place the curds in the press directly. Begin pressing with 10 pounds of pressure for about 10 minutes, the increase to 20 pounds for 20 minutes. The majority of the whey will be pressed out in these two pressings. Increase the pressure to 50 pounds, and press for 12 hours, or overnight.
Here is our "make-do" cheese press, made from a three pound coffee can. We put holes in the bottom for the whey to drain out,and pressed down with the lid - beware the lid is sharp. The box was the only thing we found right away that was about 50 pounds. We need to make a new press!
Remove cheese from the press and place on a drying rack in a cool dry place, until the surface is dry to the touch. This may take from 2 to 4 days, depending on humidity.
Once the cheese is dry to the touch. Wipe with a paper towel soaked in vinegar to remove any surface mold. Melt the wax in an old pot on the stove on the lowest heat setting, and turn off the stove once melted. We heat only to about 140-150 degrees, for safety, to avoid burns. Once melted the temperature climbs quickly, so do not leave it unattended. Coat the cheese with wax by dipping it in the pot. Apply 2 - 3 coats. Cool in between coats by placing in the freezer for 5 minutes. If the cheese becomes too warm from the wax, it will begin to sweat whey and the wax will not adhere well.
Allow the waxed cheese to age for one month at 50 degrees. This can be in a cool part of the house, a warm part of the fridge, or a special area just for cheese aging. It can be aged longer, even two or three years years. At lower temperatures, it will take longer to age.
Once opened, cheddar can keep about two weeks in the fridge. If it develops green or black mold, throw it away.