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tsp. of powdered citric acid to 1/4 cup cool water. Stir this
into 2 gallons of cold milk. Warm the milk to 88 degrees.
Dissolve 1/2 tsp. liquid rennet in 1/4 cup cool water. Stir the rennet into the milk very gently for 15 seconds. This make sure that it is evenly distributed. Cover and allow the milk to set for 15 min. until milk coagulates.
Cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes. I do this by taking my longest knife and cutting stripes every half of inch all the way to the bottom. Then I turn the pot and do the same thing the other way. Then I have a very large flat sort of ladle. I use it to cut the layers from side to side. Often times I will gently lift the pieces and cut any that are too large. Then allow the curds to rest for 5 mins.
Raise the temperature to 108 degrees. Do it slowly over a 15 min. period. Gently stir through out this heating time. Continue to stir for an additional 20 mins. while maintaining a temperature of 108 degrees. During this heating stage the curds will shrink in size as they expel whey. It is important to constantly stir the curds gently so that they do not mat together at the bottom of the pot. Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander and allow to drain for 15 min. You may want to do this over a pot and capture your whey. (You can make true ricotta from the whey)
Place the mass of curd on a cutting board and cut into 1" cubes.
Heat 1 gallon of water to 170 degrees and dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in the water. Place the curd cubes in a large bowl and pour the hot water over them. Using a wooden spoon, mix the curds together. they should stretch and mold together in a large mass of curds. (I use thick rubber gloves for this step. I save them and use only for cheesemaking) It takes about 5 min. for the curd to become stringy. Place the mass of curd on a cutting board and knead together as if you were working with bread. You want to have the curds to become a part of the mass of curd. If the curd starts to cool off, place it back in the water for a bit. Now pull the curd like taffy or like when you pull wool to spin. It will become satiny and smooth. You can add herbs and spices now if you like and work them into it. I don't normally do that. Once the curd has been stretched into a solid mass, this can be shaped into a round ball or string cheese sticks and then placed in cool water for about 15 min. until they hold their shape.
When it is ready, dry with a clean towel and place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Equipment: Cheese pot with a lid to hold the milk (it is good to make this a dedicated cheese only pot), a larger stock pot or water bath canner, dairy thermometer, mesophilic starter culture, rennet, stainless steel whisk or long knife, cheese ladle, stainless steel colander, french fry mill/cutter, salt without iodine (you can use a coarse cheese salt, pickling salt, or I use Real Salt).
First of all fill your cheese pot with water. Put all your utensils that you will use in it and bring to a boil. This will sanitize all of your equipment and not cause problems with the cheese. Pour the boiling water into a larger stock pot or water bath canner. This will be used to heat the cheese and keep the temperature.
Pour 2 gallons of milk (this recipe can be doubled) into your cheese pot. Set the pot down into the larger stock pot or water bath canner. Place a thermometer down in the milk making sure it is easy to read. Let it heat up to 86° F.
Once it reaches the right temperature put in your culture. Use 1 packet (1 packet works for up to 2 gallons of milk) of mesophilic starter culture. Sprinkle it over the top of the milk and stir in to the milk with a stainless steel whisk or cheese ladle. Cover and let sit for about 30 mins. to ripen.
If you are going to use calcium chloride, it would go in next. I did not use it, but it is good to use if the milk is homogenized or pasteurized. If you are going to use it, then take 1/2 tsp. and mix it in with about 1/4 cup of cold water. Pour the water over the surface of the milk and then stir it in.
Next, we will add our rennet. You will use the same amount of rennet in cheese as you use calcium chloride. So, add 1/2 tsp. of liquid rennet to about 1/4 cup of cool water. After mixing in then pour over the surface of the milk and mix it in. Cover and let the milk sit for 30 to 50 mins. I leave my thermometer sticking out the side of the lid so I can make sure I keep a constant temperature.
It is time to test the curd. The last place to set up will be the center. I take a thick candy thermometer (you could use something else) and poke it down gently into the center of the curd and then sort of lift up at an angle. It the curd breaks in a clean straight line it is ready. Use the large stainless steel whisk to cut the curds. You can use a long knife, but it is SO much easier with a whisk. Cut across one way and then cut across the opposite way while turning the whisk a bit to make cubes. If you use a knife, after you cut both ways across, then you need to use a flat cheese ladle to cut the layers from top to bottom. Or insert the knife at angles to try and cut them. The whisk made all the difference in the world for me. I actually ordered some large 16" ones to put in the store for other to be able to get them. Once you cut the curds you are going to allow them to rest for 2 to 5 mins. They will sink down into the whey.
Leaving the pot of milk in the double boiler set up, turn a low heat on under the pot. You are going to raise the temperature of the milk from 86° F to 100° F. You are going to do this very slowly over a 40 to 45 mins. period of time. You will need to stir the curds gently and often. I stirred with the whisk. Once the temperature hits 90° F and above, then the curds will try to mat together. You will need to be diligent in your stirring from that point on. Once you reach 100° F turn off the heat and watch that it does not get any hotter. If it does, remove it from the double boiler and set on the counter. It is good if you can keep them in the pot though because it helps keep the temperature constant. You are going to let the curds sit for 30 mins. undisturbed. They will sink to the bottom and mat together.
It is time to test and see if the curds are ready to be drained. Pull some up from the bottom in the flat cheese ladle. Take a small handful and gently squeeze. If they hold together then they are ready. They should also easily separate back out.
Drain them into a colander over a bucket or large pan catching the whey. Put about 3 quarts of your whey back in the cheese pot and put the colander over that pot. Pack the curds down in the colander making a nice slab. Turn on a VERY low heat under this. The curds should not be in the whey, but they will be over the nice moist air. Put a lid over them and let them cheddar (that is what this process is called) for about 45 mins. to an hour. I turned the slab over pressing down again about every 15 mins. When you are done, you will have a nice big flat smooth slab of cheese.
Put the slab on a cutting board and cut into fairly large chunks. There are 2 ways to do this next step. You can use a knife or you can use a french fry mill/cutter. Put the curds through the mill or cut into strips about that size. Put them back into the pan or into a bowl and add 2 1/2 tsp. of salt. Mix it in well with your hands. At this point, you can eat these as fresh cheese curds (they are really good) or you can press them into a wheel.
Lay a folded piece of cheese cloth on the bottom of your cheese press and then put the hoop on top of it. Fill the hoop with the curds. Place another folded piece of cheesecloth over the top of the curds and then add your follower (wooden round that fits just inside your hoop). Assemble the rest of your press and apply pressure to the curds. You do not want to push down as hard as you can at this point. Push down until the whey starts to come out the bottom. Depending on your press you will either want to set the press down into a pan to catch the whey or have a bowl to catch it. Leave it this way for an hour. Check it periodically to see if you need to apply a bit more pressure.
After the hour is up, take your cheese out and you will dress it. Take a piece of cheesecloth and wrap the cheese, covering all surfaces. Place it back into the hoop and add the follower. Now tighten your press to the maximum pressure. You will leave the cheese in the press for 24 hours.
Warm 2 gallons of milk to 86°. Put 1/4 tsp. of lipase powder and 1/4 tsp. of mesophilic starter in a small cup. Add a wee bit of the warmed milk and stir until dissolved. Then stir into milk. Stir with a top to bottom motion for at least 20 strokes to make sure it is well mixed in. Then cover and let it sit for 30 mins.
Then dilute 1/2 tsp. of rennet in a quarter cup of cool water. Add this to the milk and again stir at least 20 times with the top to bottom motion. Let it sit, covered for 30 mins. until the curds solidify. Cut the curds into 1/2" cubes.
Use your ladle to stir the curds very slowly and gently. If there are masses of curds, then jiggle them gently on your ladle to break apart. Continually stir slowly and gently for about 25 to 30 mins. Make sure the milk stays at the 86° throughout this time. The curds will shrink until they are approximately 1/2 the size they started at. They will resemble the size of cottage cheese.
Drain the curds into small feta cheese basket molds. It should fill 2 of them. Find a large pan with a lid or a bucket with a lid to let them drain in. Put one mold on top of the other mold. The weight of the top one will press the bottom one. I switched them every 15 mins. about 5 times. When you go to switch them, turn them over in their mold as well. This helps to keep them even. I put a small rack in the bottom of my pan to keep the cheese from sitting in the whey. You can also use a canning jar ring. Put the sides of the molds up against the side of the pan or bucket to keep the cheeses even. Keep the lid on while they are draining to keep moisture in the air around them. Let them drain for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature.
Make a brine solution. Put 2/3 cups of a coarse salt into 1 1/2 quarts of boiling water. Make sure it is mixed in well. Let cool to room temperature. The cheese will float in the brine, but make sure it is as far in the brine as possible. Let it brine for at least a week before eating. Keep the cheese in the brine in a cool place. I put mine in an extra fridge.
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