When a friend of mine told me she made shreddable, meltable cheddar-style cheese in her kitchen at home - without a cheese press - AND that she would be willing to show me how, you can imagine how thrilled I was! When she added that the milk is only heated up to 100 degrees - so technically it can be a raw cheese (if you have a source of raw milk that you trust) - I could barely contain myself. We've finished off the last of our store-bought cheese and are now eating exclusively home made - no more colorings and questionable milk! (If your kids are put off by the fact that it isn't orange, you can buy coloring, or experiment with home-made colorings.)
Press-less Farmhouse Cheddar
(This recipe makes about 3 pounds of cheese. You can certainly make a smaller batch if you prefer, simply divide the recipe accordingly.)
3 gallons milk
3/4 tsp mesophilic culture
1/2 tablet rennet
2-3 Tbsp cheese salt (when I made this with sea salt, it didn't turn out right - I'm not sure if it was the salt, or if I did something wrong. Please leave a comment if you know about this.)
I make this recipe in a big 21 quart canning kettle, which will hold all 3 gallons of milk. Actually, I use two, one for the main cooking kettle and one nested under it for a water bath. You'll need to heat the milk slowly, so a water bath is very helpful.
Heat your milk to 88 degrees F, then add the culture powder and mix it in thoroughly. Cover and let stand for about 40 minutes.
Break a rennet tablet in half and place one piece in 1/4 cup cold water. Dissolve the tablet completely, then pour it into the cultured milk, stirring it in gently. Cover again and let sit for 40 more minutes, until the curd separates out (it will look like very thick yogurt, and if you pull it away from the side, watery yellowish whey will fill in the gap). Cut the curd into half-inch cubes (using a long knife, cut one way, all the way to the bottom of the pan, making slits a half inch apart, then do the same in the opposite direction to make half-inch squares. Then as best you can, cut diagonally to get as close to cubes as possible.)
Heat the water in the lower kettle until the curds reach 100 degrees, making sure to go slowly - the curds should only gain 2 degrees every 5 minutes. The whole heating time should be around 30 minutes. Stir the curds gently up from the bottom every so often to keep the curds from matting. You will notice that there is a LOT more whey.
Once you're up to 100 degrees, cover your kettle and let the curds sit for 10-15 minutes. Then drain as much whey as you can without losing any curd (save the whey! You can use it to make ricotta, save it for boosting your sauerkraut or other ferments, feed it to your chickens (whey is high in protein, so it makes a good supplement to their feed. Better yet, soak their feed in it for a day or two for a fermented wet mash!), or even sprinkle it on your garden). Then flop the curds out into a colander with a bowl under it to catch the remaining whey. Mix in the salt (I do this with my hands, crumbling the curds and mixing them until the salt is completely incorporated), cover, and let stand in a warm place overnight (since my house is pretty cold this time of year, I put the bowl and colander inside the bottom canning kettle (that I was using as a double boiler - it still has warm water in it), cover it, and then put a towel over the top to keep it warm.) If you want to, you can put a plate on top of the curds with a jar of water on top to weight it down, as a minimal imitation of a cheese press. I've done it with and without, and haven't noticed too much difference.
In the morning, flop the finished cheese out of your colander and store in a covered container in your fridge. This won't keep as long as a pressed cheese, but it can be used in any of the ways you normally would use cheddar (I've never had any go bad - but then again, it's never lasted more than a week in my house!)
As I said, this cheese is very versatile - it shreds nicely, melts well, and slices just like you'd expect - it's not soft at all.
And it goes very well on scrambled eggs, as my children will attest!
This post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop, Sunday School, and The Creative HomeAcre Hop.