If you have had a go at the simple acid cheese and the mozzarella, it’s time to try making your first ‘proper’ cheese, and by that I mean a cheese made with starter culture and coagulated with rennet.This soft cheese is really straight forward but, like most cheeses, it will take some time to transform the milk into the finished product. One of the attributes of many cheese recipes is that they involve short bursts of activity, for example adding ther starter or cutting the curds, split by long periods of inactivity, such as waiting for the milk to coagulate. This recipe is no different, so be prepared to be near your milk for up to 5 hours, even though the amount of activity will amount to no more than 20-30 minutes.
The ingredients and equipment for this recipe bring together everything you’ve read about in this beginner’s section and will need preparing in advance, a sign that the cheese is more technical than we’ve made before in this series:
Heat the milk as slowly as you can to 32C (which is the starter’s ideal working temperature) and add the appropriate amount of starter according to your packet’s instructions. Stir it in thoroughly and leave for 30 minutes, keeping the milk at 32C (in a warm room, putting a lid on your pan will be sufficient to achieve this).
Whilst the starter is busy creating lactic acid, measure out 12 drops of rennet to your cold boiled water. When the half hour has passed, add the diluted rennet to the milk using an ‘up and down’ stirring motion for a couple of minutes. Leave now until the milk sets, maintaining 32C. On a colder day you can do this by standing your pan in a larger pan/tub of which has been heated to 32C.
After about an hour, check for setting by using a knife to see if the curds split cleanly (see video) if they do not, leave for a further 10 minutes and check again. Once you have a clean split, slice the curds into cubes with sides of 15mm. To do this, hold your knife vertically and slice one way across your pan, then again at right angles making sure to go from edge to edge with the blade.
You now have 15mm square columns of curds. To get cubes, you need to cut these columns by slicing with your knife in the cuts you’ve already made, but at an angle of 30 degrees or so. The video shows how to do this.
Leave the curds for 15 minutes to separate from the whey. Stir gently and cut to size any large pieces of curd in the pan. Leave a further 15 minutes (maintaining temperature), stir again and leave for a final 15 minutes.
With your moulds over the draining tray, use your slotted spoon to fill them with curds. Remember that your curds will sink a lot as more whey drains out, so don’t use all of them at this stage or you’ll end up with very flat cheeses. As the curds shrink, keep ladling more curds into the moulds until they are all used up, probably over the course of an hour or so. Keep the moulds covered and warm whilst this is happening.
Leave the full moulds for at least an hour, then it’s time to turn your cheeses to make sure drainage and shape are even. Tip the cheese into one hand (be careful, it will still be very soft at this stage – if it can’t yet hold its own shape, leave it in the mould for another half hour then try again and put the empty mould down. Turn the cheese over into your other hand, pick up the mould and place the cheese back in it upside down.
Leave them then (covered and warm still) for another 2-3 hours before turning once more, at which stage they can be left overnight to continue to drain.
In the morning the cheese will be able to stand without the mould, and will need salting as a final step. Weigh your cheese and note the measurement. You now need 1% of this weight in salt, so if your cheese weighs 200g, you need 2g of salt. My scales only weigh in grammes, so if your cheese (like mine on the video) weighs 156g and you can’t weigh out 1.56g, then round the salt requirement up to 2g.
Sprinkle the weighed salt all over the surface of the cheese and leave to drain of more weigh for another 4-5 hours, you can use a cheese mat to help with this but it is not necessary.
Finally, you get to enjoy the fruit of your labours! The cheese can be eaten immediately, or stored in a container for at least a week an should be fine for up to two weeks, during which time it will mature a little.
I recommend having a go with a cheese making kit to start with, these are the ones I rate the best!