Not gonna lie, misfits–I feel pretty misled right now.
The past three times I’ve gone to the grocery store to buy cat food in twenty-can increments, I’ve been hit on. ASSERTIVELY.
What the fuck, guys? I thought this crazy cat lady thing was, like, guaranteed to insulate me from unwanted sexual attention. From wanted sexual attention. From ANY sexual attention! Like, whoah, by the looks of that shopping cart, that chick’s clearly got a hoarde of cats at home STAY AWAY BRO (because all men in my re-enactments say “bro”). But there i am, without an inch of makeup on my face, wearing my schlubbies, practically clearing an entire shelf of cat food into my cart, when these dudes come outta the frickin’ woodworks to throw themselves at me. I told the guy last night that I had a boyfriend before rounding the corner with my cart. He pursued me into the next aisle, told me he didn’t care, that I was beautiful, that we could just start as friends.
Who ARE these pushy men who are apparently turned on by the fact that I buy less food for myself just so I can buy food for the beasts that I’m allergic to and can’t even pet anyway? That I spend more than three minutes comparing catnip brands? THAT I BUY THE ECONOMY PACK OF FUZZY MICE?
So now I’m convinced there’s an entire demographic of desperate
men belligerent little man-boys who just hang out in the cat food aisle waiting to “pounce” (AHAHA see what I did there ya see ya see pounce, get it, POUNCE ‘CAUSE CATS POUNCE okay I’m finished) on the first cat lady who comes along. Maybe they figure girls with tons of cats are CLEARLY not getting any, so they should be all hot and ready when doofus uses a come-on he probably learned from breathlessly taking notes from “Jersey Shore” marathons.
So anyway. PSA for my crazy cat lady homegirls out there. Watch your backs. Maybe carry pepper spray. Or maybe just some angry, flying ferals, like my misfit E. Oliver would probably recommend.
So remember how we decided we’d be making more homemade hard cheeses as part of our homestead resolutions? Well, uh, we did. And you are way overdue for a cheddar recipe.
After all, I’ve already given you a tutorial for a cheese press you can probably build for free.
Farmhouse Cheddar is the easiest kind–it takes less time to make AND less time to age–you can sample it in as little as a month, perhaps alongside a Homebrewed Irish Stout or some homemade wine. Maybe with a nice plate of Cinnamon Spice Pickled Grapes, Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly, and Fine ‘n Sexy Pickled Mushrooms.
That being said, I like my cheddar to be super-sharp, so I’d age it at least three to six months. Nobody wants immature cheese. It’s always making stupid jokes that nobody gets and then we have to roll our eyes and we all know how I feel about unnecessary exercise.
Point is, this is a highly customizable cheese, and that extends to mix-ins, too. Fancy a peppercorn cheddar? How about a cranberry cheddar? It’s all possible. Just play!
1 gallon of milk yields about a pound of hard cheddar, but if you’re going through the trouble of making your own cheese, I say make at least 2 pounds. Too much cheese? Blasphemy. THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH CHEESE. Go stick that in your pipe and smoke it. The idea. Not the cheese. Though you know what? Inhaled cheese. Pretty effing sweet. Can you get a contact high from being around someone who’s smoking cheese?
I don’t know, misfits. I just don’t know.
But I plan to try.
Homemade Farmhouse Cheddar
Makes Approximately 2 pounds
2 gallons milk (Spring for the best quality here, i.e. pastured, grass-fed, local, fresh. Raw is best, but pasteurized is okay, so long as it’s not ultra high temp pasteurized)
1/2 tsp. liquid rennet
1 Tablespoon sea salt (make sure this is pure, non-iodized salt)
1 packet direct-set mesophilic culture
Stuff to Assemble:
*large enough glass jar to accommodate cheese wax
*A cheese press and weights: a cheap-ass homemade setup is fine
*thermometer that can go at least as low as 90 degrees and at least as high as 100
*pot that will hold at least 2 gallons milk
*larger pot or pluggable sink for mostly immersing milk pot in water
*pot, bowl, or bucket to catch draining whey under colander
*natural bristle brush for waxing cheese (synethetic bristles melt)
Heat the milk to 90 degrees F.
Add the starter, stir thoroughly, cover, let sit for 45 minutes.
Mix the rennet with 4 Tablespoons filtered water and stir into the milk using an up and down motion…do this for a minute or so.
Apply a little heat if necessary to get the milk back to 90 degrees, then cover it again. Keep it there for another 45 minutes.
It’s ready if you can use a dull knife to cut clean lines that hold their shape in the top of the milk (curds). Cut the curds into half-inch cubes.
Now put the pot into a larger pot and set it over a very low burner.
Continue to heat on the burner for 30 minutes, monitoring closely, until it gets to 100 degrees. You want this to happen very slowly, so that the pot just reaches 100 degrees at the 30 minute mark. The rule people seem to cite a lot is that the temp should never increase more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes, so go ahead and use that rule if it helps you. Every now and then, gently use a large spoon to agitate the curds so they stay separate. When you’re at 100 degrees, cover the pot and leave it alone for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large colander with cheesecloth and set it over a large pot or bowl. When five minutes have elapsed, use a slotted spoon to move the curds into the colander, letting the whey drip on down into that bowl you have waiting.
Some people discard the whey–I say that’s kinda blasphemy. You can use it to soak beans, water plants, for drinking, and a buncha other things. So save that magic juice. When your curds have drained, tie up the ends of the cheesecloth, bundle and knot it up as best you can, and sit it in a sieve over a bowl/pot to drain.
Now go drink for an hour.
When you come back, the curds will be much drier.
Take it out of the cheesecloth, plop it into a bowl, and thoroughly stir in the salt, making sure to break it up into small pieces.
Now take that good old cheesecloth and use it to line your press. Press the curds in very firmly, fold the cheesecloth on top, and place the insert/top part of the mold on top of the curds.
Put the whole thing on top of your base/cutting board/press support. Add your cookie sheet/board/weight support thingy, and throw on ten pounds of flour. I mean, official cheese weights. Place the whole thing over your sink and let things drain for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, take the whole thing apart, turn the cheese over, and put the whole setup back together, this time adding an additional ten pounds (20 total pounds) of weight. Press for another ten minutes.
Now take it all apart, turn the cheese over, and reassemble the whole shebang, this time adding an additional 30 pounds (50 total pounds) of weight. Now settle in for the long hour and set your alarm. Let it sit twelve hours.
After twelve hours have elapsed, take the press apart, unwrap the cheese, and set it on a wooden surface to air dry, undisturbed, for a few days, turning the cheese over twice a day, until it’s got a firm, dry skin.
Now it’s time to wax. Don’t worry if a little mold has grown on your cheese–this is normal. Dip a kitchen cloth in a brine solution of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon salt and swab down the entire surface of your cheese, scrubbing a little if necessary to remove any mold. Now dip a dry section of your cloth in white vinegar and swab down the cheese on all sides.
Let it air dry completely, about an hour or so. Now pile chunks of cheese wax into a clean jar (uh, one you won’t need for anything else), and set it in a pot of water, double-boiler style.
Bring the water to a boil over medium heat and let the wax melt and heat to 210 degrees F. When it has done this, use a natural bristle brush or a large spatula to apply wax to all sides of your cheese wheel–when it’s covered, do it all a second time.
You can smack on a paper label before the wax is completely set–mark it with the cheese’s name and the date you started aging it.
When it’s dry, transfer the cheese to a cool place, between 55 and 65 degrees F, preferably, to age. Going too far outside that temperature range can produce some off flavors, so do your best. If your fridge is the closest you can get, that’s okay, too. You’ll just want to keep your cheese in a very large, airtight storage bin or bag (with plenty of empty space) along with a small piece of damp cloth in one corner. Regularly air the container out to let the gases exchange. Farmhouse Cheddar needs to age at least a month, but 3, 6, and 12 will produce even better/more complex results. You can slice the cheese open to check periodically, and if you’d like to continue aging the rest of the wheel, go for it. Just re-vinegar the exposed surfaces, let them dry, and then re-wax before continuing to age the cheddar.
© 2012, Genevieve P. Charet. All rights reserved.Pin It