Traditional recipes

Wisconsin Cheese 101: How Cheese Is Made

Wisconsin Cheese 101: How Cheese Is Made

When you think of Wisconsin, what comes to mind? Probably the Green Bay Packers and cheese, and with good reason. The Packers are a storied NFL franchise, but as the foam cheese hats the Packers fans wear indicate, the real pride of Wisconsin is its dairy farms and its cheese.

See Wisconsin Cheese 101: How Cheese Is Made Slideshow

From the Crave Brothers, who control every step of the process of making their farmstead cheeses, to Myron Olson at Chalet Cheese Cooperative, who is the last maker of Limburger in the United States, Wisconsin’s cheesemakers are dedicated to their craft. Whether they are eager young cheesemakers like Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wis., or a third or fourth generation cheesemaker like Joseph Widmer of Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa, Wis., they all share one thing in common, a dedication to making the finest cheese possible.

The Daily Meal recently spent time in Wisconsin with the state's top cheesemakers to learn about the basics of cheesemaking. Visitors can buy cheese at the onsite cheeseshops at Widmer's Cheese Cellars and Chalet Cheese Cooperative.

Wisconsin was the biggest wheat producer in the United States in the early 1800s until a blight wiped out the crop. So farmers moved into the dairy business and turned Wisconsin into "America’s Dairyland." But cheese was once just a byproduct of dairy farming. Farmers would produce milk for the family and farm and any excess would be made into cheese. Because there was no way to store and transport cheese safely, it remained a "farm product" until the 1850s, when farmers gained the ability to sell it outside of local communities.

Today, Wisconsin has more than 12,000 dairy farm families and is the top producer of cheese in America, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. In fact, Wisconsin produces more than one-fourth of America’s cheese.

When dairy lovers discuss Wisconsin cheese, they are usually referring to cheese made from cow’s milk, but there are also great goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses being made in Wisconsin.

Cheese starts with four simple ingredients: milk, bacteria, rennet (enzymes), and salt. The cheesemaker is part scientist, part artist; he must use his training and knowledge of cheesemaking as well as all five of his senses to create a great final product.

Many of the cheesemakers in Wisconsin today are the descendants of immigrants who moved to the state from places like Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and brought their cheesemaking heritage with them. Many of the cheeses made today were first created to appeal to the immigrants that settled in Wisconsin. Chalet Cheese Cooperatives’s Limburger and Widmer’s Cheese Cellars’ German Brick were made to appeal to the German immigrants that settled near the dairy farms.

In 1916, Wisconsin started requiring cheesemakers to have a license in order to make cheese, and it's the only state in the U.S. to still require this. The state also implemented a rigorous program to certify Master Cheesemakers in 1980. To date, only 52 people have been certified as a Master Cheesemaker in Wisconsin, a sign of their dedication to the state's deep-rooted tradition of cheesemaking. Wisconsin is not only America’s top cheese producer, but it's the producer of some of the finest cheeses in the world.

See Wisconsin Cheese 101: How Cheese Is Made Slideshow and catch a glimpse of some of Wisconsin’s top cheesemakers.

Hospitality to Sean Sullivan was provided by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


Wisconsin Cheese 101: How Cheese Is Made - Recipes

Cheeselandia is a community for loud and proud cheese lovers, brought to life by Wisconsin Cheese. While you won't find it listed on any map, the spirit of Cheeselandia is rooted in the tenacity, ingenuity and creativity of Wisconsin's cheese industry. From dairy farmers and cheesemakers to cheese enthusiasts and cheese party hosts, Cheeselandia is a celebration and collaboration that proves the story of Wisconsin Cheese is about so much more than a single state. We're glad you're here.


How to Smoke Cheese

Cheeses, cut into 1 x 1 by .25” slices:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Swiss cheese
  • Gouda cheese
  • Pepper Jack cheese
  • Brick Cheese

Woods for Smoking:

  1. Place a single lit charcoal briquette inside your smoker’s firebox, then pile the wood chips on top.
  2. Close the lid and adjust the air vent(s) for a 5 percent opening. Make sure the temperature doesn’t rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: it’s cheese, it will melt at high enough temperatures.)
  3. Place the cheeses inside your smoker and smoke for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the cheeses from the smoker and serve right away or store in the refrigerator.

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Wisconsin Mac and Cheese (Noodles Copycat)

We’re pretty picky about our macaroni and cheese at my house, and when it comes to fast-food versions, this Noodles and Co. Copycat Wisconsin Mac and Cheese is our favorite!

There’s nothing fancy about this recipe–no weird secret ingredients–just milk, butter, seasonings, classic elbow macaroni, and plenty of cheese. Proving that sometimes the simplest dishes are the best.

One of my favorite things about Noodles Mac and cheese is how the macaroni is perfectly al dente and still a little bit firm.

So one of the most important parts of getting this copycat recipe just right is not to overcook your pasta. If it’s mushy, it’s not going to taste like Noodles mac and cheese at all.

When in doubt, err on the side of leaving your macaroni a little bit chewy.

This recipe does make a whole lot of macaroni. Not that leftovers are a bad thing. But if you’re not feeding a crowd, you may want to cut the recipe in half.

Another trick to making this mac and cheese authentic is to finish off each serving with a generous handful of additional shredded cheese, just like they do at Noodles.

Since Noodles mac and cheese is a family favorite, it makes sense that this is our favorite macaroni and cheese to make at home. I don’t usually have the good fortune of ending up with leftovers.

And even though they’re mostly grown, my boys still love this stuff. I mean, do you ever really outgrow macaroni and cheese?

Even if you’ve never had Noodles mac and cheese, you’ve got to try this copycat version of their Wisconsin Mac and Cheese. You’re going to love it!

Be sure to save this Wisconsin Mac and Cheese (Noodles Copycat) recipe to your favorite Pinterest board for later.

Tips for Cooking Pasta

Use a big pot: Cook pasta in a large pot–big enough to hold 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta.

Salt: Generously season your cooking water with salt. A few teaspoons per quart of water is a good place to start. Although a little more or less is fine, depending on your preference.

Don’t overcook: Boil your pasta to until it is al dente, which means it’s cooked, but still a bit chewy. You’ll want to test your pasta for flavor and texture every 20 seconds or so during the last few minutes of cooking.

If you’ll continue cooking the pasta in a sauce, or baking it in the oven, remove the pot from the heat a few minutes before it’s done to prevent overcooking.


Everything You Need to Know About Beer Cheese, Including How to Make It

Every June, thousands of people gather in Winchester, Ky., for the annual Beer Cheese Festival. The family-friendly fest has brought out Kentucky locals and tourists around beer, music, arts and crafts, and competitions for 10 years. The spread that keeps everyone coming back? Beer cheese.

Beer cheese is prevalent in the Bluegrass State. Made here for some 50 years, it’s available at restaurants, grocery stores, and Super Bowl tailgates.

Now, the versatile spread is expanding its cheesy reach to breweries and high-end gastro pubs across the country. The Kentucky staple is served at Louisville craft breweries like Against the Grain, Bluegrass Brewing Company, and Holy Grale, and is on the menus of restaurants like San Antonio, Texas’s Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery and New York’s Randolph Beer.

Every Beer Lover Needs This Hop Aroma Poster

Best of all? The crowd-pleasing living legend is easy to make at home.

Cheese lovers gather at “Beer Cheese Blvd.” at the Beer Cheese Festival in Winchester, Ky. Photo credit: Beer Cheese Festival / Facebook.com

Making A Legend

Traditionally, beer cheese is served cold and consists of sharp cheddar cheese (or processed cheese with cheddar flavor), beer, garlic, and pepper, preferably cayenne. Some recipes call for additional zingy hot flavors like dry mustard and horseradish. Heat is both the name of the game and the operative word with beer cheese: Variations can range from mild to hot in flavor, cold to hot in temperature, and spreadable destinies spanning vegetables, crackers, crudités, and cheeseburgers.

Kentucky River originals are served cold and tend to use German lager for its light malt and hop flavors. (It also works as a nod to Kentucky’s German heritage.) Holy Grale, for example, uses its pilsner in its housemade beer cheese, served with fresh-baked pretzel bread.

Lots of beer cheese recipes play up the umami flavors with nutty brown ale and Worcestershire sauce. A smoky meat-lovers’ version calls for gouda and bacon. Still others cool down the heat and play up the sweet, fruity flavors, like Against the Grain, which uses its Sho’ Nuff Belgian table beer in a cold-served dip with kettle chips.

Basically, beer cheese can be whatever you want it to be, is almost guaranteed to be delicious, and it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to make.

Thousands of people attend the Beer Cheese Festival each June. Photo credit: Beer Cheese Festival / Facebook.com

Sticky History

Exactly where beer cheese comes from varies depending on whom you ask, but most trace its origins to Clark County. The Kentucky locale was officially recognized as the birthplace of beer cheese in 2013. Winchester, Ky., the county seat of Clark County, is home to the world’s only Beer Cheese Festival and Beer Cheese Trail, the latter of which takes dairy lovers on an eight-restaurant beer cheese journey.

By some accounts, the spread was invented in the 1930s by Chef Joe Allman for the Driftwood Inn, located alongside the Kentucky River near Boonesborough. The inn was owned by Joe’s cousin, Johnnie, who served the spicy dip as a complimentary snack to keep beer drinkers thirsty. In the 1940s, the restaurant moved to a new location along the river in Winchester, where it remains today under a new name.

Legend has it Johnnie lost the restaurant (and its precious beer cheese recipe) to a bet with a man named Carl Johnson in the 1960s. In 1965, the restaurant and its recipes were acquired by George and Gertrude Hall, who renamed the restaurant Hall’s on the River. The Halls introduced Clark County to the now-famous Hall’s Snappy Beer Cheese that year. The spread is now sold in Sam’s Clubs across the Midwest and eastern U.S.

Although Hall’s claims to have the original beer cheese, Johnnie was a serial restaurateur and brought his beer cheese with him to several businesses throughout the 1970s. The final location, Allman’s Restaurant, served the last Allman’s beer cheese in 1978, when it burned down.

However, at present, Johnnie ’s grandson Ian Allman is now proud owner of Allman’s Beer Cheese, which also claims to be “the one and only original.” Another brand, River Rat Beer Cheese, produced by Bob Tabor, a former employee of Johnnie Allman, uses the tagline “Just Like Johnny’s [sic].”

Although not proven, Hall’s and other Clark County beer cheese enthusiasts claim Queen Elizabeth II is a fan of the stuff. She, an avid horse enthusiast, was allegedly seen snatching a tub of the spread after one of her many visits to the Bluegrass State’s thoroughbred horse farms.

No matter which beer cheese was the first, many have come since. We are excited to see where beer cheese goes next.

The Beer Bitty’s beer cheese recipe calls for smoked gouda and bacon. Photo credit: BeerBitty.com

Recipe

Brooklyn Brew Shop, a brewing supply company based in NYC, shared its recipe for stellar, spiced beer cheese. It recommends using flavorful beer that isn’t too hoppy, such as blonde or brown ale, or wheat beer.


Cheddar Cheese Making Recipe

Step into the world of Cheddar with this wonderful recipe we have been perfecting for years.

In addition to making your own Cheddar, you will learn why there are so many different varieties around the world and understand the history of this fantastic cheese.

Since we have tasted a lot of cheddar, and made many variations, we're able to give you our favorite recipe. It is the one we make ourselves, and the one Jim makes when you attend our 201 workshops.

  • Yield 3 pounds
  • Aging time 3+ months
  • Skill Level intermediate
  • Author Jim Wallace

Ingredients

  • 3 Gallons of Milk (Not UltraPasteurized) - If using raw milk decrease culture by 25-40%
  • 1 Packet C101 Mesophilic Culture
  • 3 ml (a bit over 1/2 tsp) Single Strength Liquid Rennet
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) Calcium Chloride (for pasteurized milk)

Mesophilic Starter Culture

This Mesophilic culture is used in making a variety of hard, moderate temperature cheese including Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Stilton, Edam, Gouda, Muenster, Blue, and Colby. Five individual packets are included.

Liquid Animal Rennet

This single strength liquid animal rennet is the highest quality form of rennet available on the U.S. market today and is NON-GMO. Liquid rennet is easy to measure and add to.

Cheese Salt

This cheese salt absorbs easily and contains no iodine. Iodine will kill the lactic bacteria in the aging process. Lactic bacteria is important for proper aging of cheese. Cheese Salt does not dissolve too.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride will help with store bought milk, cold stored raw milk and goats milk produce a firmer setting curd. A firmer curd is easier to cut and produces a larger yield.

Equipment

  • Good Thermometer
  • Knife to Cut Curds
  • Spoon or Ladle to Stir Curds
  • Large Colander
  • Medium Hard Cheese Mold
  • Butter Muslin
  • Cheese Press or Weights
  • Cheese Wax or Cloth for aging
  • Brush for Waxing

Tel-Tru Thermometer

This Tel-Tru thermometer, made in the USA, from the highest-quality stainless steel is both accurate and easy to use. Complete with a sturdy pot clip and large two inch dial, checking the.

Curd Knife 14"

This curd knife is essential in the cheese making process. With a long 14" blade it is easy to evenly cut curds, so whey can expel. Having no sharp edges.

Stainless Steel Skimmer

This stainless steel skimmer is a staple for all cheese makers. The slotted design lets whey drain from the curds, as they are scooped out of the pot, and placed into draining.

Hard Cheese Mold Deluxe (Medium)

This medium hard cheese mold is sturdy and built to last. It is the perfect size for making a 2-4 gallon batch of hard cheese, will work with any of.

Butter Muslin

Butter muslin is used to drain soft cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. This durable cloth is 100% cotton, can be reused and is machine washable. This is a staple for all cheese.

Cheese Press

$235.95

This cheese press is proudly made in the USA and built to last a lifetime. Both easy to use and care for it is a wonderful investment for any cheese maker. Built.

Clear Cheese Wax

Cheese Wax is specially made for coating cheeses. It helps prevent unwanted mold growth and retains moisture while cheese is aged. This wax is soft and pliable, unlike pure paraffin.

Cheese Wax Brush

This cheese wax brush has a 6" handle with 2" wide natural boar bristles. This is a great brush for applying wax to homemade cheese, before aging.

A Recipe for Cheddar Cheese

I usually make this cheese with 6 gallons of raw milk because the larger size tends to ripen more effectively, while reducing the amount of moisture loss, due to a better ratio of mass to surface area. However, for the home cheese maker this volume of milk can be a lot to work with. So, I'm providing a 3 gallon recipe below using a good quality pasteurized milk.

The pictures with the guideline below will be for the larger cheese though and you should be able to increase the size to a 6 gallon batch by doubling the rennet and culture.

Heat & Acidify Milk

Begin by heating milk to 86F. A water bath using a pot in your sink will be the most stable way to do this. You can just add a bit of boiling water from your tea kettle to make sure the water bath remains at temperature. You can heat the milk right in the sink if you use a couple of changes of VERY hot water.

If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

As you can see in the picture here, I use a pot inside a bigger pot, and a burner under that to control my water bath temperature. Thermometers in both the milk and water bath will help in controlling temperatures

Once the milk is at 86F, the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

The milk now needs to be kept at this target temperature for 90 minutes to allow the culture to begin working. It will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.

Coagulate with Rennet

Once your milk and culture have ripened, add about 3/4 tsp of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk then needs to sit quiet for 45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You should note that the milk begins to thicken at about 18 minutes (between 15-20 minutes is a range you should work to).

You should be able to see this change by pressing on the milk surface and noting a change in tension. However do not cut yet. The milk needs to sit quiet the full 45 minutes. It needs the rest of this time to firm up well and make a good curd before cutting.

The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. Do not heat the milk during this time because it needs to sit undisturbed.

When the milk has turned into a solid curd that is ready to cut, you should be able to test and see a simple clean break as shown above.

Cut Curd & Release Whey

The next step will be to cut the curds to 1/2-3/4 inch pieces, depending on the moisture you want in the final cheese. The smaller the curds, the drier the cheese and the longer it will take to age. Make the cuts by first making vertical cuts in two directions at right angles with a long knife and then using a flat ladle cut horizontally. Try not to break the curds too small while doing this.

Once the curd have been cut as close to your target size as possible (they will shrink as they cook) allow them to rest for about 5 minutes, with no stirring, while the surface hardens a little.

The next step will be to begin a SLOW stir for about 10-15 minutes, the curds are still very fragile. Bring the curds back to 86F at this time if they have cooled. This is to firm the curds well enough to keep them intact during the scald, or cooking phase, that comes next.

Cook Curds

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 102F. The heat needs to be increased slowly at about 3-5F every 5 minutes at the beginning. The total cooking time will be about 30 minutes

Then stir another 30-60 minutes, until the curd is firm. This may be extended if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

If the curds are not dry enough, they will carry moisture which contains Lactose forward into the pressing and aging stage. This will show up as leaking cheeses, as the acid continues to develop, and a very chalky and acid tasting cheese. A simple test that I always show in my workshop classes here is the 'Grip Test'. A small hand full of cheese is gathered and firmly pressed in the hand to consolidate the curds. Then with moderate pressure of the thumb, they should easily separate. If they tend to cling or stick together, stir for a little longer.

When the curds seem dry enough, they can be allowed to settle under the whey for a few minutes, then begin to remove whey down to within 1-2 inches above the curd mass.

Draining & Cheddaring

My process here involves the use of two pans, one with holes and the other without so that the initial curd transfer is with curds and enough whey to cover them. I line the pan with holes with draining cloth and place that pan inside the one without holes (see the pics). If you are using a colander for the draining simply place it in another larger pan

When the curds are transferred along with the residual whey to the draining pan, the curds should be fully covered with the whey. This arrangement allows for a thorough stirring to make sure any clumps are broken up and the curds allowed to float under the whey into their most compact form. This step will minimize any mechanical holes in the bed of curds. This step should take about 10 -15 minutes, then the cloth should be folded over and tightened around the curd and all of the whey can be drained.

This is the beginning of the cheddaring phase, but the cheese at this point has not developed it's final acid. It will need to be kept warm (85-90F) and turned at 15-30 minute intervals for the next 2-3 hours. The actual amount of time depends on the draining and acid development. During this time, more whey will be draining, and the taste of the whey will change from just slightly sweet as in milk, to a very neutral and even slightly acid flavor but avoid developing too much acid. After about 1 hour cut the curd mass in half and stack the two halves with the drain cloth separating them.I also add a board on top of the draining curds with about 8 lbs of weight. This will emulate the larger slab mass of the larger producers.

During this time the curds will begin to change shape due to changes in the protein structure. It is quite related to what also happens in the mozzarella stretching phase. As the warm curd develops more acid during cheddaring, calcium (responsible for binding the proteins) is washed from the curd by the draining whey, leaving a weaker bond between proteins. You will notice that the curds at the beginning of the cheddaring process were much more cubic or round, but if you tear the slabs at the end they will be much more elongated and the slabs will have flattened out considerably. This is all a large part of what cheddar is about.

Milling & Salting Curds

At this point you will have the final curd ready for pressing BUT another unique aspect of the Cheddar is that the dryness and acid have both reached close to their desired level and should not be allowed to continue. If relying on brining or dry salting the surface of the cheese, the acid would continue to increase causing a very wet and acid cheese.

If at this point the curd is too wet, the residual lactose may still be enough to trigger a late fermentation and result in leaking cheese and a very acid and chalky final cheese.

If the curd is too dry, it will be difficult to consolidate and will take much longer to age.

The curd mass is broken into small pieces about thumb to walnut size, and salt is then added at the rate of 2% of cheese salt to the weight of the fresh curds.

If the curd weighs 3lbs (48 oz), 2% would be .96oz of salt.

About 0.5% will wash away as the salt pulls moisture from the curd, leaving about 1.5% in the finished cheese. To best keep the salt from hardening the curd surface, and thus limiting moisture expulsion, add salt in 3 stages over 15-20 minutes to allow each addition to pull whey and form its own brine.

Forming & Pressing

Once the curds have been salted, line the form with a sanitized press cloth and pack the curds firmly into the mold.

For pressing, we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  • 1 hour at 20 lbs
  • 1 hour at 20 lbs
  • 4 hour at 40 lbs
  • 24 hours at 50-75 lbs (depending on how well the consolidation is working)

The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, re-wrapped, and put back to the press at the above intervals, to ensure an even consolidation.

Pressing will not solve problems of a curd that is too moist. Only the free unbound moisture will be released during this phase.

The rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

If at the end of the press cycle, the curd is not fully consolidated, return to the press for more time and add a bit more press weight.

If still not consolidated after pressing, the cheese curds were too dry. In the next batch, do less stirring, perhaps for less time. Also, cutting the curds larger will make a moister cheese.

Prepare for Aging

With the well pressed cheddar you have two choices, either waxed or cloth bound. Due to the dryness of the curd at molding, a natural rind will fail as the surface is likely to develop cracks as the curd boundaries dehydrate.

The cheese can be dried for a few days and then waxed. All of our details for this are on our Waxing Page.

  • Limited movement through the waxed surface.
  • Messy to apply and clean up.
  • Requires constant attention to temperature, as wax can easily reach it's flash point if left unattended.

Wrapping in Cloth

This is the most traditional way of maintaining the surface of a cheddar. This is still the method used for the ""West Country"" Cheddars, as well as many of the newer cloth bound Cheddars in America.

  • This covering provides fine support for the surface, but allows moisture and gas to pass as needed.
  • The final cheese tends to be much more complex in both aroma and flavor.
  • Once the cloth is applied, the cheese is protected and a natural mold surface adds to the protection and complexity, and little aging attention is required.
  • When fully ripe, the mold can be brushed away, the cloth removed and a perfectly clean rind is revealed.

The cloth is applied with the help of lard as a binder. The cloth is soaked in lard, rung out and applied to the surface, and then pressed 24 hours to embed the cloth right into the surface.

I know that many will groan at the thought of lard, but there is no need to use that white block from the store. It is very easy to obtain a piece of back fat and heat it to render your own lard. It can be kept refrigerated for quite some time.

All of the details for applying the cloth binding are on our Bandaging Cheddar page.

Aging

The cheese is now ready to be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 80-85% moisture.

The only maintenance required is to turn the cheese every week to keep the moisture even.

The waxed cheese should remain mold free if done correctly and fully sealed.

The bandaged cheese will develop a beautiful surface of grey-white-blue mold naturally over time. This acts as a filter for what comes and goes and can be left alone other than turning occasionally.

You may want to keep it separated from other cheeses that are developing selected natural rinds, but I age mine right with my other natural rind cheeses. no problem.

Age for 3-9 months (or longer) depending on cheese moisture. The drier the cheese, the longer it can be aged and the more complex it becomes.

Our Favorite Cheddar Cheese Recipe

Throughout the world, there always seems to be some form of Cheddar available, so we all should know Cheddar, but do we?

English, Canadian, Vermont, New York, Wisconsin, California, New Zealand we do find that they are all quite different.

in this recipe we will look at why they are all so different, and dip into the extensive history of Cheddar.

So how did I choose which methods to share with you? Pretty simple since I have tasted a lot of cheddar in my time here, and have made a lot of variations, I will give you the Cheddar guideline I like the best. The one I make for myself, and the one we will make if you come to my workshops here.

And making what you like is the best reason to make your own cheese.

Different Varities of Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar comes in many colors, textures, and degrees of moisture. Some of it is just plain comfort food, while others really make you stand up and pay attention. There is NO DESIGNATION for what Cheddar should be,so throughout the world there are many cheeses that answer to the name of "Cheddar." Welcome to the variations of Cheddar.

We have the wonderful "West Country" cloth bound cheddar, that is likely closest to the original Cheddar.

There's also the orange and white varieties that seem to be tied to specific regions, all with different levels of moisture, texture and flavor.

Throughout the world the many variations from each region tend to show their own characteristics.

  • Wisconsin: sweeter and creamier
  • Vermont: tangy, somewhat bitter, and sharp cheddar.
  • Clothbound Cheddar: reflects the traditional English style cheddar. More complex and a bit more mellow. The cloth allows for a cheese that is more open to the cave environment and thus more complex. I do remember tasting 2 cheeses taken from the same Vat run and aged as Block vs Bandaged. The complexity of the Block aged Cheddar was much less than that of the Bandaged Cheddar due to their closed surfaces.

The History of Cheddar Cheese

Early Days

Cheese making in Britain goes back as far as the time of the Celts. Cheddar cheese records are found as far back as the 12 century. The name Cheddar comes from the Old English word ceodor, meaning deep, dark cavity, or pouch. As most other cheese, Cheddar evolved from a need to preserve the very perishable milk, from times of plenty, to those of scarcity. It is largely believed that the Romans occupying France, and then into present day UK and Somerset, brought the craft of cheese making with them.

Early Cheddar was originally produced solely on the farms (mostly by the farmers wife, but that's another story) centered around the Somerset region in Southwest Britain.

Cheddar was originally part of a larger group of smaller cheeses intended for local consumption and all characterized by their locale and milk quality. The production was centered around the town of Cheddar, and its famous Gorge riddled with caves, that may have been used for aging.

Cheddar was the most famous of these cheeses, and records show that much of it was bought and paid for even before the cows were milked.

Most of this went to the Royal Courts, and at times Cheddar was unobtainable unless you were associated with the "Royals".

It wasn't until well into the 1600s that transportation technology improved via many canals and river systems, as well as improved wagon roads. This helped to move the cheese to market towns and more urban areas, especially to the growing market in the larger cities such as London. By then, the breaking up of the manor farms, and the effects of the industrial revolution, were big factors in the population migration and growth in these larger urban centers. Eventually in the 1700s, when the railroad improved transportation, these population dynamics and growing urban areas began to force changes in the cheese being made. The need for drier cheeses to undergo longer aging, and the need for larger, sturdier cheeses to withstand travel and storage, were apparent. The earlier cheeses were too moist and could not withstand the longer market time of several months they would simply be too difficult to handle and suffer during the long transport and market delays involved. The cheeses would simply rot or fall apart during the longer cycle. The decreasing population in the countryside made it absolutely necessary to change the way cheese was being made.

As the markets improved, and the population increased, there was a greater need to increase cheese production for these growing markets. Of course, this meant there was also a need for larger herds and more efficient production in cheese country. For Cheddar, these changes came fast. One of the biggest changes was making much larger cheeses, but these needed to be made drier to prevent internal decay. Initially, it was the solved by scalding the curd mass with hot whey, in a separate draining vessel, and this became what is now known as the "cheddaring" stage. This process would become much updated by the mid 1800s.

As these changes took hold in Britain, the emigration to the new colonies in America and Canada also included the cheese makers of Britain. Cheddar style cheese was already being made in America.

Changes going into the industrialized period of the 1800s

It was not until the mid 19th century that cheddar took on it's current standardized character. Up until that time, the smaller cheddar production was quite varied, with a broad range of qualities, from totally sub-standard cheese (high moisture with limited aging, gas development, unclean ferments and gas, as well as maggots, yum!) to the cleaner, high quality special cheeses, reserved for royalty.

It was in the mid 1800s, that Joseph Harding brought new standards of sanitation. Up until then, many cheeses were low in quality, due to lack of sanitation and standardized fermentation. Harding's newer methods were then adapted by cheese makers in North America' as well as Scotland. It was also his sons that introduced the newer standardized cheddar to Australia and New Zealand. Harding defined the new character of the cheese as "close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavour full and fine, approaching to that of a hazelnut."

Salting the Curds, and Cheddaring

Harding's new methods also introduced the salting of the curds before molding, as well as a modification of the cheddaring process. In his modification, the curds were actually cooked in the same vat as they were coagulated in, then transferred to a separate table where the they were drained and cut into large slabs, then stacked as they continued to develop acid. They were then rendered into smaller pieces and direct salted before forming and pressing. This is the cheddaring process as we know it today. ***NOTE: These steps of slabbing and breaking of the curds, and salting before forming, had already been going on for a long time before it was employed in the Cheddar region in the mountains of central France in the region of Salers and Cantel, as it still is today. However, in a slightly different manner.

The American Cheddar Cheese Factory

It was also at this same time (1851) that the Jesse Williams family, in upstate New York, developed the first production cheese factory in America (it seems Cheddars time had come). This was the point at which milk began to be sourced from many farms and made by a cooperative of trained cheese makers. This was also the point when men took over from the women.

Needless to say, this proved to be a huge leap in production of cheese, but eventually became the undoing of hand made cheese in America. In less than a hundred years, the small farm cheese makers practically disappeared.This was also the direction for British Cheddar.

While James L Kraft grew up on a Dairy farm in Ontario, he moved to Chicago and from there we know the rest. Kraft slices are certainly not what Cheddar is all about.

US and Canada Export to Britain

The late 19th century in Britain saw the rapid development of the rail network, allowing for the easy transportation of perishable goods, like milk. Farmers that had previously viewed cheese as a way to preserve the value of their milk came to view cheese making as an expensive and time-consuming pursuit. Rapid transit of goods around the country also had the effect of broadening the range of cheeses available to consumers, including cheaper imports of cheddar from North America. Many farmhouse producers could not compete with these lower prices and moved away from cheese making.

This, along with the rapidly growing population of Britain, led to a short supply of good cheese, prompting their government to lower the tariff. thus opening the Cheddar market to America and Canada. Between 1840 and 1861, New York exports to Britain increased from just over 700,000 pounds to 40 Million pounds that's a 5700% increase! By 1913, over 80% of cheese consumed in the UK was imported

New York Export of Cheddar is it's own undoing

This is where things go south. The efficiency of the new cheddar factories, like most today, looked to their bottom line profit. They soon began producing higher moisture cheese for greater yield and skimming the cream to make more high valued butter. The wet cheese did not age well, and the skimming of cream, of course, is where much of the flavor and smooth texture lie. It did not take long for the British to realize the changes made in the cheese.

In addition, the factories in America began replacing that stolen cream with Oleomargarine (AKA Beef Fat) and these soon became known as filled cheese. They were still falsely being marketed as Full Cream Cheddar Cheese. They seemed fine for a short while, but then the lard oxidized and became rancid. Within a few years, this trade, that provided 148 Million pounds of Cheddar in 1881, had totally collapsed. On the other hand, Canada maintained its higher quality of drier and more flavorful cheese, and continued their lucrative trade. Britain turned also to imported Cheddar from Australia and New Zealand to fill the gap. By the late 1890s, laws had already been written to right the wrongs of skimmed milk and filled Cheddars.

20th Century: The Undoing of the British Cheddar

The first half of the 20th century brought further hardship, as two world wars caused considerable disruption, both through the removal of manpower from the rural economy, and later through the introduction of rationing, which forced producers to standardize their cheese production with the 1933 creation of the Milk Marketing Board (MMB). Of the 514 farms making cheese in the Southwest of England in 1939, only 57 were still in production when the Second World War ended in 1945.

This trend towards streamlining production, and away from diversity, has continued to the present day, and much of the knowledge of cheddar-making accumulated through centuries of practice has disappeared.

Production of Cheddar cheese skyrocketed in England during WWII, not because of the good circumstances, but because of the need of English government to better stockpile their milk. The majority of milk was transformed into what was called “government cheddar” that was rationed to the people all around the country. This had an unfortunate effect of decimating local production of cheddar cheese in England, with 3,400 of cheese producers being shut down, and fewer than 100 remaining after war was over.

The 1980s and Onward with Artisan Cheese Revival

Growing up in the 1950s-70s, my world of cheese was limited to the family jokes about Dad's triple wrapped and well boxed Limburger lurking in the back of the fridge (which of course I did not appreciate then) and the annual trip to Vermont for the best Cheddar ever, with some serious age and those big white crystals (one of the biggest reasons I do what I do today). The state of cheese in the kitchen though, was from the big Yellow Box (I am sure it was yellow) to the big green cylinder for anything Italian. By the late 80s to early 90s, I grew up a tad, just in time to see America wake up a little to what was wrong with cheese. The back to the land movement had cracked open the desire to make real cheese again. This has now grown worldwide into an incredible change in what the quality of cheese can be. It was a little slower than good wine and beer, but the appreciation is still growing. This is not to say really great cheeses totally disappeared during this time because I still find the great cheeses of Switzerland, France, and Italy on the small farms that never went away.

For Cheddar, there is some great small scale Cheddar still being produced, and I have been fortunate enough to learn from the best in Britain. Jamie Montgomery and Val Bines have been the heart of Real Cheddar. Today, in America, we have some amazing Cheddar makers as well, with the likes of Mariano Gonzalez in CA, the Roelli and Hooks family in WI, as well as several producers in Vermont.

Cheddar Today

Cheddar today is primarily produced as large block commercial production. The name "cheddar" is not protected by the European Union, so it is produced as Cheddar throughout the world.

However, the use of the name "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" does have protection. Today Cheddar is made in Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Finland and the United States.

  • Australia
    55% of all cheese is cheddar
  • Canada
    During the mid 19th century, agriculture in Ontario turned from wheat to dairy, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Cheddar cheese became their second largest export after timber. So there is still some good Cheddar produced there, but today most of the great Cheddar comes from Quebec
  • New Zealand
    Much of the Cheddar cheese in New Zealand is factory produced. While most of it is sold young within the country, some New Zealand Cheddars are shipped to the UK, where the blocks mature for another year or so.
  • Britain
    The original Cheddars came from the southern cheese country, today collectively called "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar", and includes the counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. All milk for this cheese must be sourced from these countries. In addition The Slow Food Movement has created a Cheddar Presidium, which goes further than the "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" PDO, and requires that Cheddar cheese be made in Somerset and with traditional methods, such as using raw milk, traditional animal rennet, and a cloth wrapping.


Colby Recipe

This recipe for Colby is great for intermediate cheese makers because it is so simple to make and only needs a short aging period of 4-6 weeks. The finished cheese has a gentle and mild flavor with a slightly firm texture.

Colby is considered to be one of the first truly American cheeses, since it was developed by an American in the United States, and was not an imitation of European cheese.

  • Yield 2 pounds
  • Aging time under 2 months
  • Skill Level intermediate
  • Author Jim Wallace

Ingredients

  • 2 Gallons Whole Milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
  • 1/2 Packet C101 Mesophilic Culture
  • 1/4 tsp Calcium Chloride
  • 1/2 tsp Single Strength Liquid Rennet
  • 1/4 tsp Annatto Cheese Coloring
  • 2 lbs Cheese Salt (for Brine)

Mesophilic Starter Culture

This Mesophilic culture is used in making a variety of hard, moderate temperature cheese including Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Stilton, Edam, Gouda, Muenster, Blue, and Colby. Five individual packets are included.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride will help with store bought milk, cold stored raw milk and goats milk produce a firmer setting curd. A firmer curd is easier to cut and produces a larger yield.

Liquid Animal Rennet

This single strength liquid animal rennet is the highest quality form of rennet available on the U.S. market today and is NON-GMO. Liquid rennet is easy to measure and add to.

Cheese Coloring

This water based cheese coloring is naturally derived from the Annatto tree and will impart an appetizing yellow color to cheese. Most cheese will yellow slightly in the aging process.

Cheese Salt

This cheese salt absorbs easily and contains no iodine. Iodine will kill the lactic bacteria in the aging process. Lactic bacteria is important for proper aging of cheese. Cheese Salt does not dissolve too.

Equipment

  • 10+ Quart Stainless Steel Pot
  • Good Quality Thermometer
  • Knife to Cut Curds
  • Slotted Spoon or Ladle to Stir Curds
  • Large Colander
  • 1 Hard Cheese Mold
  • Butter Muslin
  • Cheese Press (or Weights Totaling 50 lbs)
  • Cheese Mat
  • Cheese Wax

Tel-Tru Thermometer

This Tel-Tru thermometer, made in the USA, from the highest-quality stainless steel is both accurate and easy to use. Complete with a sturdy pot clip and large two inch dial, checking the.

Curd Knife 14"

This curd knife is essential in the cheese making process. With a long 14" blade it is easy to evenly cut curds, so whey can expel. Having no sharp edges.

Stainless Steel Skimmer

This stainless steel skimmer is a staple for all cheese makers. The slotted design lets whey drain from the curds, as they are scooped out of the pot, and placed into draining.

Hard Cheese Mold (Small)

This small hard cheese mold with follower will work with any of our presses and can be use to make up to a two pound cheese, from two gallons of milk. This sturdy mold can.

Butter Muslin

Butter muslin is used to drain soft cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. This durable cloth is 100% cotton, can be reused and is machine washable. This is a staple for all cheese.

Cheese Press

$235.95

This cheese press is proudly made in the USA and built to last a lifetime. Both easy to use and care for it is a wonderful investment for any cheese maker. Built.

Reed Cheese Mat

This reed cheese mat is used when air drying cheese, especially soft, mold ripened cheese. Using this mat will allow whey to drain and air to circulate when cheese is draining, air drying and aging.

Clear Cheese Wax

Cheese Wax is specially made for coating cheeses. It helps prevent unwanted mold growth and retains moisture while cheese is aged. This wax is soft and pliable, unlike pure paraffin.

How to Make Colby at Home

Colby has unfortunately been lost in commercial translation over the years yet it's one of the few truly "Original" American cheeses. lets take a good look at its history and try to resurrect this great American cheese that's been lost in the back corner of our Deli counters. Maybe we can even make it into a new favorite for home cheese makers. This recipe is "Ideal" for new cheese makers since it's fairly quick, easy to make and only requires 4-6 weeks of aging.

For this recipe we used homogenized milk that was pasteurized to the higher end of the usable milk spectrum. This milk was heated past the defined 161°F pasteurization temperature to 180°F. Although we normally do not use this type of milk, this recipe shows how great cheese can be made from regular milk bought from the grocery store.

We also steered away from the "modern" Colby process and focused on a more "traditional" process that should produce a cheese that can be differentiated from a young cheddar. It will be moister, more elastic, and have a fresher flavor that is less acid with focus on the good quality of the milk.

Jim's inspiration for this was an old transcript he discovered from the early 1900's documenting the details of the original Colby making process by 2 well known Colby makers of the time.

This we think will bring your Colby into its own with a unique flavor/texture in a young cheese and not just a "modified" Cheddar. Hopefully one that you will do again and again.

Acidify & Heat Milk

Begin by heating the milk to 86°F (30°C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

Next the Calcium Chloride and Annatto can be added before adding the culture.

Make sure you rinse the spoon well after adding the Calcium Chloride since any residuals of this will cause the Annatto to precipitate into dark spots that will show up in the finished cheese. Better yet add the Annatto first and stir it in well before adding the Calcium Chloride

The Annatto is only needed to offset the snow white color of winter or pasteurized milk. The Colby was traditionally an orange cheese but I like just a medium warm color for mine here, which the 1/4 tsp will give.

I add no Annatto to my fresh raw milk in the summer because it naturally has that nice warm glow from what the cows eat.

Only 1/2 pack of culture will be used for this cheese because we want a sweeter cheese with slow acid development and the smaller amount of culture should do this.

  1. taking a fresh piece of aluminum foil off the roll (this should already be quite sterile fresh from the roll).
  2. Dump the contents into a uniform pile in the middle of the foil.
  3. With a dry sanitized knife split the pile into 2 equal piles
  4. Use 1/2 for the milk
  5. Place the other half back in the pack, reseal tightly, and back in the freezer to use again in the next month or so.

Once the milk is at your start temperature the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in. Then allow the milk to rest for 1 hour while the culture wakes up and begins doing its work.

Coagulate with Rennet

Add 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

At about 15 minutes you should notice the milk beginning to firm up. Allow it to remain quiet for another half hour for a curd ready to cut. This will be a total of 45 minutes from rennet addition to cut. If your curd does not seem firm enough then allow it to rest another 10 minutes before cutting.

Cut Curds & Release Whey

The curd is ready to cut when it shows a nice clean even break when lifting with the flat of the cutting knife and then a clean whey in the opening that is neither to milky (cut too soon) or too clear (cut too late).

The curd can be cut to 1/2" cubes by first cutting the 1/2" vertical cuts as shown below and then using the ladle or spoon to break these into 1/2" pieces as uniformly as possible.

I have found when using the higher temperature pasteurized milk like I am using here that the curds do tend to shatter into smaller pieces much more easily. The key is to go slow and gentle in the cutting and stirring at first. If using a fresher milk or one pasteurized at lower temperature, You will find it less of a problem.

Cook the Curds

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 102F. The heat needs to be increased slowly. The total cooking time will be 30 minutes. The curds can then be gently stirred while holding at the final temperature for another 15-30 minutes if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers. This is a fairly subjective test (depending on how firm/soft you want the final cheese.)

When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.

The time spent so far is about 2.5-3 hrs.

Remove Whey & Wash Curds

This is one of the key parts in making this cheese a real Colby cheese.

The curds are now resting on the bottom of the pot at 102°F with only a moderate amount of lactose converted to lactic acid. In other words a very sweet cheese curd.

If left in this condition, the lactose (milk sugar) will act as a food source for the bacteria and the result will be a higher acid curd which dries the curd out as the acid develops. The bacteria will also be very happy working at this temperature as well.

  1. removing whey (lactose) - this will deprive the bacteria of much of its food source and slow things down
  2. adding cold water and cooling the curds to 70-80°F - this will place the bacteria in an environment that it is not happy with and will work much more slowly. The lower the temperature the more affect this has.

In Addition the cold water will begin to increase the moisture of the curd. If the water temperature is lower that the curd temperature the curd moisture increases. If it is higher than the curd temperature it will decrease the moisture (this is how Gouda is made).

Begin by removing the whey down to the level of the curds.

Then add water first at 75°F as the curd cools to 80-85°F with stirring. Then allow the curds to settle again and remove the whey/water down to the curd level again.

Next add very cold water (60°F or less) until the curds are at 75°F.

The curd can now be stirred in its cooler state for another 15-30 minutes as the curds begin to firm up. This will cause the curds to form a skin that will keep them from consolidating fully in the press, leaving some small openings in the final cheese.

At this point the process has taken about 3.5-4 hrs and we are ready for the final stage of molding and pressing.

Drain & Mold Curds

The dry curds can now be transferred to a colander lined with butter muslin. A gentle stirring will make sure that the whey drains off well. The curds are now ready to be transferred to a sanitized muslin lined mold.

The curds should be packed into the mold using a moderate hand pressure. The amount of curd formed here may likely be heaped over the top.

Finally pull the cloth up evenly all around the form to eliminate the wrinkles, fold the top cloth over and place the follower on top. You are now ready to press.

Pressing

The curds in the form are now still quite wet and heavy pressure early on may lock this moisture in the final cheese. Even though we have slowed down the conversion of lactose to lactic acid, we are still producing acid and will continue this during the final pressing. This means that the cheese will continue to release moisture through the pressing as a bit more acid is present.

For pressing we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  • 15 minutes at 10 lbs.
  • 30 minutes at 20 lbs
  • 90 minutes at 40 lbs
  • Overnight at 50 lbs.

Notice in the photo above the rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing which will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly. The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, rewrapped and put back to the press at each of the above intervals. To assure an even consolidation. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

The next morning the cheese can be removed from the mold and cloth.Finally the pressing is finished and you should have a nicely consolidated wheel of cheese with no surface openings. This should still feel quite springy and elastic with mild hand pressure still. The surface should not feel at all sticky at this point

Salting

You should have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese. You will find all of the details you need on brining here.

A simple brine formula is: 1 Gallon of water to which is added 2 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.

The cheese now needs to be set in the brine for about 8 hours.

The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 of salt on the top surface of the cheese.

Flip the cheese and re-salt the surface about half way through the brine period.

At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day or two before waxing. The surface will darken somewhat during this time.

Aging

The cheese can now be waxed for aging. For details on waxing the details are here.

The cheese can then be placed into your aging space at 52-56°F and 80-85% moisture.

The cheese can now be aged for 4-6 weeks and it will ready for your table.

Before I was able to get this cheese waxed, my wife Robin who is a great "Still Life" photographer, insisted on capturing it on film (pixels).

Meanwhile our "Quality Control" dept (Jazz) got wind of this and had to check on the new cheese. We have found that she only likes cheese that costs more than $25 a lb and so have given her credit for her cheese tasting abilities (no financial compensation though).

A Wonderful Experiment

Colby cheese was invented in Wisconsin by Joseph F. Steinwand in 1885. It was named for the township in which his father, Ambrose Steinwand, Sr., had built the first cheese factory in Clark County three years before.

"At his father's cheese factory about one mile south and one mile west of here, Joseph F. Steinwand in 1885 developed a new and unique type of cheese. He named it for the township in which his father, Ambrose Steinwand Sr., had built northern Clark County's first cheese factory three years before."

Ambrose and Susan Steinwand and their children moved to Colby in 1875. They bought a quarter-section of railroad land in Colby township and in 1882 built a cheese factory, a small wood building that produced 125 pounds of cheese a day. Their eldest son, Joseph, assisted his father in the factory from age 16, quickly learning the cheese making process.

Joe Steinwand was inquisitive, and when his father sent him to a cheese making course in Madison, he began to experiment in the Colby factory.

He made minor changes in the cheese process, but these were enough to create a cheese both milder and moister than cheddar. The new cheese was named "Colby" and became almost instantly popular.

What is Colby Cheese?

Colby is considered to be one of the first truly American cheeses, since it was developed by an American in the United States, and it was not intended to be an imitation of a European cheese.

Colby is NOT a young cheddar. Today's Colby is similar in flavor to cheddar but is softer, has a more open texture, and is higher in moisture. The curd is washed in cold spring water which prevents them from knitting together and gives it a more open elastic texture and a sweeter flavor than any cheddar.

Traditionally Colby was made in the "Longhorn" shape (a tall cylindrical shape) and pressed as 13 pound horns. These were then waxed for sale. Today's plants mostly make Colby in 40 pound blocks.

"Washed Curd" Cheese.

After cooking the curds, most of the whey is drained off (saving it for Ricotta, of course) and then replaced with fresh 60F water. Not only does that lower the temperature of the curds changing the moisture content of the final cheese (colder than 80F makes it moister, warmer makes it drier) but it also washes the milk sugar (lactose) from the curd and helps prevent the acidity in the curd from rising, so the cheese remains soft and springy, with a sweet and mild flavor. Colby has a higher moisture content than Cheddar and feels more elastic. It is also sweet, rather than savory and retains the true character of a quality milk.

This gentle, mild cheese does not age well and tends to become cracked and dry. It should be eaten as young as possible (4-6 weeks), making it an excellent choice of cheese for commercial production since dairies do not need to invest in a large aging area for finished cheeses.

How it has Changed

Traditionally the making procedure determined that Colby should have a curdy texture with natural openings in the body. The flavor was slightly sweet with a slight salty note. Best of all, the cheese had a mild dairy, milky note.

This was the way things remained until sometime after the mid 1970s, when the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture decided to amend the state standard of identity for Colby cheese, by adding the following sentence "Wisconsin certified premium grade AA Colby and Monterrey (jack) cheese shall be reasonably firm. The cheese may have evenly distributed small mechanical openings or a closed body."

This change, especially the portion highlighted in red, has led to significant changes in the make process of Colby by "modern" dairy producers. Because mechanical openings are no longer required of Colby, many processors are making a cheese that is closer to a mild cheddar and labeling it as Colby.

In addition I think today's cultures are faster. Older cultures were slower single strains, resulting in slower make times. These slower cultures tended to make for a sweeter cheese.

Another significant change is the curd wash. Many large manufacturers today do a curd rinse with no hold after dropping the curd pH down to a 5.60 whereas in the past Colby makers used to drain whey to the curd line while the curd was still sweet at 6.00 pH or higher. Then after the whey was drained to the curd line, water was added to drop the curd temperature to a set target. After 15 minutes, the whey/water was drained off the curd and then the curd was salted. Most of the acid developed in the press.

The most obvious reason this changed was that larger dairy plants understandably did not want to process all that water along with the whey.

As time passed the retailers pressed the makers to heat the milk higher and add twice the original rennet. They also had them cut the curds finer (producing a drier cheese). In all reducing the process to 2 hours. The final result has produced a cheese much closer to a young Cheddar than a true "Old Fashioned" Colby cheese.


  • Place ¼ amount of beef on a cutting board. Form into a ball and use palm to press till about ¼-inch thick.
  • Season burger patties with salt and pepper.
  • Place 2 tbsp of butter on a griddle and set heat to medium. Once butter melts and surface is hot, toast the buns. Once brown, about 1-2 minutes, remove and set aside.
  • Add an additional tablespoon of butter on the griddle. Place burgers on griddle and cook 3-4 minutes per side. If you want a well-done burger, use a meat thermometer and cook till the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • When burgers are almost done cooking place a small slice (about a tsp) butter on top of the burgers. Next, place a slice of cheese on each burger.
  • Transfer burgers to buns. Replace bun tops and serve with toppings.

If you&rsquove tried my Wisconsin Butter Burger or any other recipe on Cheese Curd In Paradise please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you! You can FOLLOW ME on:


16 Easy Cheese Recipes For Beginners

Making cheese at home can be somewhat overwhelming at first. There are so many different types, styles, and variations of cheese to choose from, it's tough to decide where to begin. That's why it's important to have a breakdown of cheesemaking for beginners.

For new cheesemakers, it helps to pick cheeses that are forgiving when it comes to temperature variation and time discrepancies. Your first cheese might not look just like the picture, but it will almost always taste delicious and fresh, and in making it you will have learned a few fundamental processes involved in cheesemaking.


Cheese Curds Recipe (Basic)

Calcium Chloride will help with store bought milk, cold stored raw milk and goats milk produce a firmer setting curd. A firmer curd is easier to cut and produces a larger yield.

Thermophilic Starter Culture

This Thermophilic culture is used in making a variety of cheese, including Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone, Romano, Swiss, Gruyere, and other Italian style cheeses, which require higher temperature ranges. Five individual packets are included, for.

Liquid Animal Rennet

This single strength liquid animal rennet is the highest quality form of rennet available on the U.S. market today and is NON-GMO. Liquid rennet is easy to measure and add to.

Cheese Salt

This cheese salt absorbs easily and contains no iodine. Iodine will kill the lactic bacteria in the aging process. Lactic bacteria is important for proper aging of cheese. Cheese Salt does not dissolve too.

Equipment

  • Stainless Steel Pot
  • Good Quality Thermometer
  • Curd Knife
  • Slotted Spoon or Ladle
  • Cheese Cloth
  • 8 lb Weight (1 Gallon Jug of Water)

Tel-Tru Thermometer

This Tel-Tru thermometer, made in the USA, from the highest-quality stainless steel is both accurate and easy to use. Complete with a sturdy pot clip and large two inch dial, checking the.

Curd Knife 14"

This curd knife is essential in the cheese making process. With a long 14" blade it is easy to evenly cut curds, so whey can expel. Having no sharp edges.

Stainless Steel Skimmer

This stainless steel skimmer is a staple for all cheese makers. The slotted design lets whey drain from the curds, as they are scooped out of the pot, and placed into draining.

Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth is used for draining large curd cheese, lining hard cheese molds when pressing cheese and for bandaging finished cheese. This durable cloth is 100% cotton, can be reused and is machine washable.

Cheese Curds, tasty little bits of fresh cheese perfect for a quick snack

Cheese curds are the fresh curds of cheese, often cheddar. Their flavor is mild with about the same firmness as cheese, but has a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, which some would say is their defining characteristic. The American variety are usually yellow or orange in color, like most American cheddar cheese. Other varieties, such as the Qubcois and the New York varieties, are roughly the same color as white cheddar cheese.

After twelve hours, even under refrigeration, they have lost much of their "fresh" characteristics, particularly the "squeak". Room temperature, rather than refrigeration, may preserve the flavor and the "squeak".

You can freeze cheese curds for up to 4 months, be aware you will loose the squeak and freshness when eaten after freezing.

Cheese Curds are sometimes breaded and deep fried especially in Wisconsin.

Cheese curds are a main ingredient in Poutine, a Quebec dish in which cheese curds are served layered on top of french fries, and melting under steaming hot gravy.

Heat Milk

Start out by bringing 2 Gallons of milk up to a temperature of 96¡F. Once the milk is at 96F, set a timer for 90 minutes (so you can measure the critical process from ripening through scald this is the critical part and needs to run by the clock) and proceed with the recipe .

Optional If you want more color in the curds add 1/4-1/2 tsp of annato cheese coloring at this point

Add Calcium Chloride & Culture

Next 1/2 tsp of Calcium Chloride is measured out and added to the milk along with a pack of (C201 Thermophilic Culture). The milk is then kept at 96¡F to culture (ripen) the milk for 30 minutes.

Coagulate with Rennet

Next measure out 1/2 tsp of single strength Liquid Rennet and add this to 1/4 cup of cool water, add and stir the milk gently for about 30 seconds.

In about 6-10 minutes the milk will begin to gel and in 18-25 minutes a firm set should take place.

This can be tested by inserting a knife and lifting with the broad surface to split the curd as seen above. In a few seconds the cut will fill with clear whey, if it is cloudy wait a few more minutes.

Cut the Curds

Next cut the curd surface into 3/4inch cubes. Wait 3 minutes then begin to stir. Keeping the temperature at 96¡F and as you stir the curds will become smaller.

Cook the Curds

You can now begin heating the curds slowly to 116¡F over 30 minutes. They will continue to shrink as more whey is released. About now your timer should be going off.

Continue to cook the curds for 30-60 minutes depending on how dry you like them.

Drain the Curds

Once the curds are cooked, transfer them to a cloth lined colander to drain.

The cloth is then gathered by its corners and hung for 15-20 minutes.

Then the cloth is twisted tight to press the curds together.

Pressing

A small plate, placed ontop of the curds, provides an excellent flat surface for pressing.

Press with a weight of 1 Gallon of water (app. 8 lbs) and let set 1-3 hours.

In about 1-3 hours, youÕll have a nice consolidated mass of curds.

Salting & Finishing

This curd mass can now be broken into bite size pieces and tossed with a bit of salt.

It is now ready for eating. I store the curds in a zip lock bag in the fridge.

NOTE: If you have a pH meter, the end of step 5 should be pH6.4 and step 7 pH5.3.


How is Cheese Made?

What is cheese made of? It all starts with collecting milk from dairy farms. Once it&rsquos brought to the cheese plant, the cheesemakers check the milk and take samples to make sure it passes quality and purity tests.

Once it passes, the milk goes through a filter and is then standardized &ndash that is, they may add in more fat, cream or protein. This is important because cheesemakers need to start with the same base milk in order to make a consistent cheese. After the milk is standardized, it&rsquos pasteurized. Pasteurization is necessary because raw milk can harbor dangerous bacteria, and pasteurization kills those bacteria.

At this point, good bacteria or &ldquostarter cultures&rdquo are added to the milk. The starter cultures ferment the lactose, milk&rsquos natural sugar, into lactic acid. This process helps determine the cheese&rsquos flavor and texture. Different types of cultures are used to create different types of cheese. For example, Swiss cheese uses one type of culture, while Brie and Blue use others. After the starter culture, a few other ingredients are added including rennet and, depending on the type of cheese, color -- which is why Cheddar is orange.

Rennet causes the milk to gel similar to yogurt, before the curds (the solids) separate from the whey (the liquid). The amount of rennet and time needed for it to separate into curds can vary from cheese to cheese.

Once it starts to gel, the cheesemakers cut it, which allows the whey to come out. Drier cheeses are often cut more to form smaller curds, so more of the moisture comes out, while curds cut less are larger and are moister. Once the curds are cut, they&rsquore stirred and heated to release even more whey. At this point, the curd is separated from the whey, and it&rsquos time to start making the cheese look more like cheese! Depending on the type of cheese, this can happen one of two ways:

  • The curd is salted, and then it&rsquos pressed in a form. This is the case for Cheddar and Colby cheeses.
  • The curd is pressed into a hoop, which is brined. This occurs with mozzarella and Swiss cheeses.

While the cheese is pressed, more whey comes out, so it eventually becomes the shape and consistency of cheeses we know.

Once the cheese is shaped, it may be aged for a while before its ready to eat.

Want to see it in action? We sent a team to Fiscalini Farms in Modesto, California, to learn more about how they make their award-winning cheeses.

According to dairy farmer Brian Fiscalini, world-class cheese comes from stellar milk. From there, the cheese travels to the cheese plant and the magic begins. To learn more about the cheese making process, watch this video:


Watch the video: Artisan Cheese Makers. Discover Wisconsin (December 2021).