The Lady’s nose is buried in Max McCalman’s latest book, Mastering Cheese and just finished the chapter that outlines the eight basic steps of cheesemaking. Max used the work of a Dairy Science Professor. The Lady shared this information with me and I made an executive decision to include this information in our Cheese 101: Learning the Basics to Make You an Expert.
In 1983, Cornell University’s Frank V. Kosikowski announced his intention to create the American Cheese Society. He did, serving as its first president. This event helped launch the renaissance of artisan cheese making in the United States. Sally Jackson was already making cheese in Washington State after obtaining a government grant during the Carter Administration and both Laura Chenel and Mary Keehn were making chevres that would become award winners… the American cheese game was on…
As a dairy science professor, Kosikowski developed the eight basic steps in cheesemaking. As with all artistic endeavors, these steps aren’t etched in stone, unless you are a sculpture…, but it’s a great general outline in what goes into basic cheesemaking.
The Lady and I thank Dr. Kosikowski for his work in making this outline and Max for sharing it in his book. We will share this information in several installments here on the blog.
At this point in the cheesemaking process, the curds are transferred to molds, baskets or colander where more whey is drained away from the curd. Sometimes, the curds may also be put inside cheesecloth, hung and allowed to drain that way. If in baskets or molds, the additional whey can be drained simply by opening a valve in the vat. The curds will begin to meld and take on the form of the mold, basket or cheesecloth into which they have been dipped. As with the Emmi Roth-Kase GranQueso The Lady helped make in Wisconsin, the finished cheese may retain the imprint of the basket holding it. This is a sign that the cheese is artisan made.
Step 5: Knitting the Curd
In Step 5, the curds begin to fuse together into a consistent form and really begin to look like the finished cheese. This knitting may take place in vats, in the baskets, hoops or in a press where pressure is applied to the curd.
Also, at this point, when making cheddar an additional, unique type of knitting takes place: cheddaring. (The Lady assisted in the cheddaring when making Flagship at Beecher’s this past summer.) The masses of curds are cut into large blocks, pulled to the sides of the vat, and stacked on top of each other. They are flipped several times and re-stacked. This expels more whey. When the cheddaring is complete, the curds milled; the curds are put through a cutting device which one more time changes their texture.
Step 6: Pressing the Curd
Pressing the curd may take a few hours or several days; again depending on the desired finished cheese. Pressing expels even more moisture, defines the density and texture of the cheese.
Soft cheeses are rarely, if ever, pressed. Instead they are pressed under their own weight. Harder cheeses may actually have weights placed on the top to create added pressure.
Joe Widmer, Owner and Licensed Cheesemaker at Widmer Cellars, places bricks, now almost 100 years old and were used by his grandfather and father before him, on top of his Aged Brick. And yes, the cheese is called brick because of the pressing use of those bricks and also because the cheese is the shape of bricks.
At this point, the bacteria cultures are still alive; acidification continues and these two must be monitored carefully. Here is where modern technology can assist the artisan cheesemaker. Electronic and computerized monitoring can assist the cheesemaker. But, instinct and experience are still the most important part of cheesemaking but why not use a little modern technology to make the job a bit easier?
Up next: Step 7: Salting the Cheese and Step 8: Curing the Cheese