Watch How to Make Cheddar Cheese
Supplies for Making Homemade Cheddar Cheese
If you’re new to cheesemaking, cheddar cheese may require you to add some supplies to your tool kit that you may not have yet, including a cheese fridge. For more information about other cheesemaking equipment not discussed here, see the recipe for Butter Cheese. Because cheddar cheese is aged for a month or more, I highly recommend making it with at least 4 gallons of milk. Though most cheese recipes you’ll find online or in books are made with 2 gallons of milk, the yield on your final product will be significantly less because so much of the rind will dry out during aging and need to be removed. With 4 gallons of milk or more, your cheese will have enough mass that the paste will be creamier. I also suggest finding a sturdy stainless steel pot with a lid from a restaurant supply company because it will be quality enough to retain heat. (Which means less work maintaining temperatures for you!) I also prefer welded handles over rivets because it is easier to clean and one less place for bacterial to lurk and ruin an otherwise good cheese. Cheddar cheese will also require you to have a digital scale and micro digital scale to weigh your curds & salt. Salting your cheese by percentage of the curd mass will ensure uniform results from cheese to cheese. 2.6% salt is the sweet spot for my palette. You may adjust it up or down to your taste. Your cheese fridge can a mini-fridge with a digital controller to override the preset temperature. I was able to find a dinged up, yet new, beverage cooler online that has 2 adjustable zones that I can set to the perfect temperature for aging cheese. Regardless of which cheese fridge you end up with, you will need a humidity controller with a way to add moisture to the environment. I use this humidifier fog machine outside my cheese fridge. We cut a hole into the side for the tube to pipe mist into the fridge. You will need cotton cloth or cheese wax to seal this cheese while aging. I do not recommend vac sealing cheeses where you want flavors to develop during the aging process. Vac sealing slows or stops flavor development & affects the final taste & texture of the cheese. I’ve never had consistent results with natural waxes and do not choose to use artificial waxes with food dyes. Besides, it seems like a beautiful pairing to cloth bound a cheddar and seal it with melted butter. The flavor symbiosis between the two makes a perfect blend for sealing a cheese. All of the other supplies should already be in your arsenal if you’ve been working through the Homesteaders of America cheesemaking series.
Ingredients for Cheddar Cheese
This cheddar cheese recipe is made with mesophilic culture. This means that the cheese will never rise above 102F so cool temperature cultures are appropriate. I’ve tried this recipe with several mesophilic cultures and MA4001 or 4002 are my favorites. You can also try making cheddar cheese with MA11 or RA22 (24/26). If you’d like you can also give your cheddar cheese that quintessential orange color with the addition of a small bit of annatto seed extract. I find that my children are so used to the orange cheddar color from the store that they are more likely to eat orange cheddar. An eighth of a teaspoon is enough to change the color of a 4-gallon batch of cheese. It won’t seem like it did the trick, but I promise it will. Whatever you do, don’t add more annatto to change the color in the pot. You will end up with a wheel of cheese that would rival a bag of Cheetos. There’s no need to to be concerned about adding a colorant to your cheese. Annatto is completely natural. It’s made from a seed and can even be made at home by simmering the seeds in water. I choose not to because I always miss the sweet spot and boil all the liquid away and have to start again. Making cheddar cheese will take up a good portion of your day, to be sure. I start a batch around 9 AM after milking & breakfast then end up getting the cheese in the press around 4 PM. Just in time to start dinner. The good news is this time is not all spent over the pot stirring the cheese. The active stirring time takes just about an hour.
Acidifying/Culturing Cheddar Cheese
You begin making cheddar cheese by warming a vat of milk to 88F. After that you thoroughly mix in the culture and annatto. Cover the pot and allow the cultures to acidify the milk for the next hour. Once you come back, it’s time to add the rennet. Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need to dilute the rennet in water. In fact, doing so could introduce bacteria into your cheese.
At this point, you could set a timer for 50 minutes and walk away but a better way to make consistent cheese is to learn about flocculation. All rennet is not created equal. And even if you use the same rennet every time, its strength may vary as it ages. How long you allow the coagulated curds to sit will, in part, determine how much moisture is locked into your cheese. Less moisture makes a drier cheese, more moisture a creamier cheese. If you don’t know when the flocculation point is, you’re simply guessing how long curds should sit. To test flocculation, set a lightweight plastic cap upside down on the surface of the milk after you finish stirring in the rennet. (I sanitize and use the lid of a vitamin bottle.) For cheddar cheese, begin testing for flocculation after 13 minutes. To do this gently flick the cap to see if it will slide across the surface of the cheese. (For the first time, flick it occasionally during those 13 minutes so you can get to know the differences as the curds coagulate.) When you flick the cap and it meets resistance and even seems to bounce back a little, you are at the flocculation point. Now for a little math. For cheddar cheese, I use a multiplier of 3 because I don’t want a dry cheddar. This means if the flocculation point was at 15 minutes my total time before cutting the curds is 45 minutes. Subtract the 15 minutes that have already passed from that time and set a timer for the remaining balance of time, 30 minutes. 15 minute flocculation point: 15×3=45 45-15=30 After that 30 minutes, in this case, has passed, test your curds. Slip a knife into the curd mass then dip your finger into the slit. Lift the mass up perpendicular to the slit. If the curd breaks clean around your finger, the curds are ready to be cut. You can also test by pressing down on the curd mass against the wall of the pot. You will see it slip away from the sides.
Cutting the Curds
Once the curds are ready, use a long knife to cut the curds to ¼” cubes. Cut one way, then the other perpendicularly. Imagine each curd in the pot as a tall ¼” leaf of seaweed and the bottom of the pot as the sea floor. Now cut those lengths of vertical curd by running your knife at an angle, continually slicing ¼” from the top of each strand of curd as you run the knife across. Repeat this angled curd down the length of each side, cutting on all 4 sides of the pot. Allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes to heal then very, very slowly stir the curds searching for any larger uncut pieces and cut them.
Releasing Whey (Cooking & Stirring the Curds)
When the curds are satisfactorily cut, it’s time to stir and warm the curds to release the whey. Now is the time to remove whey from the curds, not in the cheese press. By the time the curds are in the press the whey is locked in and you’re only removing whey from between the curds as you press them into a solid mass. Begin by slowly stirring the curds while you warm them to 95F. This should take 30 minutes. As time passes, stir with increasing speed. After 30 minutes, and once you’ve reached temp, increase the stirring speed more and raise the temperature to 102F in 15 minutes. Finally, maintain that temperature while stirring as quickly as you can for 15 minutes. Test the curds for doneness by squeezing a handful. They should hold together but then fall apart when rubbed between your thumb and fingers. Allow the curds to settle (pitch) for 5-10 minutes so you can easily remove the whey. After the curds are on the bottom of the pot, ladle out the whey. Meanwhile, prepare a waterbath with hot water to maintain the temperature of the curds during the cheddaring process. My kitchen sink is nice and deep so I can even place a 6-gallon pot in it. You may need to use a cooler filled with hot water or another large vessel.
Cheddaring the Cheddar Cheese
Now on to the actual cheddaring! Cut the solid curd mass into 4 pieces. Stack them on top of each other. Cover the pot with a lid and place it in your waterbath. I use 2- half gallon mason jars filled with hot water on top of the lid to keep the pot from floating. Leave the curds in the waterbath for 15 minutes. Then you will peel the pieces apart and flip them, re-stacking. Be sure to maintain the temperature at 102F during the cheddaring. Repeat this 3 more times for a total of 1 hour. (At some point you may need to cut the curds to flip and stack them.) By the end, the curds will have the texture of cooked chicken breast. Do not drain your sink water. Weigh the curds on a digital scale. Calculate 2.6 % of that amount in sea salt on the micro digital scale for the best accuracy. Transfer the curds to a cutting board and quickly cut them into 1″ cubes, returning them to the pot. Sprinkle the cubed curds with half of the salt, mixing well. Return the pot to the waterbath system for 5 minutes. Add the remaining portion of salt, stirring well. Return the pot to the waterbath for a final time.
Pressing the Cheese
Prepare your cheese press if you haven’t already. Line your hoop with cheesecloth and quickly transfer the warm curds to the hoop. Warm curds will knit together better. Press at 20 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes. Flip and redress the cheese. Press at 60 pounds of pressure overnight. In the morning, flip and redress the wheel a final time, leaving the cheese in the press until it has been in there for a total of 24 hours.
Cloth Bandaging Cheddar Cheese
Place the cheese on a mat and allow it to air dry for 2-3 days until the surface is dry to the touch. (A little clammy is ok.) To bandage the cheese, melt ½ cup butter. Trace the two circular ends of the cheese and the length of the sides with a pencil on a piece of cotton muslin fabric. Cut out the pieces about ¼” outside of your tracing. Brush the top of the cheese with butter. Place one circle of cloth on top and saturate the cloth, brushing it with butter, sealing it tightly to the cheese (including the little overlap on the sides.) Repeat with the bottom of the cheese, then adhere the long strip of fabric to the side of the cheese with the butter.
Aging Cheddar Cheese
Transfer the cheese to your cheese fridge and age for 4-6 weeks for a mild cheddar, 3 months or longer for sharp cheddar. Age the cheese at 55F and at 80% humidity. I flip the cheese every day for the first week or two as the moisture inside settles. If too much moisture accumulates in your cheese fridge or if you age the cheese for longer than 6 weeks, it is more likely to grow mold. That’s ok. It will come off with the cloth and any mold on the rind can be scraped off before eating. If you will not be eating all of your cheese right away, vac seal it until you are ready to eat it. This will stop the flavor development where you want it to be.
Printable Cheddar Cheese Recipe
Cheddar Cheese Recipe
Learn how to make your own cheddar cheese at home! Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 5 hrs Pressing Time 1 d Course Appetizer Cuisine American, British
- 4 gallon stockpot with Lid
- Digital Instant Read Thermometer
- Cheese Ladle
- Curd Knife
- Measuring Spoons
- Digital Scale
- Micro Digital Scale
- Cutting Board & Knife
- Cheese Mat
- Cheese Refrigerator
- Cotton or Muslin Fabric
- Pastry Brush
- 4 gallons milk, preferably raw
- ¼ teaspoon mesophilic culture, MA 4000 series
- 1/8 teaspoon annatto, optional
- 1 teaspoon animal rennet
- 2.6% sea salt
- ½ cup Butter, melted, for cloth bound
- Warm milk to 88F. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Add in the mesophilic culture and annatto. Stir 2 minutes.
- Cover and maintain the temperature for 1 hour.
- Stir in the rennet 30 seconds. You do not need to dilute the rennet in water for small batch cheese. Stir slowly, but throughly. Stop the motion of the milk with your ladle.
- Coagulate the milk for about 40-50 minutes. If you are using a flocculation cap place it on the milk and begin checking for flocculation after 12 minutes. Mark the time elapsed. Multiply that number by 3 then subtract the flocculation time from the product. (Example: Flocculation time of 15 minutes; 15×3=45; 45-15=30 more minutes of coagulation.)
- Check for a clean break.
- Cut the curds to ¼”. Cut in a grid then on the diagonal the depth of the pot in all 4 directions.
- Allow the curds to rest and heal for 5 minutes to lock in moisture. Skip this step if you want a dry cheddar.
- Return the pot to the heat and warm to 95F over the course of 30 minutes. Stir continuously, beginning with slow stirring and increase speed as the curds toughen up.
- Heat the curds to 102F in 15 minutes, stirring fairly rapidly.
- Maintain the temperature and stir for a final 15 minutes. Stir as quickly as you can.
- Test the curds by squeezing them in the palm of your hand. They should hold together in a clump yet break apart when rubbing them with your thumb.
- Pitch the curds for 5 minutes and allow them to sink to the bottom.
- Meanwhile, prepare a waterbath to keep your curd warm during the cheddaring process. I use my kitchen sink filled with hot water & 2- half gallon mason jars filled with water to weigh the pot down.
- Remove the whey from the pot.
- NOTE: Try to maintain a 102F temperature for the cheddaring process.
- Cut the curd mass in the bottom of the pot into 4 blocks and stack them on top of each other.
- Place the covered pot in the water bath & weigh it down.
- Stack and flip every 15 minutes for 1 hour until the curds have the consistency of cooked chicken breast. Drain any whey in the bottom when flipping the curds. (This is a total of 4- 15 minutes with 3 flip/stacks.)
- Weigh & make a note of the curd mass.
- Quickly cut the curds into 1” cubes so you don’t lose too much temperature.
- Using a micro digital scale, weigh out 2.6% of the curd mass in salt.
- Add the salt to the cubed curds in 2 phases with 5 minutes between additions. Place the pot back in the waterbath between saltings.
- Prepare your cheese press between saltings.
- Quickly transfer salted curds to a cheesecloth lined hoop.
- Press at 20 pounds pressure for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cheese from the hoop, flip, and redress in the cheesecloth.
- Return the cheese to the press and apply 60 pounds of pressure overnight.
- In the morning, remove the cheese, flip, and redress a final time. Return it to the press and apply 80 pounds of pressure until the cheese has been in the press for a total of 24 hours.
- Transfer the cheese to a cheese mat and air dry for 2-3 days, flipping twice daily.
- Was the cheese for the aging or apply a cloth bandage rind using clean cotton fabric and melted butter.
- Age the cheese in a cheese fridge at 55F and 80% humidity for 4-6 weeks for mild cheddar and 3 months or more for sharp cheddar.
Keyword butter cheese, cheddar, cheddar cheese, cheese recipe, cheesemaking
Recipes for the Home Dairy
Learn how to make these other delicious homemade cheese & dairy recipes with raw milk from your homestead dairy!
- 3 Ways to Make Ricotta Cheese
- Homemade Cream Cheese Recipe
- Butter Cheese Recipe
Quinn and her family have been homesteading in Ohio for over 15 years, many of which she spent sharing their experiences and encouraging other homesteaders at Reformation Acres until 2018. She is the co-founder of the SmartSteader homestead management app and Executive Assistant for Homesteaders of America. Besides raising their main crop of 8 children, Quill Haven Farm revolves around the Queen of the Homestead, the family milk cow. In addition to cheesemaking and other home dairy, the cow also provides skim milk to fatten a few hogs every year, raise up a beef calf, supplement the feed for their flock of laying hens & broilers, and beautiful compost for their 14,000 square feet of organic gardens. Making hard cheese at home does not need to be intimidating. In fact, you might have everything you need on hand already! This yogurt-cultured farmhouse cheddar recipe is a tasty and versatile hard cheese that you’ll come back to time and time again.
Make Your Own Cheddar Cheese at Home!
Our family started in cheesemaking several years ago. Our real food journey led us to source the highest quality, locally produced farm goods – including milk! Living in the suburbs at the time, raw milk was a luxury. But we’d go out of our way to buy it and enjoyed making homemade mozzarella occasionally. Then we got a family milk cow on our homestead and milk was no longer in short supply! Cheesemaking became a weekly activity and venturing into the world of hard cheeses was inevitable. But where to start? All the recipes I came across involved special cultures, expensive cheese presses, long aging times and techniques, and unnatural seeming ingredients. At the time we were living in the middle of Amish country, and these simple and resourceful people gave us the inspiration we needed! Farmhouse, or farmstead, cheddar originated with the Amish. I was thrilled to find, 1) it only needed a basic starter culture like yogurt or kefir, 2) I was actually able to rig up an easy homemade cheese press with items I already had in the kitchen, and 3) this cheese has a very short and uncomplicated aging process.
I can’t talk about cheesemaking without mentioning David Asher and his book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. Every cheesemaker needs this book on their shelf! Modern cheesemaking techniques have strayed far from their traditional forms. Cheddar is a perfect example. In fact, the bright orange coloring of cheddar we are used to seeing is a byproduct of industrial farming practices and the addition of annatto: A coloring agent used to cover up the vitamin deficiencies of non-pastured cows milk. Asher explains,
“Cows make colorful cheese when they feed on fresh green grass. Carotene, an essential vitamin as well as pigment in grass, colors the milk and the cheeses of pastured cows. But confined cows do not get their daily dose of carotene in their hay, haylage, or grains, and their milk shows its vitamin deficiencies when made into cheese: A cheddar made with pastured cows’ milk has a beautifully creamy color because of its carotene content; cheese made with milk from confined cattle is unnaturally white.”
While this farmhouse cheddar recipe is not found in Ashers book, his philosophies and techniques have influenced how I view the cheesemaking process and the type of natural cheese I want to make to feed and nourish my family.
How To Use Farmhouse Cheddar
Farmhouse cheddar has a mildly sharp taste. It’s texture is hard, but it will melt when shredded or sliced thin and is still smooth and creamy enough to enjoy fresh. We use this cheese for about everything! You can dice it to top a creamy soup, savory porridge, or even a fresh salad. Thin slices go perfectly on any sandwich, or better yet, melted on a grilled cheese or toasted sandwich. And our absolute favorite is combining it with our homemade mozzarella on our deep-dish sourdough cast iron pizza! This cheese also grates well and has hints of a parmesan. Farmhouse cheddar is truly versatile!
How Long Does It Take to Make Farmhouse Cheddar?
Traditional cheddar ages between 6 months to 1 year. This farmhouse cheddar recipe is ready in 3-5 weeks. The cheese itself is made in just a couple hours. Then it undergoes a drying process for a few days. Once dried, the outside of the cheese is coated in butter to form a rind and preserve the cheese for aging. We age ours for about 4 weeks. The longer the cheese ages, the sharper the taste will get. The rind will also continue to dry out and get harder the longer you wait. We’ve found 4 weeks of aging to typically be the right amount.
Both from David Ashers book and from experience, we’ve learned a lot about how to source the highest quality and most natural cheesemaking ingredients.
Cheesemaking pairs best with fresh milk that is as close to its natural form as possible. Finding raw milk from a local farm with cows raised on pasture is your best bet. Or, looking for milk that is not ultra-pasteurized and/or non-homogenized is an alternative. The beauty of this farmhouse cheddar recipe is that the milk never gets above 90° F. This preserves the native bacteria inside raw milk making a truly raw cheese.
Any plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt will work to culture this farmhouse cheddar recipe. For best results, look for options without added thickeners or artificial ingredients. Culturing with kefir also works. Kefir will actually contain a higher quantity of the bacteria needed to culture your cheese.
Rennet contains the enzyme from the fourth stomach of a calf that naturally coagulates milk to set it into a firm curd. Coagulated milk is easier to digest making nutrients more bioavailable. Nearly all cheesemaking requires rennet. We use WalcoRen tablets. They offer a pure and natural form of dried chymosin (enzyme from calf stomachs) with minimal additives. Many liquid rennet options are plant based and can contain genetically modified ingredients and other preservatives.
Farmhouse cheddar ages with a thorough coating of butter. Raw milk butter will age best with the cheese. Lard can also be used to coat your cheese. If your sourcing of butter or lard is questionable, you may want to scrape off or cut off the rind once the cheese is aged before you eat it. We use homemade butter with milk from our cow and don’t remove the rind.
There are special cheesemaking salts that are more course. But any granulated salt will work. We recommend an unprocessed sea salt option and use Redmond Real Sea Salt as our salt of choice.
Do I need to buy cheesemaking equipment?
As I was thrilled to find out, you may not need to buy anything to make this farmhouse cheddar recipe! If you have a large stock pot, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, food thermometer, colander, strainer, drying rack, cookie sheet, and some other basic kitchen items, you likely have what you need! Here are some equipment considerations:
If you have a cheese press – great! If not, they can range from $50 up to hundreds of dollars to purchase. I don’t own a cheese press and have been making this cheese for years without one. We have a stainless-steel colander that came with our stock pot. I found a pot we had lying around that fits snuggly within that colander that acts as a follower. To apply weight, I simply add three (kombucha) filled quart sized mason jars to the follower pot. As more weight is needed, I stack heavy books on top of that. There are many ways to rig up a homemade cheese press and this system has worked perfectly so far!
Because of the low aging time of this cheese, your aging conditions are very forgiving. Typically, cheeses are aged in a cheese cave that maintains a temperature of 50° with high humidity. However, a cool basement will work for farmhouse cheddar, or even just a spot on your countertop. We have found it easy to forget about your cheese in the basement and have had fine results on the countertop. Aging in your fridge is also an option.
Any kitchen thermometer should work – especially considering that traditionally cheesemakers just used their finger to gauge temperatures! However, we did purchase this thermometer that works very well with cheesemaking.
For years I used a standard large slotted spoon to scoop curd out of the pot. It works! But recently I did upgrade to this curd spoon which, I’ll admit, makes the process go much smoother and quicker!
Picking up some cheese cloth is helpful for squeezing or straining out some whey from your curd. Butter muslin also works, or even a smooth thin cotton towel.
Farmhouse Cheddar Recipe
- Stock pot
- Cheese press*
- Long handled wooden spoon
- Long-bladed knife
- Curd spoon or large slotted spoon
- 1 cup liquid measuring cup
- Large bowl
- Drying rack
- Stock pot larger than the pot your milk will be in (or double boiler)
- Cookie sheet
- Cheesecloth for pressing
- Smooth thin cotton towel for lining press
- Cloth napkin to cover aging cheese
*If you don’t have a cheese press, see note earlier in post about making your own with common kitchen items.
- 2.5 gallons fresh, good milk*
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt or active kefir**
- Rennet (use dose that corresponds with milk quantity)
- 2-3 Tbsp salt
- 1/2-3/4 cup unchlorinated water
- 3-5 Tbsp butter or lard
*The minimum amount of milk you will want to use is 2 gallons. Our stock pot fits 2.5 gallons, hence the 2.5 gallons for the recipe. Anywhere from 2-5+ gallons, depending on your equipment capacity, is great. **Use around 1/8–1/4 cup active culture (yogurt or kefir) per gallon of milk used.
This recipe is broken down into many simple steps. Don’t be intimidated! Take it one step at a time.
Pour milk into stock pot and place on medium heat stove top. Heat milk slowly to 90° F stirring often.
As milk is heating, dilute 1/3 cup yogurt or kefir with a couple tablespoons of fresh milk (I just use the milk that settles at the bottom of the milk jugs). Stir.
Once milk has reached 90°, remove milk from stovetop. Pour in diluted yogurt or kefir. Stir immediately for about a minute. Place cover on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes to culture.
Add rennet to unchlorinated water in a liquid measuring cup. I generally use about a ¼ cup of water per gallon of milk. Make sure tablets are fully dissolved.
Create a double boiler system to keep your milk at 90°. I do not have a double boiler and use a second larger stock pot filled about ¼-1/3 with 90-100° tap water. Once milk is cultured, place that stock pot inside the larger pot so the pot with the cultured milk is mostly surrounded by water.
Pour in rennet and water. Stir quickly for about a minute. Place cover back on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 20-40 minutes, or until a clean break* is achieved.
Once you have a clean break, slice the formed curd into roughly 1-inch cubes using a long-bladed knife. Slice top to bottom and left to right vertically, and also do your best to slice horizontally in 1-inch increments. Any large curd chunks missed can be made smaller during stirring.
Stir the cubed curd for 15-20 minutes with a wooden spoon to release the whey. If large curd chunks that missed being cut are observed, break them into smaller pieces with your spoon. The curd cubes will go from having sharp edges to rounded edges. Once the curd is roughly the consistency of a poached egg, the curd is ready.
Scoop a baseball sized portion of curd into a waiting strainer lined with cheesecloth. Be sure your strainer is sitting on top of a large bowl to catch the whey. Gather up the cheese cloth and gently squeeze the curd to drain some whey. This step is just to remove some excess whey; the cheese press will remove any remaining whey. Place ball of curd into waiting cheese press (or colander if using my cheese press method mentioned above) lined with smooth thin cloth. Place cheese press on top of a cookie sheet to collect whey.
After 2-3 balls of curd are added to your press, sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on top of your curd. Work salt into the curd with your hand. Repeat this step along the way until all your curd is in the press and salt is thoroughly distributed throughout.
Add follower to cheese press. Apply just enough weight to your press to see steady drips of whey flowing below. Let sit in press for 12 hours increasing weight gently to remove whey. Your cookie sheet collecting whey may need to be emptied during this process.
After 12 hours, remove cheese from press, flip it, and reinsert into press. Apply weight again to gently remove whey and let sit another 12 hours.
Remove cheese from press. Place on drying rack and cover fully with cloth napkin. Allow cheese to dry out for 3-5 days flipping a few times daily. Note: As cheese dries, it may form mold on the surface. This is normal. Wash down moldy spots with apple cider vinegar.
After the outside of the cheese dries or mold has formed (clean as noted above), coat the cheese thoroughly in butter (or lard). Room temperature butter works best. Place buttered cheese back on drying rack and cover with cloth napkin.
Put cheese away to age for 3-4 weeks, flipping once a day.** *If you are new to cheesemaking, like I was, the term “clean break” won’t make sense. Essentially, this is just the home cheesemakers method knowing if the curd has set. To check for a clean break, simply insert your finger into the top of the curd 1-2” at a 45 degree angle. Lift your finger out, pulling on the curd. If the curd breaks clean and there is minimal or no curd remnants on your finger, then you have a clean break. If the curd is not yet separated, or fully separated, wait 5-10 more minutes then try again. **Should cheese form moldy spot while aging, spot clean the moldy area with apple cider vinegar and reapply butter (or lard) coating.
A Note on How To Use Whey and Why
Whey is the natural byproduct of cheesemaking. Milk contains curd plus whey; making cheese separates the two. Whey is a nutrient rich food that contains protein along with vitamins and minerals. Because of this, don’t just discard your whey! Pouring it down the drain is a missed opportunity to use this amazing food. Here are some ways we use leftover whey:
- As a stock for soups, stews, or porridge.
- To cook things like rice, beans, and oats in.
- As a water replacement in breadmaking or baking.
- Pour in garden or landscape areas for fertilizer.
- Feed to animals like pigs or chickens. (Dogs or cats will appreciate it too – just in small quantities to not upset their stomach!)
Best Hard Cheese Recipe for Beginners
In my opinion, this is the best hard cheese recipe out there for the beginning cheesemaker. The steps and techniques are remarkably forgiving and entry level. Over time you’ll dial in the process to end up with just the right flavor and consistency for your liking. And, regardless of how your cheese ends up looking, your family and friends will be blown away that you made your own hard cheese at home. Enjoy this farmhouse cheddar recipe and drop us a comment if you have any questions! Some of the above links are affiliate links. This means we earn a small commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you. We are so appreciative of your support! Looking for more home dairy recipes?
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EASY FARMHOUSE CHEDDAR HARD CHEESE RECIPE
Approx. 2 lbs. of cheese Making hard cheese at home does not need to be intimidating. In fact, you might have everything you need on hand already! This yogurt-cultured farmhouse cheddar recipe is a tasty and versatile hard cheese that you’ll come back to time and time again.
- 2.5 gallons fresh, good milk*
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt or active kefir**
- Rennet (use dose that corresponds with milk quantity)
- 2-3 Tbsp salt
- 1/2-3/4 cup unchlorinated water
- 3-5 Tbsp butter or lard
- Pour milk into stock pot and place on medium heat stove top. Heat milk slowly to 90° F stirring often.
- As milk is heating, dilute 1/3 cup yogurt or kefir with a couple tablespoons of fresh milk (I just use the milk that settles at the bottom of the milk jugs). Stir.
- Once milk has reached 90°, remove milk from stovetop. Pour in diluted yogurt or kefir. Stir immediately for about a minute. Place cover on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes to culture.
- Add rennet to unchlorinated water in a liquid measuring cup. I generally use about a ¼ cup of water per gallon of milk. Make sure tablets are fully dissolved.
- Create a double boiler system to keep your milk at 90°. I do not have a double boiler and use a second larger stock pot filled about ¼-1/3 with 90-100° tap water. Once milk is cultured, place that stock pot inside the larger pot so the pot with the cultured milk is mostly surrounded by water.
- Pour in rennet and water. Stir quickly for about a minute. Place cover back on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 20-40 minutes, or until a clean break* is achieved.
- Once you have a clean break, slice the formed curd into roughly 1-inch cubes using a long-bladed knife. Slice top to bottom and left to right vertically, and also do your best to slice horizontally in 1-inch increments. Any large curd chunks missed can be made smaller during stirring.
- Stir the cubed curd for 15-20 minutes with a wooden spoon to release the whey. If large curd chunks that missed being cut are observed, break them into smaller pieces with your spoon. The curd cubes will go from having sharp edges to rounded edges. Once the curd is roughly the consistency of a poached egg, the curd is ready.
- Scoop a baseball sized portion of curd into a waiting strainer lined with cheesecloth. Be sure your strainer is sitting on top of a large bowl to catch the whey. Gather up the cheese cloth and gently squeeze the curd to drain some whey. This step is just to remove some excess whey; the cheese press will remove any remaining whey. Place ball of curd into waiting cheese press (or colander if using my cheese press method mentioned above) lined with smooth thin cloth. Place cheese press on top of a cookie sheet to collect whey.
- After 2-3 balls of curd are added to your press, sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on top of your curd. Work salt into the curd with your hand. Repeat this step along the way until all your curd is in the press and salt is thoroughly distributed throughout.
- Add follower to cheese press. Apply just enough weight to your press to see steady drips of whey flowing below. Let sit in press for 12 hours increasing weight gently to remove whey. Your cookie sheet collecting whey may need to be emptied during this process.
- After 12 hours, remove cheese from press, flip it, and reinsert into press. Apply weight again to gently remove whey and let sit another 12 hours.
- Remove cheese from press. Place on drying rack and cover fully with cloth napkin. Allow cheese to dry out for 3-5 days flipping a few times daily.Note: As cheese dries, it may form mold on the surface. This is normal. Wash down moldy spots with apple cider vinegar.
- After the outside of the cheese dries or mold has formed (clean as noted above), coat the cheese thoroughly in butter (or lard). Room temperature butter works best. Place buttered cheese back on drying rack and cover with cloth napkin.
- Put cheese away to age for 3-4 weeks, flipping once a day.**
*If you are new to cheesemaking, like I was, the term “clean break” won’t make sense. Essentially, this is just the home cheesemakers method knowing if the curd has set. To check for a clean break, simply insert your finger into the top of the curd 1-2” at a 45 degree angle. Lift your finger out, pulling on the curd. If the curd breaks clean and there is minimal or no curd remnants on your finger, then you have a clean break. If the curd is not yet separated, or fully separated, wait 5-10 more minutes then try again. **Should cheese form moldy spot while aging, spot clean the moldy area with apple cider vinegar and reapply butter (or lard) coating.
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