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Cheese making – My Cheese Crackpot John


January 2022

Cheese making – My Cheese Crackpot John

Fun, gratifying and sooo tasty!

Living in front of one of the last 3 dairy farms in Swaledale I couldn’t possibly ignore the attraction to home cheese making.
Being a cheese lover the step between thinking about it and acting on it was an easy and smooth one. I had to make cheese! As simple as that.
So, for days I read books, watched hundreds of cheese making videos on YouTube and talked incessantly about it, to the point that I was in serious peril for my life if I just mentioned the word “cheese” to my partner.
And then I braced myself and dived into the journey of cheese making.
Amazingly all I needed to create this wonderful food was unpasteurised cow’s milk from the farm opposite, rennet and a few utensils I already had in the kitchen.
The process of warming up and curding the milk seemed very daunting and I was worried nothing would happen and milk would remain milk. Instead, to my great surprise, the milk curded perfectly and once I drained the whey with a colander lined with muslin the job was done. Ready for the mould.
It really is easy and you can add whatever you want to the cheese to give it different flavours. I experimented with herbs such as chives, Herb de Provence, with chillies, with cracked pepper and also aged a few in red wine. The possibilities are endless.
Now, I think the only tricky part of the cheese making process is the ageing. With fresh cheese it is not a problem but I like hard cheeses or semi hard and creating the right environment at the right temperature with the right percentage of humidity is much more challenging that just making cheese.
I have a dedicated small fridge for my cheeses, which I keep off to achieve the 10 – 15 degrees needed to age the cheese and often struggle to maintain a constant humidity of 80% – 90%. Therefore I must allocate more time to my cheeses than I would if I had a professional cheese environment. I turn them daily and every 2 days clean them with a mixture of salt and water to avoid mould growing on them.
Nevertheless I don’t complain because they taste amazing and there is nothing more satisfactory then making your own cheese!
If you want to give it a go, this is the process I follow to make my cheese, which I call Crackpot John:
• 4 litres of unpasteurised milk
• 20ml of rennet
If you can’t get hold of unpasteurised milk pasteurised is fine but you will have to add some culture.
1. Bring milk to 37 degrees and add rennet
2. Turn the stove off. Cover the pot with a lid and 2 towels and let it rest for 1 hour
3. Cut the curd. Leave it for 5 minutes and break the curd with a whisk
4. Turn the stove on and bring the curd to 45 degrees
5. Turn everything off and drain with a colander lined with muslin
6. Once drained put the curd in the mould and put some weight on it
7. Turn the cheese in the mould 3 times every half hour and leave it overnight
8. The morning after take the cheese out of the mould and massage it with salt. Do this for 2 days and then let it age to taste

Good Luck and good cheese making!

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