Cheese Making Basics—Hard Cheeses

Hey Everyone,

Well I said I would tell you how I made my cheese, so I figured I would cover the basics. I’m using the “Farmhouse Cheddar” recipe from “Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses” by Ricki Carroll. It’s a fantastic book, buy it. Totally worth the money. However, I will warn you that the “Ricotta from Heaven” recipe has to be messed up. I followed it exactly and all my whey just went down the sink. Fair warning.

Anyway, the farmhouse cheddar recipe is great! Here’s how you make a basic hard cheese.

1. You have to start out with 2 gallons of whole milk (usually the Vitamin D milk at the store). Just make sure it’s not “Ultra-Pasteurized”, from what I’ve read that seems to have an effect on the cheese and the yield. Make sure you have a pot big enough for this, I use my canner so I have plenty of room.

Basically, to begin with, you are heating the cheese to 90 degrees and then adding bacteria (Mesophillic starter) to create the cheese and give it the signature “cheese” taste. After you grow the bacteria for an hour at 90 degrees, you separate the curd from the milk using Rennet for 1 hour.

Once your curd is separated, you slice the curd with a knife and heat it to 100 degrees (sorry I don’t have pictures) for 30 mins. This helps push the whey out of the curds. Then you drain the curds in cheesecloth by hanging it somewhere warm over a bowl to drip for an hour. You will be surprised by how much comes out.


After this you get the curds out of the cloth and break them up in a bowl, salt them, and then add them to your cheese press. A cheese press is essential in making hard cheeses. The curds have to be forced together while the whey is being forced out to create those nice hard wheels of cheese.


Here I’ve lined the mold and the bottom of the mold with cheese cloth. All the curds are scooped in at this point. You don’t have to force them down or anything. Each gallon of milk will yield roughly 1lb of cheese. I can’t get 2lbs of cuds into the 2lb mold (because they are still full of whey) so I use the 5lb mold for my 2lb wheels. I got this “Ultimate Cheese Press Kit” from for $195. It is very capable of doing 2lbs in the 5lb mold, no worries.


Now comes the fun/time consuming part, pressing the cheese. My recipe says 10lbs of pressure for 10 mins, 20lbs of pressure for 10 mins, then 50lbs of pressure for 12 hours. As you have probably noticed, my cheese press does not have a pressure gauge. What I do is wind the press down until it has a decent amount of resistance (whey will flow out of the press) and leave it for 10 minutes. Then you redress the cheese and do it again, for another 10 minutes (the press will go lower this time). For the 3rd pressing I redress the cheese and crank that sucker down. Every hour or so I come back and give it a twist if it feels loose. Eventually I end up going to bed, so when I get up in the morning I give it one more twist for an hour before I take it out.


This cheese was done pressing and it had a little bit of a funny edge, so I trimmed it. I happens every time because the press is not flush with the mold, it has about 2-3mm of gap on both sides. Once you trim the cheese it has to develop a rind. Basically you put it on a wooden board, turning it every hour or so, for 2-4 days until the outside edge hardens and changes color. I found that after a couple days I could stand them up (on end) and get them to dry faster as long as I put a wedge to stop them from rolling (one fell over).

wpid-0327151448.jpgAfter 4 days the rind developed (you can see the color change) and I vacuum packed them instead of waxing them to age. They need to be kept at about 55 degrees for 1-3 months to age. The best flavor is achieved the longer you wait, it can also start to get a little sharp, or you could eat it right away, although I’m not a huge fan of this recipe fresh. I’ll phone in the verdict on it after it ages. It smells just like cheddar, it just hasn’t developed that flavor yet (the bacteria are still working). These were about 2.25lbs when they were fresh out of the press, but they dried down to about 1.9lbs or so. The left is plain farmhouse cheddar while the right has red pepper flakes in it (we’ll see if it works).

Well, those are the basics of making cheese. I encourage you to check out or buy books on cheese making, it’s a fun process!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Grower says:

    You make it look so easy I definitely want to try it now. My only obstacle is the price on that cheese press. Maybe I could jury rig something.

    1. A lot of people make their own presses, especially if they are handy. There are lots of plans online.

  2. Kurt Coffman says:

    Glad you have put the vacuum sealer to good use. After seeing this cheese press I think I could build it without much trouble. So if you want another one let me know I will give it a shot.

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