Our third cheese making class of the month was with Steve who was a lot of fun! Steve has to be the person who travelled the farthest, for he lives in Hampshire, but knew that he was going to be on business in Leeds, so craftily booked a day off and came to see us to make some Wensleydale.
Despite having made cheese the previous day, our little dairy was still incredibly cold, so we cheated, and very gently heated up 15 litres of
milk and poured it in to our pre-heated crate system. We took the temperature up to around 33 oC as the dairy was so cold, we wanted to ensure that the acidity had a good chance to get going and also for the rennet to work efficiently. In our experience, our rennet works best at around 33 o C and we did not want the temperature of our milk to fall so that we could achieve a good set.
We got a good set and then, in between discussions about psychopaths – I learned that 4% of the population have psychopathic tendencies – we set to cutting. I explained to Steve how important it is not to over cut the curd at this stage as this is quite a critical part of cheese making: you can use the same starter but make different types of cheese according to the temperature you take the curd to and size of cut. We cut the curd into approximately 2″ cubes and only cut the larger chunks that remained after some time, so that we had a uniform cut to allow equal whey expellation. It is amazing just how small 2″ cubes become as the acidity picks up.
The smaller the cut, the harder the cheese will be as it will be less moist as the curd particles are smaller. The higher the temperature, the more whey will be driven out and again, you will have a harder cheese. Cheeses that are made to mature are, generally speaking, cut smaller and
scalded higher than say a Wensleydale designed to be eaten within 14-28 days. The larger the cut, the moister the cheese. If you accidentally cut your curd too small at this stage, take the temperature up to about 36 oC and make it into a cheddar instead.
Given the cold ambient temperature in our little dairy, I ensured that we had achieved a good acidity before we took the whey off as the curd would cool down rapidly and we did not want the acidity development to slow down.
The rest of the make went fast, mainly because we had achieved a high acidity before we took the whey off. Steve made a block, then cut it into cubes, then we salted and milled to make a very fine Wensleydale. We pressed the cheese for Steve as he was slowly wending his way home via various parts of the country, so we will send it to him this coming week.
Steve, it was a real pleasure having you with us, I really enjoyed our random discussions and scenario planning and I look forward to hearing more about your cheesey exploits!