Sunday, January 17, 2010

Homemade Contraption - Cheese Press

When I started making the cheese yesterday, I didn't really realize that I was going to have to press it in a cheese press (something I don't have).  Yes, I read the instructions all the way through, but I was reading LOTS of instructions for various cheeses, looking for something I could make with what I have.  I forgot the part about putting the cheese in a form and pressing it until I got there, and then.... made something up.

I used David Fankhauser's recipe for basic cheese from here. His recipes use easily obtainable ingredients, instead of special cheese ingredients.  For example, instead of special cheesemaking salt, he uses normal salt.  He uses buttermilk as mesophilic starter and yogurt as thermophilic starter.  If I had used the other lady's recipe, I would have had to order more things from her (something I will do soon enough anyway).

I warmed the milk (this is raw milk that I got on Tuesday), put some buttermilk in it and let it sit overnight (they wanted a 68 degree room overnight to acidify the milk, so I left the oil heater on all night).  In the morning I brought the milk up to 30 degrees C, put in the rennet and let it sit for an hour.  This time the curd was much more solid than the times I made mozzarella.  I cut the curd, stirred and heated to 39 degrees C (I got a better thermometer at the grocery store the other day), and then was ready for the next step.  OOOPS - I wasn't prepared with a mold ready for the cheese.

I thought about emptying one of my cottage cheese containers and cutting out the bottom.  I thought about emptying one of my cans and cutting off both ends.  Eventually I realized that the beginner's goat cheese kit I have comes with some molds.  A Ha!  Unfortunately the molds are not straight up and down (the bottom is smaller than the top), so that posed a bit of a problem, and the molds are small, so I had to use two of them. 

Without further ado, here's what I came up with:

On the left, you can see the mold shape and note that the bottom is smaller than the top.  Thankfully I have many different size of cans.  I started with larger cans when the cheese was higher in the mold, but had to move to a smaller size can as the cheese compressed.  The metal going across the top of the cans is pieces from an old pendaflex filing system that I brought home from work (I thought those metal pieces might be useful at some point).  And then the key to the whole thing is the broomstick handle and the window molding (the handle is stuck under the molding).  That provides the force for compression, because I have stuff hanging from the other end of the handle.

About 3-4 pounds of food in cans and jars are in this bag, pulling the handle down.  The window molding is holding it down at the other end, and the force is transmitted across the metal pieces down through the cans and compresses the cheese.  The instructions say to leave it like this for 24 hours, but I needed my sink, so I dismantled it after about 14 hours.  For being totally unprepared, it turned out OK! 

I've seen cheese press instructions that use two sizes of PVC pipe, and I think that's what I'm going to use for mold and follower.  Other than changing the actual mold and follower, I think I can leave everything else the same in the future (except I'll use one cheese mold instead of two).  The window molding/broom handle/weight worked great for pressing (and it's conveniently over the sink, so the whey has somewhere to go).  That's a keeper.  Geeky enough? Think they'll let me keep my engineering degrees?


  1. Not only do you get to keep your engineering degrees but I think you probably put them to use in your cheesemaking! I had to laugh at the last picture. Genius!

    I have this vision of a friend of yours from the city (very urbane and ultra-polished) coming into your home yesterday, taking one look at this contraption, having absolutely NO IDEA what it was and thinking, "Omigod, Jordan has gone over the edge. I've got to get her out of this isolated life she's living and back into civilization!"

    I sure do admire the way you've attacked the cheesemaking. I've never made anything but soft cheeses because the hard cheeses looked so complicated. I think you've just proven anything can be done if you wanna do it.

  2. I like that you just figure out a way to the end that you need!
    And what do you know about the cheese you made?? Turn out OK? or when will you know that??