I was so excited to get my cheese making supplies that I got right to work making some this weekend. First things first....a near sterile environment. Of course I don't have the ability to disinfect my kitchen as well as an operating theatre, but I did everything I could to sterilize what I could and sanitize everything else. That is of course the first rule of any kind of food handling especially when you are preserving it. Then came pasteurization. Since the animals are living off of silage at this time of year, it was recommended to pasteurize the milk for flavour (if you've ever had the privilege of smelling silage, you would understand why you would not want your milk to taste like it).
Luckily, since I've been preserving food in large batches for some time, I had all of the extras needed to handle 3 gallons of milk. My large stainless stock pot fit nicely into the bottom of my pressure canner to make a respectable double-boiler, and the little thermometer that came with my kit was just the right length to fit into the milk (I would not have been able to rest it on the edge of the pot if I'd only made a two gallon batch).
After pasteurization, came ripening where I had to add a lactic starter. This is when the smells of the kitchen turned from warm milk to warm, sweet whey. If you like the smell of whey powder, which I do....that was it.
Then came the renneting, that's when you separate the curds from the whey.
It was so excited to see every step turn out like it was supposed to, I felt like an alchemist. After all the stirring and draining etc. I ended up with a respectable amount of curd that went into the cheese press and when I was finished with that, poured the whey back into the pot, heated it back up and added some cider vinegar to make ricotta. Again amazing myself when I watched to the bits of ricotta magically appear in the pot, all the while squealing with delight. So with the Colby curds in the press and Ricotta curds hanging in a cheese cloth, I was starting to feel pretty impressed with myself.
Dave was feeling mighty impressed too when I presented him with a warm bowl of curds and whey...I guess that will be a kitty treat every time I make cheese now.
The ricotta drained for a few hours then I crumbled it with some salt and dried herbs (from our garden) to make lasagna with.
After pressing for 12 hours, the Colby went for a bath in a heavy salt brine, where it will stay for 24 hours. I haven't weighed it yet but I'm guessing it's just a little bigger than two pounds.
There was a little bit of cheese that had squeezed out of the edge of the press, so I tasted it. I have to say, it tasted very, very good and I cannot wait until it's had a chance to age for a month. I'll let you know how it aged, what it tastes like etc. when I get a change to crack it open. Until then, if you have been wanting to try this in your own kitchen I would recommend it. It's very satisfying and best of all, if you have any experience with preserving other forms of food, you will have an excellent grasp of how to prepare for making it and why. I ordered they Hard Cheese Kit for home cheese makers from Glengarry Cheesemaking Supplies in Ontario, Canada, they were lovely to deal with and very helpful.