Homemade Cheese, Pressing, Drying, and Aging Cheese

Step 8: What does "Molding and Pressing the Curds" mean?

For a homemade cheese to acquire great structure, an extra squeeze (pressing) is given to the cheese curds. This removes any unwanted moisture from the curds. Shaping the cheese can take several days, during which time the cheese is flipped frequently from one side to the other to distribute the remaining liquid evenly throughout the entire internal body of the cheese. Otherwise, half of the cheese can become dry while the other half remains moist and springy. Pressing hard cheeses requires a tension device; it can be homemade or store bought but it needs to achieve the correct amount and consistent pressure. A homemade press can be assembled using wood, weights, and gallon containers or PVC pipe, but I recommend simply buying a commercial press to assure a consistent product.

WHEELER STYLE CHEESE PRESS

ITALIAN STYLE CHEESE PRESS

DUTCH STYLE CHEESE PRESS

Choosing the Right Cheese Press For You

Commercial presses are pretty easy to put together as well as to use. You will need to determine which type of press suits you personally:

WHEELER CHEESE PRESS

  • These are handcrafted from stainless steel and hardwood. This cheese press is durable and reliable and will be around as long as you are around to make cheese. This cheese press comes with pressure gauges, a stainless-steel mold, drip tray, separating disk, and followers. It is the most pricey of the three presses I show here, but the reliability and durability allow for consistent well shaped cheeses forever. This cheese press allows for a four-pound cheese wheel, with a fifty-pound press weight.

ITALIAN CHEESE PRESS

  • This cheese press also comes with a stainless-steel mold, drip tray, and separating disk, but for about a third of the cost of the Wheeler Press. This device has a convenient double basket for containing curds and draining whey, the Wheeler does not. You can count on continued smooth sided cheese with press up to about a two-pound wheel, and offering up to fifty-pounds of pressure.

DUTCH CHEESE PRESS

  • This Dutch cheese press is the biggest of the tree here—accommodating up to ten-pounds of cheese—but is only about half of what the Wheeler Cheese Press will cost you. Usually made in the USA from hardwood, it can give you up to 100 pounds of pressure. You generally have to buy a cheese mold separately for this press.

The Art of Aging Cheese

In this image you see a "waxed" cheese sitting upon a "cheese mat".
In this image you see a "waxed" cheese sitting upon a "cheese mat".

Step 9: Drying Homemade Cheese

Most hard cheeses need a little time on the rack or mat (a mat for drying cheese which breathes allowing good air circulation to the cheese surface), at room temperature, after pressing. Cheeses like Gouda, cheddar, Swiss and others that do not mold ripen can be waxed (painted with food grade wax, usually red, to seal in the moisture) and stored at a cool temperature for aging. Others like Parmesan, can be left to continue to form a natural rind— in some cases, cheese can be rubbed with a little olive oil to seal in the moisture and keep the rind supple.

How to Wax Homemade Cheese

Analog or Digital; a Hygrometer must be used in developing good Homemade cheese flavor and texture

Step 10: Aging the Cheese

Whether it's a ripe Camembert, a creamy Brie, or a tangy Feta, when it comes to cheese, more time means much more flavor. Think of making cheese like making a really rich soup or a deeply infused oil; the flavor intensifies and the texture develops with a little steeping time.

Temperature and humidity are also critical when aging your homemade cheese. Whether you make soft, mold-ripened, or hard cheese, you will need the correct tools. The most important tool for properly aging your cheese is without a doubt, the hygrometer (a humidity-measuring device) that is used to get a daily reading of the climate of your refrigerator or cool room.

A vast variety of cheese is waiting for you to create it!

White Mold Cheese Crust: True cheese lovers say this must be eaten as well as the cheese

Blue Cheese Mold

Mold and Cheese

Once the cheese has been pressed and shaped, mold-ripened cheeses, like brick, Camembert, and Stilton can be injected with additional bacteria (for mold growth, those blue lines in these cheeses are the cause of all their flavor) for ripening and then set aside to dry in preparation for aging.

Ripened cheeses are those that have mold added to the milk during the making of the cheese to impart a specific flavor to that cheese type—different types of cheese require different types of molds. There are two varieties of molds for cheese, blue and white.

WHITE MOLDS

  • White molds are usually used on cheeses derived from goats milk. They present as a white chalky bloom (substance) on the exterior of the cheese. Penicillum-Candidum (sometimes Penicillum-Cammemberti ) is the mold you find on such cheeses as Camembert, Coulommiers, and Brie. It is harmless, adding a delightfully sophisticated flavor to these cheeses. You may want to consider using Geotrichum Candidum (provides the velvety look of the exterior surface), which can help stop the skin from sliding off of the finished cheese.

BLUE MOLDS

  • These molds are commonly referred to as blue cheese. Stilton, Gorgonzola, and of course Roquefort are the more noted of these cheeses. An injection of Penicillum roqueforti molds are directly introduced into the cheese. The mold then grows inside the cheese, unlike a Brie or Camembert, where mold actually grows on the exterior surface of the cheese. Blue cheese has a strong assertive taste and you will find it in both soft and firm textured cheeses.

NOTE: When making cheeses like chevre, Camembert, and other soft types, be sure you are using stainless-steel or food grade (nonporous) plastic molds, as these cheeses harbor greater moisture and can permeate porous materials.

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