Making Swiss Cheese part 1

We were in a cheese making mood this past weekend and made a few kinds of cheeses.  The first we made is a Swiss cheese.  This was our second batch as the first batch had a bit of a learning curve.  Though I have to say the first batch my husband made had a great flavour.  The rind came out a bit thick but we think that was because of old rennet.  Other than it was great.  So we were ready for another go.  With new rennet.  🙂  We also use Ricki Carroll’s book “Home Cheese Making” for this.  She also sells the starters and supplies needed for most cheese making.  I know there are more and more sources now as more people are into making their own cheese.  We’ve just stuck with her store.

This is what the cheese looked like from the first batch.

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Before starting sterilise everything!

As we’ve made our previous cheeses we only use raw milk.  Pasteurization breaks down the proteins needed to make great cheese.  Especially the ultra-pasteurization.  That is pretty much useless.  When buying raw milk just make sure the farm does regular testing so it is safe.

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Pour two gallons into a large pot.  Heat the milk to 90F.  Stir as the milk heats so it is consistent and doesn’t catch on the bottom.  We usually have the heat at medium for this.  You don’t want it to heat rapidly.  Once the milk is at 90F then the thermophilic starter is added.  We buy the pre-portioned packets but if you prepare it then 4 oz is needed.  Stir well.

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The take 1/4 milk of the milk with the starter mixed in and add 1 tsp of Propionic shermannii to the 1/4 milk and mix well.  Add back into the milk on the stove and mix well.  This needs to ripen for 10 minutes.

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The next step calls for the rennet.  We purchase organic vegetable based rennet.   The directions on the back are a bit strange.  It says it is double strength so use 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.  To me if it is double strength then it should call for using 1/2 the amount in the recipe.  Right?  So about a minute before the milk is done ripening prepare the rennet.  Use 1/4 cup of spring water because you don’t want any chlorine in it.  The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp rennet to be dissolved so we used 1/4 tsp plus a couple of drops.  Pour into the milk and stir up and down.  If you are using raw milk like we do then it needs to be top stirred for a few minutes to keep the butter fat down.  To do this, use the bottom of your spoon and stir 1/2 inch to and inch down from the surface.

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At this point the milk needs to rest at 90F for 30 minutes.  The thermophilic starter generates heat so if it goes a few degrees above 90 don’t panic.  If it drops just turn the heat on a bit to bring it back up.  After it sets and the curds pull away from the sides it is time to cut the curds.  Her recipe states 1/4 inch cubes.  In a large pot that is impossible.  Use a curd knife for the blocks by cutting straight one way then cutting lines 90 degrees from the original lines.  Then you need to cut at an angle to cut the interior of the curd.  Then gently use a whisk to cut them into the small curd.

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Now get ready for a ton of stirring.  The first bit is for 40 minutes.  You stir gently while keep the temperature at 90F.  According to Ricki’s book this is called foreworking.  It helps expel the whey from the curds.

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Then to add a bit of a challenge the next bit calls for raising the temperature a degree at a time until it reaches 120F.  You need to keep this as close to 30 minutes as possible as this extracts the whey from the curds.  You’ll notice the curds getting smaller through this process.

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At the end of the 30 minutes the curds should be smaller and squeaky if you eat them.  This stage is called the “proper break”.  A way to test them is to take a small handful and press into a ball.  This ball should easily break apart into the little curds again.  Turn off the heat and let it rest for five minutes.  While it is doing that prepare some cheese cloth or butter muslin in a strainer.  You’ll want a couple of large containers to catch the whey.  Don’t throw out the whey!  You can use it to make fresh ricotta cheese.  Stay tuned for that post.  Pour into the strainer.

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At this point you want the mold set up.  My husband made a great contraption so we can press the cheese.  This recipe calls for a two pound mould.  Place the curds into the mould still wrapped in the cheese cloth or butter muslin.

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Fold in the cloth and place the pressing part into the mould.  Place the top of the press over this.  It is important to do all this before the curds cool.  For the first pressing you need 8-10lbs on top and let it stay there for 15 minutes.

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You should see whey being pressed out.  At the end of 15 minutes remove the curd and gently unwrap the curd.  Turn the curd over and put it back into the press.

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Up the weight to 14lbs and press for 30 minutes.  Turn the cheese and press for 2 hours.  Turn again, increase the weight to 15lbs and then press for 12 hours.  We usually leave this overnight.  Once the pressing is done the cheese needs to be soaked in brine for 12 hours.  To make the brine you want to dissolve 2 lbs of cheese or kosher salt in a gallon of spring water.  Let the cheese soak in the fridge during this step.  The exposed side needs to have some salt sprinkled on it.

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At the end of 12 hours pat the cheese dry, place on a clean board and place in the “cheese cave”.  Now some have a real cheese cave.  We haven’t gotten that far so we use a wine cooler.  The temp needs to be 50-55F and the humidity should be around 85%.  For the first week the cheese needs to be turned every day and wiped with salt water.  Do not soak the cheese.  You do not want wet cheese!

Part 2 will be posted when the cheese is done and will have the final steps to it.  This cheese needs to age at least 3 months.  It is very hard to wait!  🙂

French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

My family is a big fan of French Onion soup but in the summer time it is way too hot to think about soup.  I came across a pin on Pinterest for French Onion Grilled Cheese sandwiches.  Problem was the recipe didn’t appeal to me at all.  Very picky about my french onion!  So I decided to modify our recipe for the soup to make the sandwiches.  The inspiration was from the Hannafords magazines they have.  I modified that as well to make it the way we like it.  I can’t help myself! 🙂

This recipe makes four sandwiches:

1 large red onion sliced somewhat thinly

1 T butter

1 tsp sugar

1 T Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base Organic (this is really good!)

1/2 cup hot water

couple of squirts stone mustard

2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T brandy or cognac

Melt butter and saute the onions in the butter with the sugar until softened.  Dissolve the bouillon into the hot water.  Traditional French Onion calls for beef bouillon but I like the veg version for a more layered taste.  Add to the onions and bring to a simmer.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and cognac and cook down until the sauce is reduced.

Slice the bread and butter the outside of each slice.  Place slices of cheese of your choosing onto the bread.  We use jarlsberg for most dishes that require some sort of swiss but that is our preference.  Spoon some onions on the cheese and top with the second slice of bread.

Grill on the griddle or frying pan until the cheese is melting.  Serve immediately.

This meal only takes about 30 minutes to make and goes down a treat.