|Day 1 of Drying Stage|
So here is part 2 of my Cheddar making adventure! :)
After the 12 hours on Sunday of pressing the cheese under 40 pounds of weight, Alex took over because I was fast asleep at that point.
That night, the drying stage began. You have to dry the cheese for 6 days under 65-85% humidity and between 12 and 21 Celcius. I bought a little hygrometer at the hardware store a few weeks back for this purpose. Yet another piece of equipment NOT listed on the Cheddar kit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining...but anyone thinking you "just add milk" will have some surprises so I'm here to be the guinea pig for you lol! :)
The recipe suggested this exact set up. A plastic box with a draining area to place the cheese (so it doesn't sit in whey); with a binder clip on the lip to keep the lid somewhat open for air flow. As I move ahead with the cheese making, I'm going to ditch all the plastic and go for glass or wood. Also the drying mat will soon become a bamboo mat instead of that awful plastic stuff.
My challenge was finding somewhere that the cats couldn't get at it and where I could keep the temperature and humidity at the right levels.
|Day 2 of Drying Stage|
The answer? The oven. I put the oven light on for the photo, but I kept it off so the temperature wouldn't rise. It's kept good conditions so far and luckily we haven't used the oven! You can see that on day 2 of the drying stage, the cheese is starting to turn a little yellow. This is great!
I took this photo this morning on day 3 and it's continuing to dry and turn yellow. This cheese requires a bit of babysitting. You have to flip and blot it twice a day and really keep an eye on the humidity and temperature. I mean, I'm an amateur without a cheese cave, so I'm doting a lot more than most would I think! I am so happy because the cheese is drying really well and needs just a little blotting each day.
I had a dilemna. After doing a lot of reading, I realized that most aging cheeses need a constant temperature of around 10-12 Celcius during the entire aging process. Being without a cheese cave...and not trusting the basement conditions (or the mice!)...I was kind of downhearted, thinking my cheese aging would fail. But as I mentioned on my Garden blog, Alex offered his bar fridge to me. He uses this almost daily for his cocktail mixology. liqueur making and fruit aging...but he felt it was more important that I have the fridge for this. It was so wonderful of him; and I have renewed confidence that my Cheddar will age well! Add this to the other "surprises" needed to make Cheddar!
My biggest challenge will be the humidity, which needs to stay around 85%. A lot of folks will rig their cheese fridge with humidifiers and wires and gauges...I'm NOT that handy! We emptied out and cleaned the little fridge and I'm going to turn it on today and find the right temperature. I'm also going to try putting a bowl with a sponge and water on the bottom to see if it will hold the humidity I need. I also read on the Cheese Forum that someone successfully used a bowl of water next to a bowl of salt to hold humidity levels...it's going to be a challenge but I'm certainly up for it! I have 3 more days to get the right atmosphere for the aging process!
Now with my renewed confidence...I've ordered some lovely bacterias so I can make curd cheese, cream cheese, Dry Jack, more Cheddar and some Pizza Mozzarella!