Homemade Raw Cheddar Cheese

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They say this cheddar gets better with age. I don’t know about that because we ate it fresh. ;) For those of you without a cheese press, you can eat the curds fresh and un-pressed!

This recipe is adapted from The Cheesemaker’s Manual by M. Morris. 1 gallon of milk makes approximately 1 pound of cheese.

Looking for more raw cheese info and recipes? Check out our Raw Cheese series, including easy raw cheese recipes, basic cultures, tools, and equipment, recommended resources, and benefits of raw cheese!

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 gallons raw milk (I used goat milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon mesophilic culture (I used Danisco MA19, can also use MA4001)
  • 3/4 of a vegetable rennet tablet, good quality*
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons+ fine sea salt (I use Himalayan)

*You can also use liquid vegetable rennet. 1 teaspoon liquid equals 1 tablet of the above. If using double strength liquid rennet, use approximately 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon.

Equipment

Make sure your equipment is very clean. In other words, washed in very hot water or run through the dishwasher using a hot water wash/rinse cycle.

  • stainless steel pot(s)
  • additional pot for water bath (helpful in winter)
  • bowl
  • thermometer, plus one more for the additional pot (if using)
  • cheese press
  • cheese cloth
  • slotted spoon
  • long knife

Method

Put the milk in the pot and slowly warm it to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Keep it covered to preserve heat. This sometimes takes several hours for me, because if I turn the heat up, it can go over temperature quickly. So I prefer to be patient.

Sprinkle the mesophilic culture on top of the milk. Stir in well. Very well. Cover and allow to culture for 45 minutes to an hour, keeping the temperature at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer, the burner can be off and I will put a bath towel over the pot and it stays at temperature just fine.

Meanwhile, dissolve the rennet in about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.

After the 45 minute culturing (ripening), pour the water-rennet mix into the milk, and stir well. Cover the pot again and allow the milk to set for 30 to 45 minutes, until a firm curd forms. When you cut into it with a knife, it makes what is called a “clean break” — the curd splits where it is cut and the whey pours into the crack. You know it when you see it. Here’s a picture of “clean break.”

Then cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes. Many books give precise ways to make cuts and achieve this, but I don’t think we need to be so scientific about it. Click here to read some good basic directions for making those cuts.

Be very gentle with the curds at this point. In fact, after cutting them, just let them sit for 5 minutes, undisturbed. Keep the cover on to keep them warm.

Then turn on the burner (if it isn’t on already) and heat the curds to 102 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of 40 minutes or so. During this time, stir gently every 5 or 10 minutes to keep the curds from sticking and make them smaller.

Keep the curds at 102 degrees Fahrenheit for an additional 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. At this point they should be more firm, even a bit stretchy. Lots of whey will be accumulating in the pot, and the volume of curds much less. If you press some of the curds together in your hand, they’ll want to hold together. This is somewhat of a texture test, and more details about it are in The Cheesemaker’s Manual.

Let the curds settle at the bottom of the pot. Pour off a bunch of the whey (about 2/3 of it, more or less) into another pot or container. You can keep this raw, cultured whey for lacto-ferments or soaking where a stronger flavor works well (such as veggie ferments). Then transfer the curds to a colander, leaving the rest of the 1/3 of whey in the pot. Put the colander to nest inside the pot, so the curds are suspended over the warm whey. This begins the “cheddaring process” which gives the cheese its squeaky texture. (It really does squeak after this!)

Let the curds drain for about an hour. Cover the colander with a piece of cheesecloth and the pot lid. Keep the burner on low if necessary to keep the whey warm. During this hour, turn the slab of curds over a few times to make sure they’re draining well.

Take the slab of curds out of the colander, put it on a cutting surface, and then cut it into chunks.

Then cut the chunks into slices. Put them in a bowl and toss them with 1 to 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt. Do it to taste, but remember that some of the salt will leave with the whey that gets pressed out. So it is good to actually oversalt a bit here for good flavor.

According to The Cheesemaker’s Manual, the curds can be eaten fresh here — fresh and wet. And they’re delicious, I’m telling you! Or you can continue on with the pressing.

Looking for more raw cheese info and recipes? Check out our Raw Cheese series, including easy raw cheese recipes, basic cultures, tools, and equipment, recommended resources, and benefits of raw cheese!

Line the press mold with cheesecloth — could be the same piece that covered the curds during the cheddaring process. Fill the mold with the slices of curd.

Using your press’s setup (follower, etc.), press the cheese at 10 to 15 pounds for about half an hour. If the pressure loosens during this time, tighten it up again. Take the cheese out of the mold, turn it over, and put it back in the mold (cheesecloth and all). This makes it pretty on top and bottom. :)

You’ll need a tray to catch the whey that drains during the pressing.

Continue pressing overnight (or 12 to 15 hours) with continual pressure, working it up to 35 to 45 pounds for the duration. Once again, check frequently if the pressure loosens and adjust the press as necessary. What happens is the cheese gets smaller and shorter, but the press stays in the same position — thus the pressure on the cheese gets relieved, and we need to come in and tighten it up again. Not all presses work like this, but mine does.

Take the cheese out of the mold. Air dry it at room temperature for a few hours or overnight. Eat fresh, or age for a week or two in the refrigerator. Wax it for longer aging. Mild cheddar develops in about 4 weeks, medium in about 2 to 3 months, and sharp in 6 months or more. Allow longer aging times for cheeses made from pasteurized milk (another reason raw is better!).

Enjoy! We make this cheese and other cultured dairy foods in the Cultured Dairy & Basic Cheese eCourse. You get video demonstrations and print tutorials to guide your mastery of yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and some great basic cheeses.

I’m sharing this post in Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting GNOWFGLINS with your purchases.

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh Wardee, your cheese looks beautiful! We made a stirred curd cheddar a month ago and we opened it up to see how it was. It tasted delicious! We re-waxed it and are waiting patiently to open it again on Thanksgiving. My husband is going to be taking a traditional cheddar class over in Yamhill, Oregon in November. We’re really looking forward to learn more about making traditional cheddar cheese!

    ~Tiffany

  2. says

    Wardee,

    I am so jealous! Your cheese looks awesome! I can’t wait until we can get a cheese press so I can start making my own cheese. So far I’ve only tried mozzarella…and I will only say that the recipe was not successful. :(

    I love your e-courses and I think a cheese course would be awesome (hint, hint). :)

    -Shelli

  3. says

    Tasty looking, I would love to make some goat milk cheese, but I just don’t think I have the patience. I’ve got to really admire someone that does!

  4. SaraAmarie says

    Oooh! I’m so glad you posted such detailed instructions! I was looking at your Twister post earlier and was wishing for more info on your cheese making. Thanks a bunch!

  5. says

    Oh! What lovely cheese! I just tried making cheese for the first time, but I made ricotta salata and then experimented with clabbers to make a very fun mozzarella without any directions! I so want to make some cheddar and your directions were great! Hugs Wardee! Alex

  6. TinaC says

    What size cheese press do you use? We want to buy one, but I was wondering if a certain size worked better for the recipes you find…

    • says

      Tina — Click the cheesepress link above. That’s the one I use. It can do 2 to 4 pounds of cheese. This works well with my recipes as my pot can hold about 3 gallons of milk, which makes 3 pounds of cheese.

  7. says

    This is the neatest thing ever. I so want to do this. I can’t afford a cheese press right now, but maybe for Christmas. :) My kids LOVE cheese, and we eat a lot of cheddar, but they cannot handle pasteurized dairy. We can (and do) buy raw cheese, but it would be great to make our own and know that it’s completely safe. Ah! I can’t wait.

  8. says

    I love how easy this looks! Once I get a few more things under my belt, cheese-making is on my list. I LOVE sharp cheddar too. That is what I need to learn how to make.

    • Paula says

      There are lots of ideas and instructions on how to make your own press online. A simple google search shows lots! You might have some of the supplies laying around at home. Would be lots cheaper than buying one.

  9. Jennie says

    Would this work with a lactose free milk? I have been lactose intolerant and have not been able to enjoy cheese for years. I’d love to be able to use it in cooking.

  10. says

    I did it! With my book and the help of your post. I kinda messed up a step but it should still be cheese. lol It’s still in the press so time will tell.

  11. Rebecca Kranz says

    Wardee,

    Do the above amounts of starter & rennet work for 2, 3, or 4 gallons of milk ? (In other words, we don’t have to increase the amounts at all if I make 4 gallons worth?)

    Thanks! I look forward to trying it!

    Rebecca

  12. Zane says

    Hi Wardee,
    My cheese making supplies arrived today and I am sooo excited to get started! Like Rebecca (just above my comment, I think), I’m unsure how much milk to use when following the measurements listed above for the mesophilic culture, vegetable rennet, and sea salt. Are those measurements specific to 2 gallons of milk, 3 gallons, or 4 gallons?
    Thanks so much, I can’t wait to get this going!

  13. says

    When you say that “not all presses work like this but mine does” what exactly do you mean? Is there a press that doesn’t need constant tightening? And which press do you prefer and why? Thanks for posting such a simplified, very do-able way to make delicious cheddar cheese! :)

  14. says

    Hey Wardee,

    Curious: The book you got this recipe from… does it call for raw milk? If so, do a lot of the recipe use raw milk to start? I am wanting to get into cheese making this next year but the books I have found all use pasteurized milk.

    Recommendations?

  15. says

    I have noticed a lot of people asking about a cheese press and being very concerned about the cost involved. I made my own cheese press for about $15 in less than an hour, and that is a hour for someone without true skills! Here is the link to the youtube video where the guy shows you how to make the press. Very easy and it works great! Good luck!
    http://youtu.be/qdj2MQVuMhs if the link doesn’t work go to youtube and type in Homemade 10 Dollar Cheese Press.

    • Lisa Drozé says

      The cheese press video on utube is fantastic! Especially when it’s your first time making cheese!???? love it!!!

  16. says

    I have several blocks of it aging in my cheese cave now…going to make another one tomorrow! I’m trying to make one a week till canning season gets here, but will see how it goes. LOL We haven’t had anything but crumbs though, as I’m trying to age it…will see how the first block turned out in another month or two. :-)) …Deb

  17. Karla says

    I’m just getting started in learning to make my own raw cheese. I would like to make a mother culture because it is more sustainable but the instructions say to boil the skim milk before making the culture, which then would cause the culture to not be raw. My problem is that once it gets past 118* the enzymes break down and my son is allergic to it once that happens. His allergy to pasteurized milk is the main reason I am trying to learn to make truly raw cheese.

  18. DeAnn says

    I am a little confused…every thing I have read in books and online states that if you use raw milk you should be sure NOT to eat it before the 3 month aging period due to bacteria. That if you want to eat it prior to the 3 months aging…to use pasteurized milk. I could see it may be okay to eat it immediately…but after a few days I would think it would be best to wait the full three months. I only use raw milk here for our consumption and will be using raw milk for our cheese, but I do want to make sure that what I give my family is safe.

  19. Wendy S. says

    I am going to have to try thus recipe and see if I can stop at the squeaky stage because growing up in Wisconsin we would get the cheese curds and I loved eating my “squeaky cheese”!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] alot of cheese. One-third of my fridge is filled with aging wheels and quarter-wheels of mostly cheddar (our favorite). To prevent molding and/or drying out, I could move them to the freezer, but that [...]

  2. […] a lot of cheese. One-third of my fridge is filled with aging wheels and quarter-wheels of mostly cheddar (our favorite). To prevent molding and/or drying out, I could move them to the freezer, but that […]

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