If you're making pressed cheeses, such as cheddar, then yes — you do need a press. I bet that's no surprise! But do you need an official cheese press? No.
I give the same answer to those taking the Cultured Dairy & Basic Cheese eCourse. With only two or three pressed recipes among the bunch, there's no need to purchase or make an official press. You may want one, and that's fine — go for it! But if you're unsure, I figure you may as well explore cheesemaking before making that decision.
DIY Cheese Press: Tome Mold and Lid
A simple tome mold and lid (around $20) work great as a DIY press. The lid is dual purpose, acting as the follower as well. See those rings coming up off the lid? Those are the followers, which connect the weight system with the top of the cheese — you put weight on the rings and it will press down on the lid, which will press the cheese.
This tome mold accommodates up to a 3 pound wheel of cheese of a nice 7-1/2″ diameter. It can also do 1 and 2 pound wheels, too! A gallon of milk usually yields about a pound of cheese, give or take, depending on quality of milk.
To complete this budget “cheese press” you also need: free weights*, a wire rack, and a baking sheet to act as a drip tray. (*Or use a big jug filled with water or heavy canned goods.)
The video screenshot above shows my tome mold setup. I'm still working on finding a stainless steel, sturdy wire rack. Here's how this works as a press.
- Set the clean mold on top of a wire rack over a baking tray.
- Line the mold with cheesecloth (I use 90-count).
- Fill the mold with cheese curds, packed closely together as much as possible.
- Wrap the cheesecloth back over the top of the curds neatly.
- Put the lid in the mold on top of the curds/cheesecloth with the following rings facing up.
- Tuck the cheesecloth in the top of the mold so the whey won't drip out over the counter.
- Add weight(s) to the lid/follower. Start with light weights and increase over time according to the recipe directions (or your preferences).
- After about a half hour, remove weights. Flip the cheese over. Add weights back. This is called “redressing” and it ensures a pretty cheese with a smooth top!
- When pressing is done, transfer the pressed cheese to a rack overnight. Age, or eat, as desired.
Sources for Tome Mold & Lid
The featured tome mold and lid are included in the specially-created and discounted supply kits for the Cultured Dairy & Basic Cheese eCourse. You can purchase a kit at either Homesteader Supply or Cultures for Health, for 10% to 25% savings off retail. You can also buy the tome mold and lid separately, here and here.
I trust and recommend both these merchants — Julie from Cultures for Heath, and Jerri from Homesteader Supply. I have had the pleasure of doing business with them for a few years. Both are responsive, helpful, and kind. Julie and Jerri have each have gone out of their way to source things I need.
I won't argue — having an official cheese press is very nice. 🙂 Next up: I'll review some ready-to-go cheese presses.
Have you made a homemade cheese press, either this style or more dressed up? I'd like to collect your ideas for a future post — so please share!
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