In addition to the ingredients and basic concepts of cheesemaking covered in Cheesemaking Basics, Part I, there are some general techniques used in making cheese at home, from start to storage.
The Basic Cheesemaking Process
The basic cheesemaking process usually involves four fundamental steps.
- Warming the Milk
- Adding Starter Culture and Rennet
- Draining the Curd
- Salting and Storing the Cheese
These steps apply to nearly any cheese recipe and are discussed in more detail in our Introduction to Soft Cheeses. However, when you venture into crafting hard cheeses, there are more elements involved in the cheesemaking process...
Advanced Techniques For Making Hard Cheese
Pressing Hard Cheeses
To make hard cheese, once the cheese curds have drained, it is time to put them into the cheese press. If the recipe does not specify pressing time or pressure, apply enough pressure to compress the curds without causing them to squeeze out of the mold.
When the whey stops coming out of the cheese, release the pressure, flip the cheese, restore adequate pressure, and keep an eye on it. Learn more about Pressing Hard Cheeses.
General Rule for Pressing Hard Cheeses: The fallback rule for pressing a hard cheese is 1 hour at about 5 pounds of pressure. Flip and press overnight at 20 pounds. Flip and press again at 20 pounds for 8-10 hours more.
Methods For Preparing Hard Cheese For Aging
Brining or Salt Rubs
Some types of cheese call for soaking in brine or rubbing with salt. For details on how to prepare brine, consult our article, Brining Hard Cheeses.
Below are examples of brined cheeses:
Dry salt rubs can be done very simply, by just sprinkling the needed amount of salt on the cheese wheel, and rubbing it gently over the entire surface of the cheese. Leicester is an example of a cheese requiring a dry salt rub.
Bandaging or Wrapping Hard Cheeses
Bandaging is done to assist proper rind formation and development of full flavor profiles and textures in hard cheese. Consult our article for complete instructions on Bandaging Hard Cheeses.
Aging Hard Cheese
Aging will be perhaps the trickiest and most challenging step in producing homemade cheese, but it is also one of the most important. Specific directions for aging different types of cheese can vary. Humidity, darkness, heat, cold, and air quality all affect your cheese as it ripens. For details on the proper conditions for aging cheese, consult these helpful articles:
Storing Hard Cheeses
Once cheese is aged and ready to consume, it will last longest if kept wrapped and stored properly. Check our information in this article on Wrapping and Storing Different Types of Cheeses to find the method that is best for keeping your cheese as long as possible.