Tuesday, December 26, 2006

First week of kindergarden

I was a bit worried, leaving the cheese for two whole days, unattended for the holidays, but I have returned home and he seems to be doing quite well. He sufficiently soiled the towels in his fridge, from the tears dripping down onto it, so I have replaced them. (I remembered to wash them straight away, with a little baking soda in with the soap to alleviate the downright unpleasant smell.)

It is hard to believe that it has been 5 whole weeks that the cheese has been in existence! Now is the time to start flipping him only once a week, but he still seems pretty soft. When I pick him up, his sides give way to my fingers. He springs back immediately, but I am fearful of allowing him to sit on one side for too long. (I do not want him to heave to one side like before.) Erring on the side of caution, I am going to flip him every other day for the next week, and see how he does.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Deck the halls with balls of cheese

No news is good news. La cheese is doing well, a few bits of straw keep sticking to his side, but besides that all seems in order.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Loosing weight

The tears on cheese’s side are becoming thicker, and slightly tan in hue. The lard and muslin feels a little loose near the top and bottom seams, which makes sense if the cheese is tearing and releasing some liquid, but I am not sure if this is a bad thing for his overall health. (When I wrapped him, everything was very taut.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Official stinkage

I have been trying to find accurate ways to describe the changes to senior formage, but I am now at a loss. Even in my cold medicine haze and stuffy nose, I have been attentive to the cheese. I open of the fridge for his daily flip and I am hit by a wall of funk. Everything that it has been smelling like, lard, salt marsh, rotten fruit cocktail, well its just gotten a whole lot stronger. Not putrid, but lets just say that I am not looking forward to opening the door tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

There is a reason people kept dairying rooms

Every morning before I leave for work I water the cheese and the Christmas tree. (The Christmas tree has been a recent addition to this daily routine.)

I have an open water bottle that I fill at night and let sit out, to allow most of the chlorine to evaporate. (Chlorine kills bacteria; good for people drinking tap water, bad for cheese that needs bacteria to taste yummy.) In the morning, I dribble a little water on each towel to make sure they are nice and damp.

After a fine evening with good friends, tasty sweet potato fries and delicious beer, I came home to my room filled with ode-de-cheese. There was a sticky, smelly puddle under the fridge. (Apparently I was a little heavy-handed with the “watering” this morning and it oozed out onto the floor with all its cheesey goodness.)

After some elbow grease and an hour of airing out, the room is inhabitable again.

In other cheesetastic news, the “tears” seem to be lessening, or at least becoming thicker and moving more slowly down the side of the cheese.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Going bad is so good

I think I have identified what the cheese now smells like… salt marsh, lard, a wee hint of cheese and slightly rotting fruit cocktail (specifically the kind with the bright pink cherry halves that my mom used to serve with cottage cheese after we watched Sesame Street, just before Mr. Rogers).

Cheese friends nod and say “that’s good” when I tell them about this new fruity development. But these same people also look very surprised and slightly perplexed while nodding.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Washing the washer

I changed the towels hanging in the fridge, keeping it nice and humid. I forgot to wash them right away. They have now tainted the washer with an awful funk. Three loads of laundry later and it still smells.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Fruit Loopy

The cheese smells a bit fruity. I do not know how else to explain it. I have no idea if this is good or bad.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Noes Knows

It finally smells like cheese! I opened the fridge for cheese’s nightly flip, and out wafted the glorious sent of cheese! Not ode-de-Kraftsingle, no this was the same salt marsh and lard odor, but with a noticeable hint that something was fermenting. It did not smell bad, but if I opened up anything in my kitchen fridge and it smelled similar it would be in the garbage, not my belly. I think this a very good sign.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Do cry for me, argenchessia!

For those who were waiting with bated breath about cheese’s spontaneous weeping, you may let out a sigh of relief. A very kind cheeseperson informed me that it is normal. (The extra moisture inside the cheese has to go somewhere as is dries.) This was extra reassuring because more droplets have been forming since the rewrapping. I am going to take this a good sign that everything is working well, but for added insurance I have stepped up the re-dampening of the towels to make sure the humidity inside the fridge stays up near 80% so the cheese doesn’t dry out too fast.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Cheeseball got his first note!
The fine gentleman who drops off fresh produce on the back stoop left this:

Naturally, like any proud parent, I hung it on his fridge.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Papa's got a brand new bag

I have calmed down a bit, cheesepuff is looking well. (A little lop-sided, but who am I to pass judgment.) I took him back to the O.R. and it was an intense hour and a half. After taking the bandages off it looks like he is going to make it. His insides are where they belong and besides a little drying out at the top, he still smells like salt marsh and hopefully will make a full recovery.

I set to work re-bandaging him, slowly this time. I employed the “mummy” method of adding extra strips across his top and sides to secure the muslin to his body, then slathered him in lard. Hopefully it will keep out air and mold and he will be able to make it to a ripe old age.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Cheesie was not looking well this afternoon; he was leaning to the side. I acted fast, rushed him downstairs to the operating room (aka the kitchen). After removing his bandages I saw the situation was worse than I thought… he has a hernia! His side has a crack and his middle was pushing out. (I was too upset to photograph, so just use your imagination here.)

At first I thought I could repair him, but his innies kept becoming outties. I re-wrapped him up, and returned him to his straw bed to rest, on his wound. Fingers crossed he will be alright in the morning.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One week birthday!

Cheese is one week old today! Good news for him, great news for me... I only have to flip hime once a day instead of twice.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Feast

My contribution to Thanksgiving this year almost trumped the bird.

Using the ricotta I made from the cheese's whey, I made pumpkin ravioli... from scratch.
The process completely took over my mother's kitchen for 3 hours (she forgave me once she tasted them!). They were served up with mushrooms and sage sauteed in brown butter. Everyone had seconds.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Crying?! There's no crying in cheesemaking!

He has started weeping. Four little beads of light-yellow water have formed around his middle. I am not really sure what this means or how to make it stop. (I have consulted a cheese expert and am anxiously awaiting a response.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More steam in the sauna

I was a little worried about the humidity level. For the cheeseman to grow up sharp and strong he needs at least 80-90% humidity. Some fine folks in Vermont have suggested adding moist dish towels. So now he has damp curtains lining his door.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The neighbor friend came back over to assist with the donning of the cloth. With a pot full of lard and some sterilized muslin, we were in business.

First step, unmolding:

You can see how much whey was forced out. When I put the curds in, they were slightly overflowing.

The unveiling...

Ooooh! Look how sweet and round he is! Smells not like cheese at all; a bit like the ocean or salt marsh.

Dipping the muslin in the lard. (Note, by this point I burned my fingers twice.)

Ok, here is where things got tricky…

Someone decided to be difficult. I could not get the cloth to lie flat, no matter how much lard I rubbed on. Drastic times call for drastic measures and there was only one answer… duct tape.

Now that would be complete nonsense, but tape was sort of the answer. We made a series of “belts” of fabric to wrap around the body to secure each piece. And it worked!

To mimic a cheeseroom or natural cheese-aging cave, I'm using a refrigerator, set to its warmest setting. (I borrowed it from a fellow who also is fond of cheese, as you can see by all of the fun stickers.)

Here he is, snuggled into his new bed to rest for 6 months.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Not quite ready

I rushed home with lard and muslin all set to dress senior cheese in his first duds. Sadly the man was not ready. He was still loosing a substantial amount of whey. (He has been switched out of the laundry basket to a towel on the floor.) So I added so more weight to the press to help expel the extra liquid.

The force is strong with this young one. He literally broke the mold; snapped the L-bracket right off the cheese press! Some slight adjustments later, we were back in action, pressing-a-whey!

One person's trash...

After grabbing a tasty dinner, it was time to tackle the left over whey. Bringing it to a slow and steady boil, slowly but surely it turned into ricotta.

It took a lot of skimming and straining, but it ended up being just over 1 1/2 cups of cheese.

It is hard to see in this picture, but it's a lot darker than ricotta you can get in the red checked tubs from the grocery store... almost the color of light butter. (I am guessing this is from the addition of annatto)

It tastes pretty great too! Creamy, with a hint of peanut flavor.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Birthday Party!

Cheshire cheese is usually dyed yellow with annatto. For some reason I thought it would be a lot more "authentic" to grind the seeds myself (instead of buying ground annatto, for just a few pennies more).

Here is about 20 seeds and a teaspoon of water that I tried to grind to release their orange-red, resin coating.

It started for form a paste, but it tasted bitter. So I decided to thin it out with some water.

In the mean time, I started bringing all the milk up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

(It took every pot in the house)

Here is the rennet & strained annatto water.
(Rennet is the enzymes from the 4th stomach of an animal that has not started consuming solid food. There are vegetable rennets and synthetic rennets available, but I am using liquid veal rennet.)

So the milk never quite reached 100 degrees, but it was pretty close. It was poured back into the original 5-gallon bucket (after being sterilized) and the rennet and annatto water was added.
45 minutes later, its time to cut the curd.

The curd is a lot softer than I expected. It should be holding its square/rectangular shape, and the whey should be less milky, a lot clearer with a tinge of grey or green. So I let it rest for 10 minutes to see if they curds would set up.

They did not set up. So began the straining processes. Employing some extra cheese cloth and a colander, slowly but surely the curds separated from the whey.

Then came the salting.

And flipping the curds to disperse the salt.

Then I lined the cheese mold with cheese cloth and started loading in the curd. They didn't all fit in at first, but after a bit of pressure, they all made it in.

The cheese mold, loaded into the cheese press, stayed in my laundry basket lined with towels to catch the whey. Every hour I added weight to the arm (the white wire on the right side of the photo) to increase pressure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


To make cheese, you have to make milk go bad. (The milk has to acidify so when the coagulant is added the enzymes can do their magic and turn milk into curds & whey.)

I thought about buying a commercial start (a powder or liquid you add to milk to acidify the milk and add flavor) but then I found out there are plenty of bacteria that will spoil milk... in the air.

I sterilized a 5-gallon bucket and poured all the milk into it. I share the kitchen with a kitten, who would have loved for me to leave the milk within her domain, but it seemed safer in my bedroom. (The milk has to stay uncovered at room temperature for the bacteria in the air to get in and make the milk sour.)

5 gallons of milk weighs 42 pounds. 42 pounds of sloshing liquid is as easy to get up flight of stairs as a toddler who disagrees with his bedtime. You go left, it goes right. (Sadly, no one was around to photodocument the hillarity.)

Meeting the Milkwoman

Heavily caffeinated, I set out bright and early to get organic, raw milk. When I got to the farm I met a very nice woman who showed me her barn, milking room and I was even so lucky that I even got to meet the cows. (One even licked my hand!)

The milk was from Ayrshires and Holsteins, fed a diet of organic hay and oats. The cows were milked just before I got to the farm, so their milk was still warm!

When I got home, I popped the top of one of the bottles and poured a tiny glass. I was expecting something magical, but was really rich, thick milk, and it tasted a little bit like fresh cut grass.

I put all 10, half gallon bottles, to rest in the fridge till cheese-making-time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

In the begining

It was a warm day in autumn 2002 when the seed was planted. A tour guide at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House mentioned that Elizabeth Porter Phelps, one of the previous residents, made cheese.

Coming across a few references to Elizabeth’s cheese and cheesemaking, made me wonder what it might have tasted like. And thus, the Cheese Log Blog was born.

The CLB chronicles my attempt at recreating 18th century Massachusetts, Cheshire-style, cloth-bound cheese.