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.