Finishing Jack No Press

Finishing Jack No Press

     These are the final phases of monterey jack cheese using your own improvised pressing method (no pre-made cheese press).  If you want to make your own jack cheese and are missing the first steps, you can find them here.

Line your colander with cheesecloth (butter muslin, etc).  Place it over the sink or another container as I have done above, and ladle the curds into the colander.  A large slotted spoon works well for this, or a strainer.

If you would like to use the salt, here’s where you sprinkle that one tablespoon over the top of the curds, and gently mix it in.  I do like to use the salt, but I have been known to forget it, and still enjoyed the cheese.

Pull your cheesecloth together to create a nice snug mass, the tighter the better. Place it on a flat surface where it’s OK for whey to drain off.  

Twist the top closed and cover with a flat surface that can distribute weight evenly.  Balance a weight of 5 to 10 pounds on top for 30 min to an hour.  Flip the cheese over and balance 20 pounds about 2 hours.

Then flip one last time to press at 20 pounds for about 12 hours.

In the pictures I used our off-the-wall cheese press.  You can use your own weights.  In our 109+ year old house (plus 2 small energetic boys and a spazzy dog), I have come downstairs to some real messes!  So…if you use your own creative set-up (which I think is awesome), I do have a few recommendations.  They may be big duh’s, but just to spare you in case you are like me!  

  • Don’t use anything breakable.
  • If you use water, which is a great route, use something seal-able, like a plastic gallon jug.
  • Set it up over something to catch the curds if the worst case scenario does happen.
  • Don’t trust the balance to “if no one breathes within 20 feet it’ll hold”…test it out with a couple hops!

After the pressing, remove your young cheese from the cheesecloth and set up for a bit of drying and hardening-off.  I use an open container with a bit of craft cross-stitch plastic at the bottom for a tiny bit of breathability.

This “hardening-off” phase can take 1 (in dry weather) to 4 (summer in Iowa!) days.  If you get any of that fuzzy grey mold, promptly attack it with a bit of clean cloth drenched in vinegar.

 

Once you have a dry exterior, it is time to prepare your natural rind, or wax the cheese, and whichever you choose, for the cheese to go into your aging cave at about 52 degrees/high humidity.

Natural Rind

There is the beautiful attraction of a natural rind that you lovingly cultivate with a rub of spices, paprika or cayenne or powdered thyme, with a rich olive oil, with an aromatic beer or wine – the sky is the limit!  Rub your cheese about once a week for the first month of aging, and after that just maintain the rind.  A natural rind requires the humidity level to be more spot-on – too much, extraneous molds appear, too little, the cheese can dry out rapidly.  If you notice any cracks appear, get the humidity around the cheese up by adjusting its micro-climate with a more covered container or slipping it into a large ziploc bag, leaving the bag unzipped or it will be too humid.  To address unwanted mold growth, a firm pastry brush or a clean towel can be used to remove some of all of the mold.  Sometimes this gets all the mold – if it doesn’t, you can dab the mold spots with a brine solution or vinegar (don’t overly-moisten the cheese).

I recommend aging a natural rind jack cheese for a minimum of 2 months…and if you are using a strong-flavored rub, aging up to 2 years can make for a powerful cheese!

Wax

The wax provides a great security blanket to moderate humidity and hold off un-welcome mold growth while saying good-bye to the creative possibilities of the natural rind.

For this flatter cheese, larger in diameter than my mold, it is easiest for me to paint on my wax, which is in a pot as shown below.  If you are going to make a lot of cheeses this size, I suggest trying a flat skillet/saute type pan.

At medium heat, melt your wax – this is a pretty fast process so keep an eye on it!

Paint or dip one side, let it dry, then the other, let it dry.  You will likely need a minimum of 2 coats.

Write a note with the name of the cheese, and most importantly, the date of waxing, place it on one side and wax it on.  This is so helpful because if you are like me, you will quickly lose track of all those dates you thought you’d never forget!

Pop the cheese in your “cave” (aging fridge), and turn it over whenever you can, hopefully at a minimum once a week.

Age for 1 to 4 months.  You can take a test nibble by slicing a tiny piece and then re-sealing with wax to continue aging.

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