Finishing Jack Cheese with Press

Finishing Jack Cheese with Press

     These are the final phases of monterey jack cheese using a pre-made cheese mold and a cheese press.  If you want to make your own jack cheese and are missing the first steps, find them here.

Line your cheese mold with cheesecloth (butter muslin, etc). Scoop the curds into the mold.  If you would like to use the salt, here’s where you sprinkle that one tablespoon into the curds, trying to distribute it evenly between scoops.  I do like to use the salt, but I have been known to forget it, and still enjoyed the cheese.

Fold the extra cheesecloth over the top, place your follower, and press at 5 pounds pressure for 30 minutes.

After the first 30 minutes, remove the cheese from the mold, carefully peel back the cheesecloth, turn the cheese over, re-wrap, and press at 15 pounds for about 12 hours.

Remove the cheese from the press and place it on plate to air-dry, to harden the exterior a bit.

I like to use a piece of cross-stitch craft plastic to allow the cheese to breathe on the bottom.  The length of time to dry off the exterior can vary depending on the climate, both outside and in the house!  Watch for 1 to 4 days and flip the cheese over at least every 12 hours.  This stage is challenging in very humid weather, and if you get a bit of grey fuzz, pour a bit of vinegar over a clean cloth and wipe it off.

Here’s a good comparison below, between the cheese fresh out of the mold and after it’s hardened.  You can see the difference in color, but also in size.

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.

The size of this cheese dips nicely into my pot of wax, so I prefer to dip this cheese (rather than brushing on wax).

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

Dip one side, let it dry, then the other, let it dry.  You will likely need a minimum of 2 coats.  If the wax doesn’t meet in the middle, as pictured, dip the cheese on its side and roll it a bit (but don’t drop it in the wax!).

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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