Jack Cheese

Jack Cheese

   This creamy mild cheese is a good starting point for trying out your cheese press – but also, you can make it without a cheese press!  I’ll show both versions. There’s a great quick turn-around on this cheese too – ready in 1 to 4 months.

2 gallons (give or take a bit) whole goat milk

¼ teaspoon mesophilic-thermophilic culture (Danisco MA4002)

½ tsp liquid rennet, dissolved in ¼ cup cool water

1 tblspn non-iodized salt, optional

Heat the milk to 88 deg.  Once it has reached 88 deg, add the culture. When using the powdered cultures, it is a good practice to sprinkle it across the top and wait a few minutes before stirring it in, allowing it to begin its transition to becoming one with the milk and avoiding clots.

Warm the milk a bit to 90 deg.  Set your timer for 30 minutes, allowing the milk to ripen at circa 90 deg.

After 30 minutes, add the rennet (dissolved in cool water).

Let the milk sit at 90 deg for 30 to 45 minutes, waiting for the curd to develop a clean break.

After 45 minutes, check for your clean break.

Cut the curds in small ¼ inch cubes.  First horizontal, then vertical.  Then rotate the pot 45 deg (or just rotate it in your mind!) and cut at diagonal angles, to bisect/trisect the tall ½ inch curds you have just created (demonstrated in lower right pic).

Once you have finished cutting, stir gently off and on over a period of about 30 minutes, while slowly increasing the heat to about 100 deg.

Then maintain the 100 deg temp for about 30 minutes, again stirring off and on to keep the warm curds from matting together.  During this second period, let the temperature climb to 105-107 deg.

The pictures below were taken during this first hour of cooking the curds.

Now you have one more chunk of 30 minutes at the slightly elevated temp – anywhere from 100 to 107 deg is fine.  If you find that the curds are still soft, as in a silken tofu-type texture, opt for the higher temperature.  If you stay within that temperature range, it is very unlikely that you will over-cook the curds.

Hopefully the picture to the left will give you a good idea of what the curds will look like as you are approaching the pressing stage.  It doesn’t give you an idea of the feel though, if this is your first time working with cooked curds. There should be a firm springiness – for lack of a better comparison (someone, help me with one, please!) – like one of the softer-type gummy worms.  Gummy bear firmness is too firm – all is likely not lost, just get the curds out of the whey right then and proceed with the next steps, without the next 30 minutes of cooking.

At this point the curds will be settling to the bottom of the pot with a significant amount of whey on top of them.  Pour this whey into another container, getting as close to the curds as you can without starting an avalanche of curds!  OK, perhaps that is dramatized a bit – but you know what I mean.  If you prefer, you can use a sanitized pyrex cup (or anything) to scoop the whey out.

If you can, save the whey to make ricotta.  Paying attention to how your curds are looking and feeling, allow the curds to sit in the remaining whey at about 100 deg for the next 30 minutes.  To really get the whole 30 minutes in, try not to let the temp go too high.  Here’s where you balance a desire to acidify the curds a bit more (for the smooth but springy texture in your cheese) while not over-cooking the curds.  So as you can tell, if you notice those curds getting more solid, move on to the next step – do not continue waiting.

For home production, you do have some leeway, you just don’t want to take a lot.

  Here’s the point where you can either press the cheese without a mold,
or use the mold.
(OK, who read the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books in junior high?)

 

 

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