I had hopes of making this a goat gouda, but the scarcity and cost of goat milk around here until very recently had me think twice about that, so we made this cheese with some fresh, local cow’s milk instead.
The process for starting the cheese is similar to that for making the feta: warm the milk (this time to 85 degrees F), then mix in the starter culture (this time, we used prepared mesophilic starter culture, rather than the cultured buttermilk that did the trick for the feta), then thoroughly mix in the rennet and let the milk sit for a couple of hours until the curd is set and we got a clean break.
After the curds had set up, we cut them into 1/2″ cubes, let them sit for 10 minutes to begin draining the whey, and then began to cook the curds. This is where things get difficult for me.
Even with a double-boiler setup and a deep sink filled with cold water, I find it challenging to maintain a constant temperature over a long period of time. I slowly bring the curds up to just below the target temperature (in this case, we needed to go from 85 degrees F to 102 degrees F over the course of about 45 minutes), and then the curd temperature inevitably goes higher than my target temperature and I pull the milk pot out of the double boiler, put it in the sink full of cold water to drop the temperature, then put it on the counter. It works, but it means constantly monitoring the thermometer and juggling the pot from temperature to temperature to maintain a more-or-less consistent temperature where the curds are being cooked enough to release the whey, but not too much so that they harden and turn rubbery (which detrimentally affects both the consistency and acidity of the final cheese).
The next step is where we diverged from all other cheese recipes we’ve tried so far: once the curds were up to temperature, we carefully removed three cups of whey and replaced it with three cups of 102 degree F water. Every 15 minutes (while maintaining that temperature), we repeated the process, until we had removed whey and replaced it with water three times.
At that point, the curds were fully cooked and it was time to drain the remaining whey. (Note: Since this was a hard cheese, I had planned on making ricotta from the drained whey, but I was unsure if it would work with the watered down whey. I saved the whey we drained off and did make ricotta by adding a bit of whole milk. You can see the delicious results here.)
Now it was time to press the cheese. In the past, when we’ve made pressed cheese (paneer and similar cheeses), we’ve used the age-old method of stacking heavy tomato cans or pots of water on the cheese, and that’s what I was prepared to do this time around. The recipe called for two pressings, the first at 20 pounds for 45 minutes, the second at 40 pounds for three hours. My plan was to use a combination of bags of flour and pots of water.
And then M found us a really inexpensive little cheese press on ebay! It’s nothing fancy, and the mold that comes with it isn’t useful because it doesn’t have any drainage holes, but I had bought a hard cheese mold already and it just barely fit into the press. With a few other adjustments and some tinkering, we figured out how to make it work with our mold and then pressing was easy as pie.
After pressing, turning, and then re-pressing the cheese for a total of about four hours, we had a cheese! It was soft and delicate, but it held together and looked like, well, cheese. Honest-to-goodness cheese. We did a little Happy Cheese Dance in the kitchen.
The last step before aging is to brine the cheese by floating it in a salt solution (1.5 cups of salt in one quart water) for 3 hours, flipping the cheese every 45 minutes to make sure it’s evenly coated. The brine initiates the rind development that would continue over the next 25 days in the “cave” (in our case, that’s currently our regular refrigerator). After brining, we patted the cheese dry, and put it on a sushi mat in the refrigerator and crossed our fingers.
For the next 25 days, we turned it daily, and rubbed all the surfaces with a salt water solution. From time to time, a tiny amount of blue/green mold appeared on the rind — just a few spots — but we rubbed that away with the salt water and the mold never progressed beyond that.
This morning, we took the cheese out and sliced into it (having aged it for 26 days).
And we did another little Happy Cheese Dance, because, you know what? It looked and tasted like gouda! It’s mild. It can use some aging to develop the flavor, but it definitely tastes like a real gouda. The rind’s a bit thicker than we’d like, but that’s due to the less-than-ideal aging conditions in our refrigerator.
We made gouda! In our own kitchen! Maybe we really can do this?!
(Before I get too carried away, I should tell you about my recent cheddar disaster, but that’s a tale for another day…)
We’re going to eat half of the wheel this weekend, and we’re going to try waxing the other half and letting it age some more. And I have a feeling it won’t be long until we’re trying our hand at a goat’s milk gouda.
Love being elbow deep in milk? Come join us at Forging Fromage. Check the web site for the current recipes and their due dates. Make the recipe, write about it, then email your link to the contact email listed on the site to be included in the posted round-up.