Monterey jack from scratch #1

Yield: 4 Servings

Measure Ingredient
2 cups Whole milk
½ cup Buttermilk
6 quarts Whole milk (or 4 qt whole milk and 2 qt nonfat)
\N \N Cheese rennet (from health food store or other source: see below)
\N \N A thermometer which will register from about 80 F to 120 F in easy-to-read increments
\N \N A large stainless steel or enameled pan (mine holds 8 liters)
\N \N A larger pan in which the first one will fit, double boiler style
\N \N A long metal spoon
\N \N A long-bladed knife
\N \N A colander
\N \N Freshly washed cheesecloth or muslin (I use a linen dishcloth)
\N \N A piece of string
\N \N Table salt
\N \N A flat pan, such as a pie pan
\N \N A brick (for use as a weight: I use the weights from my husband's weight bench)
\N \N Optional: plain paraffin wax for coating the




(24 hours before cheesemaking:) Make the culture. -- In a 3- to 4-cup jar with a lid, both just rinsed with boiling water, combine 2 cups whole milk and ½ cup buttermilk, both freshly opened. Cover: hold at 70-75 degrees F for 24 hours.

(The day of cheesemaking:)

Pour the whole milk for the cheese into an enameled or stainless steel pan (not under any circumstances cast iron). Set the pan on a rack, or on top of jar lids, inside the larger pan, making sure there's at least an inch of space between the inner and outer pans. Warm the milk slowly to 86 degrees F. Add ¼ cup of the starter. Maintain the temperature at 86 degrees F for 1½ hours.

Prepare the rennet: If you're using rennet tablets, crush the recommended number of tablets in 1 cup of cold water, and add to the milk. If you're using liquid rennet, mix it in ¼ cup of water (or the amount directed) and add to the milk. In each case, use the amount of rennet recommended for 4 quarts of milk. (I know, you'd think it would be six, but that's what the directions say.)

Add the rennet to the milk. Stir carefully for 1 minute: then maintain temperature of 86 degrees for another hour, leaving the pans undisturbed as the curd sets.

At the end of this additional hour, use the long-bladed knife to cut the curd, straight down from the top to the bottom of the pan, then the same again but crosswise: then the same again, diagonally.

Begin increasing the temperature of the curd, taking 30 minutes to bring the temperature up to 98-100 degrees F. As curds firm, "circulate" them with spoon every 5-10 minutes. DO NOT STIR -- just push gently. When ready, a curd dropped 12 inches holds its shape and doesn't spatter.

When curds are properly firmed, line a colander with 3-4 layers washed cheesecloth and set the colander in the sink. Pour the curds and whey (the pale, separated-out liquid) into the colander. Let drain briefly, then rinse curd gently with a stream of tepid water.

Mix salt to taste into the curd (add salt, work it in, check the taste, add more if neccessary). 1 ½ to 1 ¾ tsp. salt seems to be plenty for this kind of cheese. Note that the flavor will be *very* bland if no salt is added.

Pull up the corners of the cheesecloth to make a bag: twist to make a tight ball, and squeeze to force out additional liquid. Tie the top of the bag shut with the string. Set the ball, with the loose fabric spread out on the bottom, in a wide pan. Set another flat dish on top of the cheese, with your brick of weight in it. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator to press and extract liquid.

After being pressed for 24 hours, the cheese is ready to eat. It can also be stored longer (though most of the time it seems to get eaten immediately...). To store, dry it unwrapped in the refrigerator: after 8-10 days it will develop a dry rind of a darkish cream color. Or you can wax it -- in this case, as soon as you unwrap the cheese, wipe it with acidulated water (1 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar) and pat dry: then chill cheese, and dip into melted paraffin wax until ⅛ inch thick shell builds up.

Posted to CHILE-HEADS DIGEST V4 #151 by Peter Morwood & Diane Duane <owlsprng@...> on Oct 07, 1997

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