I’ve been making cheese for a few months now, but just soft cheese like ricotta and cottage cheese. I wanted to try making a hard cheese, something that I could age for a while. Making a hard cheese requires pressing it — which you can rig up with supplies from around the house. But since I think this is something that I’d like to do on a regular basis, I decided that I’d make a cheese press. I’m not much of a builder of wooden objects, so it took my friend Paul telling me he also wanted to make cheese to do it.
I decided to construct a “Dutch-style” lever-based press. The advantages of the lever-style (or another press based on taking advantage of gravity) over the screw/spring style press is that the lever can apply constant pressure, even after the cheese has shrunken due to pressing for a while. Not to mention that it would be simpler for me to build with my limited selection of tools and woodworking knowledge. I’m not as mechanically inclined as Paul.
So here it is. I put the press together about three weeks ago, after a trip to Home Depot, a day in the garage, and several cups of coffee, followed by several bottles of homebrew. (And if you’re interesting in building something similar yourself, I’d be happy to provide more details about its construction.):
The following weekend, Paul, his wife Natalie, baby Theo and I got together to make the curds, (mostly) following this basic hard cheese recipe. And after that was done, we put the cheese press into action, pressing the curds for about a day and a half in a mold made out of a PVC pipe with holes drilled in it:
After pressing, I sliced the cylinder into three pieces, salted and bandaged them, and let them dry out in my garage for a week. My kitchen scale’s batteries are dead, so I didn’t weigh it, but based on size alone I think we got about a pound and a half of cheese:
After being dried, I waxed them and set them in my refrigerator to age for a while. The waxing process was rather clumsy and messy, something I’ll have to work on for next time… And I did try some — and it was pretty good. Lightly sour, with a nice cheesy funk. And maybe a bit saltier than your average cheese, which I like. I’m excited to try it in a month or two! I ordered some cultures and other supplies, so I’ll be cheesemaking again very soon.