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Making Cheese at Home #6 Lancashire Style Cheese

This is another great beginners cheese as you don’t need any fancy ingredients. Instead of using starter cultures that you have to pre-prepare, it makes the most of cultured products that are readily available at the supermarket – natural yoghurt and cultured butter milk.  Before you buy these products check the list of ingredients to make sure the brand you are buying does in fact contain live cultures.

This cheese was also another opportunity to use my cheese press, and the first cheese that I would consider required ‘proper’ aging.  As mentioned in my initial round up of my cheese making adventures, some cheeses require months of TLC before they can be sampled. Whether that is washing, turning or simply just sitting and maturing, some cheeses can be otherwise engaged for the best part of a year before they are ready to taste. The last thing I want is to be tending to something for that long only to find it is then inedible so I thought I’d start with the Lancashire style cheese that has a relatively short aging time.  The recommended aging time varies according to which recipe you look at, with some suggesting that Lancashire can be eaten immediately.  I tried that. I was disappointed; so I was determined to leave this one for a minimum of one month.

This is another cheese that was good enough to make it to the cheeseboard, but even after aging, the cheese was a little subtle for my cheese palate. It was, however favoured by some of my chief tasters who are not so keen on the stronger flavoured cheeses.  If I had the patience it would probably benefit from an even longer aging time… maybe next time…

As I don’t live in Lancashire, I can’t really call this a Lancashire cheese, so true to my promise to name my cheeses, here is the recipe for my Winstonshire Cheese, adapted from a recipe by Paul Peacock.

Winstonshire Cheese (makes about 650g)

4 litres unhomogenised full cream milk
100g natural yoghurt
100ml cultured buttermilk
1 ml calcium chloride dissolved in 30ml boiled, cooled water
1 ml rennet dissolved in 30ml boiled, cooled water
3/4 teaspoon cheese salt

Add the butter milk and yoghurt to the milk and stir with an up and down motion for 1 minute to ensure they are thoroughly combined. Heat milk yoghurt and buttermilk to 30 degrees Celsius gently over 20 minutes. Add the calcium chloride solution and stir well to combine for 1 minute.  Add the rennet solution and stir well to combine for 1 minute, all while maintaining the temperature of the milk at 30 degrees.  Cover and leave to set for 45 minutes to 1 hour, maintaining the temperature at 30 degrees.  Check for a clean break after 45 minutes. My curds weren’t quite firm enough so I left them for another 15 minutes. Cut the curd as described here into 1cm cubes.  Stir gently for 15 minutes then allow to sit for 30 minutes, all the time maintaining the temperature at 30 degrees.

After 30 minutes, the curds should have sunk to the bottom of the pot. Ladle off the whey until you can see the curds sticking out of the top of the whey.  Reserve the whey to make ricotta if desired.

Set a colander over a bowl and line the bowl with the butter muslin. Ladle the curds into the muslin and allow the fast flow of the whey to drip into the bowl (about 5 minutes) then salt the curd, gently stirring the curds with your hands to evenly distribute the salt.

Transfer the muslin with the curds into the cheese mould and cover the top of the curds with the tails of the muslin.  I find I often have a lot of extra muslin, so I have started to only put one edge over the curd, otherwise, if I bunch it all in I end up with a dent in my cheese.  Put the pressing plate on top of the muslin, then set up the press as described in the instructions.  I have a press from the County Brewer.  With their model, each turn of the nut is 1.5kg of pressure. For this recipe I require 10kg of pressure for 48 hours so I set up the press and gave it six and a half turns.

Set up the press on the draining board of a sink so that the whey can drain away.  Leave at room temperature for 48 hours to press.  I find the pressure in the press slackens off as the whey is expelled from the cheese, so every few hours I reset the press to it’s original pressure, in this case 10kg.  I also turn the cheese half way through pressing for even distribution of whey.  Well actually I like to check how it’s going so in reality I probably turned the cheese twice a day, for 48 hours.

Once pressed the cheese is ready to age.  I was not clear on the best way to age the cheese, as I have many recipes that are all slightly different, so I decided to go for the easiest option for me, which was to vacuum pack and age in my cheese cave (AKA the old fridge) which I keep at 12 degrees Celsius.  The fridge should also be at a high humidity (80% +), however I can’t get mine that high, so I have to take what I can get which is usually somewhere between 60-70%

The cheese was wrapped and placed in the fridge for 1 month and flipped daily.  After a couple of weeks I removed the cheese from the vacuum pack and drained the whey which had been extracted from the cheese under suction.

The cheese was edible after one month, but still quite subtle in flavour.  Despite the fact that the end product looks very similar to the Queso Fresco, it is in fact an entirely different cheese with a firmer, crumblier texture and although subtle, it does have a distinct, sharper flavour.

Enjoy a slice on your favourite cheese biscuit with a little bit of fig or quince paste.

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