The Very Fancy French Cheese Cave (cheese recipes and homesteading lists)

My fancy, French cheese cave arrived today. Well, it’s a mini fridge, but it will work the same!

The cheese cave does not take up much space. It has shelves built in. At the very, very lowest setting, the mini fridge will be around 55 degrees. Which just so happens to be perfect for aging cheese.

Use a laser thermometer to check temps often. I turned the dial down a little further.

One must take care to keep a drip pan under the tiny freezer compartment, because it will not get cold enough to stay frozen, so it will drip. That moisture is just the right amount of humidity to age cheese.

Once a week, wipe down shelves with soapy water, taking care to leave no residue that could permeate the cheese. Mold will start having a party, because that is what mold does when it is given ample amounts of cheese and temperate weather. Never mind it, it will not hurt you. Just wipe off mold from aging cheese with salt water (1/2 lb sea salt to 1/2 gallon hot water until dissolved. Keep in refrigerator.) Turn the cheeses over once a week.

Make sure to label the cheese. They all do begin to look amazingly alike after awhile. This one is a Parmesan cheese I made that will be ready next year on my birthday in April. It is already almost three months old and is getting a nice layer of olive oil to keep it from drying out.

I have a hard Italian cheese in the press. A woman reached out to me on Facebook and offered me my dear, dear departed friend and farmgirl business pal, Nancy’s cheese press! Lots of homestead memories right there sitting on the counter. The cheese will go into a brine this evening (same sea salt recipe as above) and then dry for a few days, then go into a red wine bath for another day or two, then will age for three weeks. (for a trip down memory lane, click here) (for the Italian cheese recipe that is no longer in the new additions of Home Cheesemaking, click here)

The soft cheeses, like Chevre, stay in the regular refrigerator and should be eaten in about a week. The cheese cave is for cheese that is aged longer than a week, typically 3 weeks to 9 months. (to learn how to make soft goat cheese, click here)

Even though we just moved onto our new homestead a month ago and are missing key elements to a self sustaining homestead (like goats, sheep, and gardens), there are still plenty of ways to homestead without a homestead while getting a homestead set up! The gal down the street sells me her milk that I make cheese out of. I purchase beautiful yarns (or use what I have!) and am getting ready to crochet some beautiful pieces for fall. I can tend to my chickens, pray that my farm dog will like goats, get the goat fencing put up, break down a processed chicken for supper, and make kombucha and other delicious additions to a healthy, happy homestead. Which now has a very fancy French cheese cave.

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(Note: this particular mini fridge has ended up staying at around 44 degrees. So, I have been experimenting with using it as a cave with ice packs and that seems to be keeping it closer to temperature.)

Cheesemaking (How to Homestead Day 5)

It only takes one moment to change and swirl views and to clarify answers.  One moment.  I have been near out of my mind trying to make a decision over the last nine months or so.  Should I go back to school?  For what?  Do I want a career?  School is upwards of (an additional from last time) fifty grand.  Should I focus on paying off debt instead?  Am I meant to be a teacher, anthropologist, or chef?  A conversation between Emily, Reed, Doug and I and we were pricing out land.  Even though it turns out we will have to wait another one to three years to move forward with that idea, it snapped me into the present.  My confusion should have been the key that I was not on the right path pursuing school.  My career is homesteading.

You can save a lot of money by homesteading, and you can make money if you choose as well, making it a viable career, particularly for a housewife.  There is great serenity to be found slowly stirring a pot of curdling milk and turning it into sharp cheddar.  Or sitting before a fire while crocheting a blanket.  Carefully pulling tiny weeds among the lettuces.  Gathering eggs and throwing scratch.  Hanging clothes on the line.  Piecing a quilt.  The smell of baking bread filling the house.  Serving delicious farmstead fresh food to your family and loved ones.  Yes, this is the life for me and mine.

If you are like me and are homesteading in a city that does not allow goats, then you will need to find a milk share.  I had a choice between goat milk and cow’s milk.  Goat’s milk contains identical enzymes to ours so is easier to digest.  It tastes delicious to us, but some folks prefer the super creamy cow’s milk.  You can use pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) for making cheese, but I am a raw milk gal myself.  Why kill all the nutrients?  That seems silly.

For soft cheeses, you will need nothing more than a pot, a thermometer, and cheesecloth.  Soft cheese is rather forgiving and you can use lemon juice or specific enzymes for making soft white cheese, like chevre.  (You can get these at Cheesemaking.com)

Simply heat a gallon of goat’s milk on the stove slowly until it reaches 86 degrees.  Pour in a packet of enzymes for chevre.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir well and cover for 12 hours.  (I forgot to take a picture.  I also forgot after 12 hours and it ended up sitting for 24 hours!)

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Strain through a cheesecloth, reserving whey.  Whey is highly nutritious.  I gave some to my old cats and my dog.  I reserved some for the cheese to make it the consistency I want.  And some can be saved for bread making as well.  I use a strainer and clothes line clips to secure.  Let sit for 4-8 hours.  (Now, I had to go to bed two hours later so I put the whole thing in the fridge so it ended up sitting for 11 hours.  See!  Very forgiving.)

I only had 1/2 a gallon of milk this time so I used 1/2 packet of enzymes.  I will add lots of fresh herbs from the garden to this and make a lovely cheese for homemade pizza tonight.

If you make a lot more than you need you can roll a small log into plastic wrap, then foil, then pile the logs into a gallon bag and freeze.

To go further, purchase a cheese press, mesophilic and thermophilic starters along with rennet (vegetable or animal), and a great book.  That will get you started.  Cheese making is not as hard as it sounds and you may find yourself coming up with all sorts of delicious creations to serve with a glass of homemade wine!

Here are just a few of my posts with exact instructions.  Easy Homemade Goat Cheese and How to Make Hard Cheese 

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

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20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

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We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

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Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

A Pot of Chai (how to make your own chai tea)

Delicious, hot chai.  Nothing better.  Since I can’t hang out at the Indian restaurant every day slurping down chugs of spicy, sweet sustenance, I figured I better learn how to make it myself.  All recipes are meant to be improved on but this one is pretty darn good.  Mix it with fresh goat’s milk or milk of choice and enjoy it warm.  Add what you like, take out what you like, create, inspire, enjoy.  Chai is perfect for early spring mornings.

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Combine in a pot:

6 cinnamon sticks

2 Tablespoons of cardamom seeds

2 Tablespoons of brown sugar

2 Tablespoons of honey

2 whole nutmeg

2 Tablespoons of coconut

1 bay leaf

1 vanilla bean

1 inch piece of ginger plus 8 pieces of candied ginger

1/2 Tablespoon of whole cloves

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

3 teabags of black tea

8 cups of water

Simmer for one hour

Strain tea into a 2 quart jar.  To serve, combine half chai with half warm milk or to taste.

 

Espresso Lemon Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

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Nothing tastes better than homemade ice cream on a warm day.  I have fond memories of homemade ice cream on the Fourth of July each year.  We took turns cranking that godforsaken handle until the reward was ready.  Creamy, vanilla ice cream that tasted nothing like the store bought imposter!

I was inspired by my own post last week on espresso with lemon peel.  How would ice cream with espresso and lemon be?  Um, heaven, folks.  Heaven.

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Blend 4 eggs with 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of goat’s milk together in a sauce pan and heat over medium low whisking the entire time.

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Whisk until it starts to thicken into a custard and coats the back of a spoon.

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Remove from heat and let cool some.  Add 2 more cups of goat’s milk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

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Add 1 Tablespoon of ground, good coffee, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

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Let cool overnight in refrigerator.

Process according to manufacturer’s instructions depending on what kind of ice cream maker you have.  Doug bought me a hand cranked (so much easier than the one of my childhood though) ice cream maker that we use.

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You can freeze it some more in another container if you would like.  But I rather like soft serve ice cream.

Maryjane’s and my lunch yesterday was this ice cream with cashews, strawberries, bananas, and thin crackers to dip into the last of the melted ice cream.  Lunch is good at Grammie’s house!

The Shy Milking Goat

In all its farm life irony her milk is the tastiest we have ever had.  So creamy, the two tablespoons we manage to get back into the house, that is.

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When we brought her home last year at two days old she healed the wound that occurred when our beloved goat died while giving birth.  Her long legs and big eyes melted our hearts and those around the city as we brought her everywhere with us in the truck.  She went to schools that we spoke at, Walmart, Panera, even the bar (though she was clearly under age) and she brought light to our farm.

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Friday evening my friend, Jill, who gave us Elsa and Isabelle, came over to give Elsa “an attitude adjustment” and showed us how to halter her, let up when she calms down, reward her, milk her out, even if that means a gallon of milk across the stanchion and a very tired human and goat.  It took a long time but she got her milked out.  We are forever in debt to Jill for leading us into the life of goats and for going out of her way to always help us.

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But Elsa soon did not care about the uncomfortable harness.  Her new goal was to train to be a bucking bronco.  My, she would shine in the arena.

Yesterday my friend and current student came to school us.  She has a small dairy down the road.  She and her girls came over to milk Elsa and to show us some tricks.  Elsa won.

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My goals (and budget) did not count on our sweet goat to be a pet.  She does not respect us because we spoil her and do not have an upper hand.  Perhaps she would be like the goat we gave to Lauren last year.  That goat wouldn’t have anything to do with us, would sit in the bucket, and try to run off.  She went to her new home and lets Lauren milk her without a stanchion even!  Maybe Elsa just isn’t our goat.

What to do with Elsa Maria?

How to Make Hard Cheese (step by step and sooo worth it!)

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My first batch of cheese this year was started with Miss Isabelle’s delicious, frothy, rich milk.  I am going to show you how to make a variation of Guido’s Cheese from the book “Home Cheese Making” by Rikki Carroll.  I chose this one to demonstrate because it is forgiving and versatile, a perfect first hard cheese.  I gleefully fed my friends it last summer along with red wine and homemade pickles.  It is truly delightful to make your own cheese.  All winter, after I had run out I begrudgingly bought cheese.  Oh, the horror! (expensive stuff) This year I will produce enough to put up for winter and include it in our milk share from our farm so others can try it too.

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First put 1/2 teaspoon of rennet in a 1/2 cup of un-chlorinated water and set aside.

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Pour 16 cups of milk (2 gallons of cow’s, goat’s, raw, or store-bought) into a large pot and bring temperature to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring often.

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Add one package of Thermophilic starter (I get mine from Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Colorado Springs or Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora or you can order online.) and stir well. Put lid on and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

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Stir in diluted rennet and let sit for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern with a long knife.  It is not an exact science, just slice through the yogurt-like mass every inch or so in one direction, then in the other direction, then kind of sideways.

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Now here comes the part about patience and the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy cheese making, but I do love it and I do love cheese, so this here is a labor of love (for cheese).  Stirring near constantly we have to finagle the stove so that we can raise the temperature one degree every minute for thirty minutes.  Most other cheeses we have to do this in a sink of water and add copious amounts of hot water to achieve this effect, but this one allows us to use the stove and cheat a little.

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Now I am at 120 degrees.

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I prepared a mold with cheesecloth and secured it with clothes pins.

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I place a strainer over another pot (to catch the whey) and pour the cheese into the strainer.

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Pack the cheese into the mold.

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Fold over the top of the cheesecloth and place a 3-4 pound weight on top.  If you are using a cheese press this can just be three inches of water in an empty milk carton hanging from the end of the handle.  You may as well get a cheese press, this activity is rather addicting!  You could use a cantaloupe or something, I suppose, as the weight.  The mold just needs to be a cylinder with holes in it.

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Now, we unwrap the cheese after fifteen minutes or so, turn it over, rewrap, and reset the weight.  The book tells us to do this several times at the beginning then a few more times over 4-6 hours.  The first time I made this I had just gotten the thing wrapped when I heard I needed to be at my son’s wedding three hours earlier than I thought.  So, left it and came back, turned it a few times, it was fine.  This time I had to go to Elizabeth to drop the baby off to her daddy so the cheese got turned three times over 4 hours.  It wasn’t as compact and sharp looking as store cheese, but it would do.  It was pretty tall so I actually cut it in half.  We’ll find out in a few weeks if that was alright to do.  After the four to six hours let sit under the weight for 24 hours.

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Make a brine using one pound of sea salt to one gallon of near boiling water.  Let cool down.  Maybe plan ahead and make it the night before.  I ought to do this.

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Place cheese in brine and turn every so often for 24 hours.

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Place on paper towels and keep in cool, dry place (like the cheese fridge) for 3 weeks, turning a few times a day at first (if you remember!) and then once a day or so after.  After two days you could soak the cheese in red wine for 24 hours then continue the drying process.  After three weeks, it is ready.  Just in time to celebrate summer!

The Kitchen Counter Cheese Cave

I was pleasantly surprised last year that not only did I enjoy making cheese, it also turned out amazing.  I usually do not enjoy tedious tasks that take a long time, but I rather enjoyed the process and definitely the result!  The problem is finding a place to store the wheels of cheese where they can properly age and develop flavors without being eaten by mice or molding.

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The proper temperature for aging cheese is 55 degrees with a bit of humidity.  I thought our old coal chute in the basement in the last house would be good but it was very dusty, had mice, and was sixty-five degrees all summer. I read that one could use a mini-fridge and I borrowed my friend’s.  The problem was that by keeping it on the highest setting to attain fifty-five degrees, the small freezer part kept leaking on the cheese.

I found a refrigerator on Craigslist that was cheap because it didn’t cool any lower than fifty degrees.  Jack pot!  After placing a bowl of water in there with the cheese I created quite a nice environment.  Then we moved.  The jostling of the fridge on the trailer made it begin to work!  It froze the cheese.  When it defrosted,  it began to mold something awful and the chickens were gifted wheels of really stinky cheese.

We tried a cooler with an ice pack.  We tried the back guest room.  No where was quite right.

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I thought about it all winter.  Fifty-five degrees.  What keeps its temperature at fifty-five degrees?  And then I recalled the wine fridge that sat atop the counter at our friends’ house.  Fifty-five degrees for good red wine.  Holy smokes, I was excited.  Wine and cheese at the ready all summer.

We found one at the hardware store on sale, no less.  I am borrowing another cheese press this summer to make more cheese.  I’ll have two going at a at time.  Manchego, a light Italian cheese, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar….oh my.  I’ve missed my own cheese.  Purchasing it in the store is sadly lacking.  The girls are due in four weeks!  Fresh milk is on the way!

Drying Off Isabelle (no more milk till spring and chica has a new boyfriend)

I am a tad envious of those raised on a farm.  They don’t have to text random people that have goats to ask stupid questions.  Like, how the heck do we stop her milk?  I know this should seem like an obvious one but there is an art to all this dairy farming.  Goodness, we don’t want to send our goat into pain, discomfort, mastitis, and who knows what else!  Our dear Isabelle trusts us.

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I first started by looking up on the internet how to dry off a goat.  Easy.  Just start milking once a day, then every other day, then every third day, et cetera.  We easily got her down to once a day.  That was great for weeks but we don’t have any CSA’s anymore and I stopped making cheese for the season so five cups of milk a day is a little overkill.  It certainly fills the fridge up quickly.  I have been avidly making eggnog, but even then, I still have a lot of milk in there.  The freezer is full of milk and neither of us want to go out in the freezing cold to milk so even though we could wait until her third month of pregnancy to dry her off, we have opted to give us all a much needed respite.

We then waited a day before milking her.  Her udder was hard as a rock and Doug’s hands were getting tired getting all the milk out.  You think I am sappy and sensitive?  My husband is worse.  He loves these creatures and wants them to experience zero discomfort.  So we were back to once a day again.

I finally asked a random goat person how to dry off a goat.  She told me the same thing we had already learned so we just went for it.  Every other day.  Check, less milk.  Every third day.  The next time we milk will be Friday which is the fourth day.  She has not been engorged since that first time.  All it took was that first bit of pressure to send the message to her body to ease up on the milk production.

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On Sunday, Isabelle has a hot date.  We ought to put a nice red flower in her hair or something.  You know, distract from the beard.  She is going to his house because we are having trouble figuring out when she is in heat and the hour and a half drive the second we find out she is in heat would be difficult.  So instead she is having a slumber party until she gets pregnant.  Don’t judge.  She makes really cute babies.  Her own baby, Elsa, could be bred this year but we have heard enough folks recommend that we wait a year to give her a chance to fully grow.  Since goats are pack animals, Elsa will chaperone her mother.  A few weeks without goats, that will be strange!  We’ll miss them.

Lots of exciting gossip over here in the goat sector.  We’ll keep you posted!

Making Hard Cheese (an adventure in patience and goat’s milk)

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I plot and wait.  Plan and save up.  Read and wonder.  Then in a matter of minutes decide to buy something.  Now.  I have been dreaming (drooling) over getting a cheese press for a long time.  Ever since Nancy and I were in her kitchen separating cream to make butter and making goat’s cheese some time back. (Read here)  She said she had a cheese press that I could borrow.  When she died her children couldn’t find it and eventually the house was empty and someone has the cream separator and cheese press I had my heart set on!

Alas, we went to the homesteading store and bought one on Father’s Day.  I know, I know, that seems a bit like getting him something I want, but believe me, this will benefit him.  I have a pound and a half of cheddar ready in seven days.  We love cheese.

We were vegetarian for a long time and still don’t eat a tremendous amount of meat.  We were vegan for two years after linking the veal and inhumane factory farm conditions to cheese.  We are so grateful that we have our own milking goats now.  We love milk and we so enjoy various wheels of cheese.  The test was to take all the traditional cheese recipes designed for cow’s milk and make them with Isabelle’s milk.  I am always up for a challenge.

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Hard cheese is so much more time intensive than I imagined.  It starts with heating the milk to a certain temperature according to the recipe, adding the cultures, then stirring again and letting it rest.  During this time, with my first batch of cheddar cheese, I was stirring then set the spoon down, then added the cultures, then picked up the spoon again.  It had a small inch square piece of paper towel stuck on it.  It flew up into the air and in slow motion (well, faster than my brain could react) fell into the swirl of milk and disappeared.  Frantic, I stirred trying to pull the paper towel to the surface to remove it.  I am afraid it was never seen again.  I am not proud of this.  Whomever shares the first slices of cheddar with me next week be warned, there is a tad bit more fiber than I previously planned in said cheese.

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The next step is adding the rennet.  I naturally gravitate towards veg products so I got a vegetable rennet instead of the typical which is made out of calf stomach lining.  Of course I defeated this purpose when I bought Lipase to add to some of the recipes like the Truffle soaked Manchego I just made.  Lipase is made out of the same animal organ.  I wonder if most vegetarians know that cheese is not a vegetarian product.

The cheese sits a bit longer.  Then using a long knife I sliced the set gelatinous orb into half inch squares.  Slice across one way then the other.  A small squared checker board.  Then slice at an angle the same way.  Some recipes require stirring for thirty or more minutes.  Completely against my nature!

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Sometimes it is just time to raise the temperature.  Turn up the burner?  No sir.  Put the pot in the sink and fill with hot water little by little, using a kettle half way through to make hotter water and raise the cheese about twenty degrees no more than two degrees per five minutes.  The laser thermometer makes this more fun and taking the pot out of the water or adding more hot water to achieve desired temperature gives me just enough to do to keep from wandering off.

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The cheese curds are now set into the cheesecloth lined mold and placed under the cheese press.  I had to get real creative with weights.  I use old milk jugs and fill them with water to create which weight I need.  There are lines on the cheese press handle that have a number.  Times that number with the weight of the milk jug to come up with the total weight of pressure.  For instance if I need fifteen pounds of pressure according to the recipe I fill the jug with water until it weighs five pounds and place it on the line that says three.  For fifty pounds I place the Dutch oven with the handle on the 4 line and hope that is 50 pounds!  The pot could be twelve and a half pounds.  I don’t have a kitchen scale that goes up that high.

I have made cheddar, derby, gouda, an Italian softer hard cheese, and manchego.  Tomorrow I will make Swiss.

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I thought I could just place the cheese in the basement to age.  Wrong.  The ideal temperature needed to be between 50 and 55 degrees with 80% humidity.  My basement is 65 degrees with more humidity than upstairs, but I live in Colorado y’all, there is no humidity here.  So I may have had like ten percent humidity.  The answer came in the cheese making book.  Set an old refrigerator on the lowest setting and place a bowl of water at the bottom.  Perfect cheese cave conditions.  I put old wood planks on the plastic refrigerator shelves.  I borrowed a friend’s mini-fridge for this.  She needs it back for her classroom as school is starting soon and I am out of room in there anyway!  I need to find an old fridge.  Red wine keeps perfect in there too, incidentally.  It only needs to raise a few degrees at room temperature to be perfect to pair with the cheeses.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I am following recipes in the “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll.  I’ll let you know how they turn out!