The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
When one thinks of foods related to wine, the first one that normally comes to mind is Cheese! If you are a keen winemaker, then you are already quite a long way down the road to becoming a successful home cheesemaker. What could possibly be better than serving up homemade cheese alongside a glass of homemade wine?
Aside from the virtues mentioned above, you also need a few bits and bobs.
Of course, you also require a great deal of milk. It takes a lot of milk to make cheese. 5 litres of milk makes around a half kilo of cheese. You can use skimmed, semi or full fat milk - it doesn't matter, it just makes different types of cheese. You can use cow milk, sheep or whatever you have.
Cheesemaking is simply described as adding cheesemaking culture to the milk, turning the milk into curds and squeezing the curds to get the water out and then squashing it until it becomes cheese shaped. Leave to mature.
There are probably as many different types of cheese as their are types of wine. Hard cheeses, soft cheeses, moldy cheeses, runny cheeses. I've even heard of cheese made from pig's milk. Anything goes. Most types of cheese can be produced at home if you know what you are doing, however for now we will just shoot for something that looks and tastes like cheese - a simple medium hard cows milk cheese.
The amount of cheese you make in one go is up to you. It depends how large your equipment is. I suggest starting with about 4 litres of milk. Pasteurised milk should be left in the fridge for a day or two after purchasing otherwise it doesn't set very well.
First we warm up the milk to about 25C and add the dose of cheese starter culture as dictated by the packet instructions. Leave it to ferment for about half an hour, and then add a few drops of cheesemaking rennet as dictated by the pack.
Leave the pan of milk in a warm place (>20C) free of all vibration for the curds to form. You can tell when it is properly set (about 2 hours) by sticking your finger in it and curling/lifting the finger up - if the curds break cleanly they are ready.
With a long knife try and chop the curds up into lumps. Turn the heat back on low and over the next half an hour heat the mixture up to about 38C and keep swirling the curds around with you hand.
Once heated, remove from the heat and give it all a good circular swirl and leave for ten minutes for the curds to sink. Then ladle out the liquid (called whey) and dispose of it. (NB if you are dead keen, use the whey to make ricotta). Pour the curds through a colander and plonk it into the baking tray. Squash the curds down a bit and keep tipping away the whey that comes out. Cut the curds into blocks and pile the up a bit and leave gaps between them. Leave the try slightly inclined at an angle in a warm (>25C) place for half an hour to drain.
Once you are bored of draining the whey out, mill the curds up into 1/4 inch bits and tip on about 20g of salt. Mix this in well. Line the cheese mould with cheesecloth and pack in the curds. PRess the whole lot very gently for about 4 hours. Then increase the weight to about 20lb pressing down on the cheese for 48 hours.
After this time remove the cheese (it should look like a cheese now) from the mould and the cloth. Leave it in a cool dry place for a week, turning it each day. After a week a dry crust will have formed on the cheese. Rub salt over the cheese and coat in the wax.
LEave a small cheese like this 2 months before sampling. Larger cheeses take longer to mature. Like wine, it improves with age.. up to a point!
Making cheese is a great sideline for winemakers - especially in the winter. The pretentiousness value of serving up homemade cheese with your own homemade wine is very large indeed.