Sticky date cheese
8 litres whole ‘farmhouse’ milk ● (not homogenised) ½ tsp mesophilic culture ½ tsp calcium chloride 0.7ml microbial rennet or ● ½ tsp calf rennet 100ml cooled, boiled water 20g or 1½ tbsp plain salt date mix (recipe below left)
How to make 1
Warm the milk in a bain-marie to 30°C over 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the mesophilic bacterial starter (I use Flora Danica) and stir slowly for 1 minute to mix in. The dried culture will not completely disappear and will look like freckles on the top of the milk for a while. 2 Place a sanitised lid on the pot and leave it to stand for 40 minutes. Maintain the temperature at 30°C – add a cup of boiling water to the outer pot of the bainmarie if it falls. 3 Dilute the calcium chloride in 50ml of cooled, boiled water, then add to the milk and stir gently to combine for 30 seconds. Dilute the rennet (I use Hannilase microbial rennet) in 50ml of cooled, boiled water and stir gently to combine for 1 minute. Put the lid on the pot and leave undisturbed for 40 minutes to set. Again, maintain the temperature at 30°C and add a cup of boiling water to the outer pot of the bain-marie if it cools. 4 Check that it is well set – it should look like a milk jelly – then use a long-bladed knife to cut directly across the middle of the pot, right to the bottom. You should have sharp edges to the cut curd with a lemon juice-coloured whey just showing in the cut. If the edges of the cut are too soft and floppy and close over, check the milk temperature, warm it up to 30°C if required by adding hot water to the outer pot of the bain-marie, and leave it an extra 5-10 minutes, then try again. 5 Once set, cut into 5mm-wide strips. Cut boldly instead of tentatively here, until you end up with small pea-sized cubes. If you can’t reach the curds at the bottom, bring them to the top with a sanitised spoon and cut them to size. The curd is very soft at this stage so be very slow and gentle when moving the curds to the top. 6 Leave to rest for 5 minutes to help to firm the curd a little. 7 Use a sanitised cup or ladle to remove enough whey to show the top of the curd. 8 Warm the curds and whey to 31°C over the next 60 minutes. This is a tiny increase in heat so I just add a little hot water to the outside pot every 15 minutes or so. Stir very gently every 5 minutes to stop the curds clumping and to expel more whey. 9 Once it has reached 31°C, cover and leave for a further 40 minutes, again maintaining the temperature and adding hot water to the outer pot of the bainmarie if required. 10 After 40 minutes, the curds should be firm and rubbery. Pour off the whey – put a large, sanitised colander in the sink and pour the curds through it very gently. Be careful as the pot will be heavy when you lift it off the stove. Put the drained curds back in the pot. 11 Add the warm date mixture and stir through. Leave to sit for 5 minutes, keeping it warm – replace the lid, and wrap the pot in a towel or add hot water to the outer pot of the bain-marie. 12 Drain the whole mixture through the sanitised colander again. Return the drained mixture to the pot. 13 Prepare your small moulds by lining them with sterilisedised cheesecloth – damp, boiled, open weaveave dishcloths are a good alternative. Get yourself ready for the next two steps as youu don’t want to waste time - the curds need to quickly go into the mould and you need to start the pressing ng process while they are still warm. rm. 14 Scoop the curds urds into the prepared mould, d, pulling up the lining as you go so there are no wrinkles. Cover your follower with another piece ece of sanitised cloth and place on top of the curds. Press usingng a 1kg weight for 30 minutes. 15 Remove the cheese from the mould. Removemove the cloth and use it to reline ine themould.the mould. The cheese shoulduld stay in one piece at this s stage, but be gentle as the curdsrds will be only just knitted together. ether. Turn over the cheese and place it back into the lined mould, replace the cloth-covereded follower and press at 2kg for 12 hours. 16 Remove the cheese from the mould. The outside should be closed and smooth with no holes showing. If it is still showing some holes or rough areas, repeat Step 15, but increase the weight to 3kg and press for 3 hours.
Unmould your cheeses and sprinkle half the salt on top, then turn it over and repeat with the other half. Place the salted cheese on a sanitised baking tray or wooden board and air-dry at room temperature (approximately 20°C) for two days, turning it once in this time. The outside should become fairly dry, firm and bright yellow. Protect from bugs and the elements using a mesh food tent.
Cure at 12°C and 85% humidity for a month in your curing place. It can then be eaten, but the flavour improves after two months, and is even better after a year. n