Homemade Swiss Cheese
Homemade Swiss Cheese
Swiss Cheese is decidedly one of my favorite cheeses to make. It's so exciting to see it swelling up and then smelling the wonderful aroma that develops after just a few weeks! I wish I had begun making cheeses when my kids were still in school because cheese recipes like this make crazy fun science experiments.
Various Cheeses Autumn 2016: Fresh Gouda (top left) Swiss (top right) and two Cheddar (waxed)
Making cheese is time consuming but not as much as you might think. In this recipe I spent about 1 1/2 hours stirring near the stove so I read a book while I did that. Otherwise, I was able to write this blog, do a load of laundry, and many other things while the cheese was doing it's thing on it's own in a pot or in the press. You just have to be around and pay attention to your timing. The feeling of accomplishment and the rewards of real cheese to eat are all worth it! Check out the pictures at the end of the recipe because pictures say a thousand words and there are a few tips in the captions.
I will post this blog before the cheese is ready because it is going to take it's own wonderful time to mature and there are several steps to the aging process. None are difficult but it is cheese and so it will be ready when it's ready.
Inoculating the milk is the first step in cheese making after sterilizing the equipment of course. You can sterilize your equipment by boiling all of it in the cheese pot before beginning or you can use a no rinse sterilizer that you can find easily online or at a brewers supply shop.
Cheese press and 2 lb. cheese mold
Aging Refrigerator or Cheese Cave
2 gallons whole milk, (Not ultra-pasteurized)
1/8 tsp. Propionibacterium
1/8 tsp. bulk thermophilic culture
1/2 tsp. regular strength animal rennet dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
2 Lbs. (non-iodized)salt, sea salt or cheese salt
1 gallon water
Heat the milk to 87°F. Add the thermophilic culture by sprinkling it across the top of the milk and waiting 2 minutes for it to re-hydrate then stir well. Add Propionibacterium (dissolved in 1/2 cup of the warmed milk) and stir for 1 minute. Cover and allow it to ferment for 15 minutes.
Keeping the temperature at 90°F. Stir to homogenize the milk and slowly fold in the diluted rennet. Using an up-and-down motion with your spoon will work the rennet through all of the milk. It also reduces the movement of the milk after the rennet is added. The milk needs to be stilled so that it can coagulate into a curd. Stirring in a circle creates a whirlpool that is difficult to stop.
Allow the cheese to set for 60 minutes at 90°F, or until the whey begins to separate from the curd. You should see a layer of mostly clear whey floating on top of the curd and the curd should be pulling away from the sides of the pot. I guess I’ve never had good enough milk available for the curd to form that strongly but it does form enough and happily, I still get cheese.
Using a long knife, cut the curds into 1/4-inch cubes. First slice all the way to the bottom of the pot in parallel lines across the pot in one direction, then turn the pot ¼ turn and slice all the way to the bottom of the pot in parallel lines across the pot in that direction. You should end up with a checkerboard pattern. I like to let the pot sit for 5 minutes at this point to let the curd firm up a little more.
Stir the curd with a whisk, slicing it into small pieces. The pieces should all be roughly the same size.
Keep the curds at 90°F and stir with the long spoon, working out the whey, for 30 minutes.
Over the next 25 minutes, slowly heat the curds to 120°F, stirring frequently. As you stir, the curds will shrink. Keep the curds at 120°F for 30 minutes. The curds should be small and a handful of curds, squeezed into a ball, should fall apart in your hands.
Pour the curds-and-whey into a large colander lined with cheesecloth, capturing the whey for other projects like baking bread by placing a large bowl or pot under the colander.
Put the curds wrapped in the cheesecloth into your cheese press. Work quickly because you want the curds to stay warm. Press at 10 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.
Using a fresh piece of cheesecloth, flip the cheese and press again at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes.
Repeat this process again, at 15 pounds of pressure for 2 hours, rinsing the cheesecloth in clean, cool water each time and hanging to dry.
Finally, press at 20 pounds of pressure for 12 hours, or overnight.
Mix 2 pounds of non-iodized salt with 1 gallon of cold water to make brine. Place the cheese in the brine and let it soak for 24 hours. I have a great brining container that I bought a sporting goods store that works spectacularly for this. It’s meant for brining chickens or pieces of meats but it brines cheese just as well!
Take the cheese out of the brine and age at 55° to 60°F for one week. Flip and wipe daily with damp cheesecloth dipped in salt water.
Move the cheese to a warm space (68-72°) and close to 80% humidity for 2 to 3 weeks. I will need to put mine into a container to maintain that humidity in my home. Flip and wipe daily with damp cheesecloth dipped in salt water. The cheese should swell and will have a characteristic Swiss cheese smell.
When the cheese has swollen, place the cheese in your aging refrigerator or cheese cave for 12 weeks or more. I’m going to put mine into my aging refrigerator in a container this time to try to keep the humidity closer to 80%. Flip once or twice a week and remove mold with cheesecloth dipped in salt water.