Where did we leave off again? *Reads past blog, laughs at my own jokes.* The last thing we did was admire the “cheddaring” process, which is fusion and stretching of the curds which causes that beautiful strength and elasticity. At the tail-end of that stretching and stacking process, we start to check the acidity levels of the cheese. Too low of a pH in the cheese can cause bitterness and an acidic taste. Too high of a pH level can inhibit the flavor intensity and gives ground to odd flavors. The pH at this stage also affects the texture of the cheddar further down the line. So how we check the acidity levels is MAGIC. Some people may try to tell you that its “math” and “science,” but friends, don’t believe them. Don’t be swayed by their over-simplification of a divine process. HAH. Just kidding, it is like super sciency, I just understand literally 0% of it. You guys are probably wondering, “why is she trying to explain something she knows absolutely nothing about?” Good question. I think my answer to your query would fall somewhere between “BECAUSE I’M WITTY” and “BECAUSE I CAN.” Take your pick.
SO first we collect a little sample of the whey that is being expelled from the curds. It flows down like a little stream to the valve. We have this little measuring thing that we use to get the 10ml we need for the test. But we don’t get a cool little turkey-baster style one, or anything like that. No, that would be too convenient. Instead, it’s a fancy straw, so you suck the whey up into it and then pop your finger on top of it and let some drip out until it reaches the line of 10ml.
Stay on target.
YOU BLEW IT
We put that in our fancy little Petri dish (a hacked off bottom of a yogurt cup). Then we add five drops of this proplylshfmaihfinsdfn acid thing. It’s a “P” word, that’s all I know. Don’t worry about it, it’s not important. What IS important is this little dropper-vial it is in. I just want someone to walk me through their thought process with mending this thing. Literally just popped another dropper cap into the old one and was like “I FIXED IT.” I’m not even joking. And it has been that way for years now. You may be starting to deduce that we are jimmy-riggers around here. Farmers, you know? If it works, it works. That’s all that matters.
Here comes the magic. So into the 10ml of whey and the five drops of the propotatothylensene stuff and then we add NaOH which Google tells me is “Sodium Hydroxide.” Who knew, am I right? I know one of you just said “anyone who took any science class ever” and my answer to you is “BYE.” I was into theater, okay? Don’t judge me. So you know about Sodium Hydroxide, but can you literally *slay* all the songs from Oklahoma? I thought not. So sit down.
When the Sodium Hydroxide hits the whey and propenguinethelyne it goes full 1989 FUSCHIA. We add it bit by bit and when swirled around, it fades to a pale peach and then it is gone without a trace. MAGIC.
We are shooting for a certain amount of Sodium Hydroxide to fade out to know when the pH is at a good point for those stretchy curd blocks to be milled. When it happens, it’s SHOWTIME.
So milling isn’t one of those “hold on, let me go get my phone and take a picture of this” kind of jobs. We actually have to work fairly quickly and throw the curd blocks in the machine to be chopped up, and then we have to move the curd around a bit so it doesn’t get tempted to fuse back together. So here is a picture of our mill after we milled all of it!
Now we dry-salt the cheese curds. Now with a cheese like Gouda, for example, we form the wheels and then give it a two day brine-bath. With cheddar, you just throw salt on it like it’s your dinner plate. Not a little, and not from a mouse-shaped shaker (here’s looking at you Ruth…I mean Mom…) we are talking 7.5 pounds of salt in a bucket. So we salt it and stir and salt it again and stir and stir.
At this point we dose it out into little half-pound containers for your instant gratification, or we pack it in our forms and it presses overnight for some dope cheddar in a few months. This would also be the stage when we would add dried garlic and dill for you herby-folks. And I’d love to tell you that there’s a special way of knowing how much to put in, but every week it is pretty much, “Ummm…I guess that’ll do.”
NOTE: Never forget to up the pressure on your cheese presses. This is a very applicable life lesson. There needs to be PRESSURE on these babies. Like “you are an adult you should be able to make your own dentist appointments, Marlies” kind of pressure. Sorry, I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.
ADULTING IS HARD. CHEDDAR IS COOL. HAVE A GOOD DAY!! Just gotta go wash the dill smell out of my hair and clothes now.