Cheshire Cheese recipe

This is one of my favourite cheeses in the entire world and certainly my favourite English cheese. I love the crumbly texture, acidic flavour and delicate but delicious aftertaste of this cheese; I used to prefer the coloured version, now I'm not so sure. There is no difference in flavour between the colours other than the treat for the eye, so whichever you make, enjoy it.

One of the benefits of making small weight cheeses is they mature more quickly so you can enjoy them rather than waiting the 12 to 20 months it takes for large cheeses. Cheshire is an ancient cheese, farmers wives made this cheese before the Norman invasion, traditionally the cows providing the milk for this cheese grazed on salt marshes which enhanced the flavour but slowed the maturation process.

Ingredients:

10 Litres of Cows Milk, I normally use Pasteurised semi-skimmed milk, but for this cheese I think it has to be full fat milk.

½ teaspoon of Mesophillic starter.

½ teaspoon or 10/15 drops of Rennet which is diluted in ¼ cup of boiled then cooled water.

5 drops of Annato if desired to colour the cheese.

2 tablespoons of cheese salt.

Method:

Put the milk and starter into the pan you use for cheese making; gently warm to 30°C (86°F) then let it stand at temperature for about an hour. If you want to use the Annato, do it now and stir it in well using a slotted spoon. The milk will now look lovely and creamy.

Add the Rennet and mix it in well using the same slotted spoon and leave to set until a clean cut can be achieved.

Once set, cut the curds into cubes about 1 cm or 1/3 inch in size, slowly raise the temperature in the pan to 35°C (90/91°F), allow the curd to knit or settle at the bottom of the pan for about 30 to 45 minutes.

Drain off the whey by ladling out or gently pour through a cheese cloth lined colander.

Cut the remaining curd into 10 cm or 4 inch squares and put to the back of a large roasting tin which is set at a slight angle to allow for drainage. Move the blocks of cheese around i.e. front to back etc. every 15 minutes for the next 2 hours. Once drained, move the curd back into the empty pan or into a plastic bowl, gently break up the curds once again into 1cm sized pieces, gently mix in the salt by hand.

Line a 1 kilo mould with cheese cloth, place a follower on the top and press at 5 pounds for 12 hours, then add a further 5 pound for 12 hours.

Turn the cheese and reintroduce to the mould and apply 10 pounds of weight. After another 12 hours the cheese should be formed enough to remain in the mould without the cheese cloth, the 10 pounds of weight should help smooth out the cheese.

By now, everyone should know that I am a natural rind person, however, for this cheese I paint on some plastic cheese coating (fig 1); however, I am told that lard can be rubbed on the cheese and this works well if the cheese is placed in a box in the fridge.

Eat when you fancy, I would leave it for a month or longer so as to allow the cheese to start maturing.

Figure 1