Using Molds Pressing Our Presses
Molds are specific for different types of cheeses. Mold sizes and shapes have been set by history and history has its reasons. The 'height to width' and 'surface to mass' ratios will greatly affect such things as ripening, the ability of the cheese to be handled, and even distribution. For example, a washed rind cheese or soft ripened cheese that matures from edge to center would not age properly if too thick. If too wide, it would be very difficult to handle.
1. I just purchased one of your molds with a follower. How do I use it?
This mold (small mold or large mold) is pretty straight forward to use. Sanitize it, use cheesecloth to line it, and fill it with curds. Insert the follower and press or use a weight, according to your recipe. Make sure you remove it from the press, flip it and rewrap it with cheesecloth several times.
When pressing, simply apply pressure until droplets of clear whey form in the openings and drip onto your runoff plate. Make sure it is not too milky looking (squeezing out butterfat). As this slows, add more pressure. Keep adjusting this to get a fully consolidated cheese. Finally, look at the finished cheese. If it is not consolidated well, apply more pressure to the next batch.
2. Why do you need holes all over the sides of the mold?
We have also seen molds without these holes and we do not recommend them. During pressing, it is imperative to get all of that residual whey moving out of the cheese. This is why you need to use cheesecloth to wick the moisture away as it is pressed out. The holes give it a place to escape - more so than trying to find its way to the bottom.
3. Do you sell a Gouda mold?
We use our small mold with follower (2 lb.) for this. Pulling up on the butter muslin liner and turning often tends to give a nice rounded edge. There are Gouda molds brought in from Holland, but they are very expensive ($70-90 for a 1-2 lb mold).
4. I am going to make my own molds from plastic containers. Any tips?
Proper molds need to have the needed drainage holes to allow the whey to drain in a timely manner. Also, proper diameter-to-height ratios are needed for most cheeses to ripen properly and to retain the proper moisture.
You can make your own, but we would suggest using a hot nail for the holes to seal the plastic (easier to sanitize). Also, a round mold is better than square since the surface to mass ratio is lower. (The corners of square molds tend to dry out too fast.)
One other consideration is whether the plastic is food grade. (Acidic whey tends to extract the undesirable elements from plastic.)
5. I used a mold made from PVC and my cheese had an odd 'after taste.'
This 'after taste' is from your PVC molds. We really do not advise using them. No dairy inspector will allow their use. Since you are working with an acidic material, leaching of unknowns is very possible here. If this was a new PVC mold this would be especially so.
6. When using my Kadova molds, the curds stick to the netting and the cheese is ruined.
This is a common problem with these molds. Many cheeses go into the forms at a high pH and much of the acid is still developing. As the ripening continues, it causes the curds to shrink and lose whey. As it does this, it actually pulls the fabric or netting of the Kadova right into the curd mass.
One solution is to soak the Kadova mesh or cloth in saturated brine. This works by slowing the culture activity near the surface way down. If you still have a problem, un-mold early and do a quick wash of the curd in saturated brine, then flip back into the mold.
1. Why do we use cheesecloth when we are pressing the cheese?
Cheesecloth is essential in molding. Its purpose is to wick the moisture from the surface of the cheese to the drainage holes during pressing.
2. Why am I supposed to start with less weight and then add as I go?
The low press weight to start with begins to consolidate the curd and will not block the whey release. By the time you add the highest weight, most of the whey has been pressed out.
3. If I cut the recipe in half, should I use the same pressing weight?
We discourage folks making cheese for aging from using less than two gallons of milk. The reason for this is that the smaller the cheese the higher the ratio of rind to body. This, among other things, tends to allow the cheese to lose moisture too readily.
The simple solution to this is to make a larger cheese and when it approaches its targeted age of ripening, cut it into smaller sections and re-wax the sections you are not using.
If you do plan to go ahead and use the curds from a smaller batch and use the same mold as our recipes call for, you can use the same amount of weight because pressing is more a matter of surface area and that remains unchanged.
4. How do I press my cheese when I have increased the recipe tenfold?
If you are making a larger cheese and keeping the height to width ratio the same (as you should) simply increasing weight proportionately should work. However, many people decide to use a differently shaped mold where the height to width ratio is not kept the same. In this case, the important factor is surface area. Keep the press weight proportionate to the change in surface area. Our recipes are designed for our small mold (2 lb.) with a surface diameter of 4.5.”
5. How do I keep the temperature and humidity up while pressing?
One method is to place the cheese and forms with weights back into the curd pot that has been emptied and cleaned and immerse that in a large pan or sink of water. Then hold it at 95F until pressing is finished.
Or, some of our customers make insulated hot boxes that have a heater and can be kept warm. This requires creativity! No air vents are needed but it will be very humid in there, especially if you are using pans of hot water to keep the temperatures up. Your insulation should be something that will not absorb this moisture. We find that the foil faced rigid insulation is best.
6. When I pressed my curds, they remained separate. (They didn't meld together.)
The curds you made turned out too dry for some reason. This could be due to using milk that isn't fresh, using too much culture, cutting the curds too small, ripening too long, cooking at too high a temperature, or stirring the curds too long.
The focus of your next attempt should be to watch the moisture of the curds, keeping in mind the above points and trying for more moisture in the curds when done.
7. My cheese had cracks in it after it had been pressed.
It was too moist going into the press. Stir it longer before molding and pressing.
8. My cheese is dry and I think I might be over-pressing.
Dry cheese is rarely due to over-pressing. You might look at your final curd moisture here. Too much stirring or too high a temperature will produce a very dry curd. Also, low humidity during aging will cause dry cheese problems.
With our Basic Hard Cheese Kit, we have gone to some lengths to make sure that you do not need to buy a press to make cheese. This is because we want you to try making cheese before you make an investment of time and money in a press. However, when you are ready to get serious, we sell three different presses:
Off the Wall Press Plans
1. What is the best mold to use with the OWP?
The best mold to purchase for this press is the small mold, for which most of our recipes have been designed.
2. I can't find a wall bracket anywhere.
The plans call for a 7/8" wall bracket to attach the arm of the press to the wall. In lieu of the bracket, we have found that a door hinge works nicely-especially the type with a pin. Just separate the halves and screw one to the wall at the appropriate height and the other to the weight arm.
Dutch Cheese Press
1. Where do we put the weights with the Dutch Cheese Press?
The weights are hung off the lever to give you the pressure needed. For example, a milk jug filled with water weighs 8 pounds.
Our Cheese Press
1. How do I know how much weight I am applying with your Cheese Press?
It has a pressure gauge. You simply compress the springs until it reads the weight and leave it there for the required time. If you are pressing for long periods of time, you may need to come back and reset it because as the cheese compresses, the tension of the springs becomes less. Pressing is always gradual at first.
Note: If the springs happened to have gotten fully depressed you might need to tap the sides of the locks with a hammer. You should never leave the springs compressed except when pressing cheese.
2. Is the stainless steel on your press coated or real?
It is all real. The cheese making environment is hard on equipment. Anything that is not top grade stainless will be short lived. Our press has stainless parts that will withstand the 'acid' test. We have noted that many press parts out there are simply chromed or coated steel and this will allow your cheese to come in contact with the steel surfaces.
We have a blog article about how Ricki's husband, Jamie makes our presses - click here.