Yesterday my mom and I embarked on an adventure in cheese making. With the Hard Cheese Kit from Ricki Carroll of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, we set out to make our own Monterey Jack cheese.
The hard cheese making kit costs about $30 and includes the cultures to make Gouda, Parmesan, Feta, Colby, Monterey Jack, Farmhouse Cheddar, Cottage Cheese and Ricotta. The kit also includes a thermometer, cheese mold, cheesecloth and chemicals and cultures necessary for cheese making (rennet, calcium chloride, thermophilic and mesophilic cultures). The cheese kit does not contain cheese wax, which is necessary if you want to age your cheese—and since most hard cheese get better as they age, chance are you’ll want to wax your cheese. If you order the hard cheese kit online, order the wax at the same time because shipping costs are pretty hefty for ordering only the cheese wax.
In its simplest form, cheese is made by heating milk to specific temperatures, adding a culture and rennet, sustaining specific temperatures, draining and pressing. Depending on which cheese you make, it can take anywhere from 1-6 hours. Cheese making requires frequent monitoring, so it is good to have a large chunk of time available.
My mom and I ran across many challenges in making our Monterey Jack cheese, and it took all the optimism we could muster to see it to the end. Setting aside our ideals of perfection and putting on light-hearted attitudes, we made a cheese that wasn’t quite perfect but tasted like authentic Jack cheese. Most of all, though, my mom and I got to do what we love best: try something new together and have fun in the process.