Mini Cheeses with Mini people

First and foremost I want to announce the birth of our daughter Chloe, she was born on 16 December 2011.  She is the proud owner of the Cheddar that I made in October.  This will be opened in December of this year.  And now on with the show.

I love Baby-Bel cheese, it is small, it is portable, it is the only mild cheese I will eat.  But when you pay $8 for six of them in a mesh bag, that is a little expensive.  I sought to make my own, and after three attempts, I think I have solved the “Mystery of the Mini Cheese”  My son, who is six, has helped me on two of the three makes and he likes them.  This is a simple fresh cheese that can be made with little or no special equipment.  Here is how you make them:

1 – Stainless Steel pot big enough to hold 4L of  Milk (It Cannot be Aluminium)
1 – Strainer (this can be plastic or Metal)
1 – Knife to Cut the Curd (It should be long enough so that the handle will not go into the curd, I use a cake icing knife)
1 – Thermometer that has a range of 0 to 100 degrees Celsius. (A digital roast thermometer will do, but you can buy dairy thermometer)
1 – Stainless Steel Serving Spoon or ladle (Plastic will do)
1 – Cheese Cloth (Do your self a favour and go to a fabric store and buy the unbleached cheese cloth)
2 – little bowls such as ramekins
1 – Box of Dixie Cups – The paper ones
A place to drain your cheese (I use a cross stitch mat on chopsticks that are on a plastic serving tray)
1 to 2 – Cutting boards
1 to 2 – Milk Jugs filled with water, or the equivalent weight (1 Litre of Water = 1Kg/2.2 lbs)

4 Litres of Milk (The Higher the fat content the more curd you will get I used 3.5% Homogenized Milk)
1/4 tsp of Calcium Chloride dissolved in 1/4 Cup Distilled Water (This will help to strengthen the curd it is not necessary but if you are using store bought milk you need it. *** Can be bought in stores as “Pickle Crisp” in the canning sections – DO NOT USE  ROAD SALT)
Rennet – Amount will vary based on your directions, I used 20 drops of liquid rennet in 1/4 cup of Distilled Water.  Depending on your Rennet your cheese may not be Vegetarian safe.
2 tbsp of Non-Iodized Pickling Salt (Also known as flaked Salt or Cheese Salt)
Starter Culture – You can use Commercial Starter, Active Culture Butter Milk (Most stores have it) or Sour Cream)
Optional – Herbs or Chillies


Ready To Go

1.      Take your Dixie Cups (about 20 to 23) and make slits in the bottoms and the sides with a pairing knife and place them on your draining set up.

2.     Put your milk in pot and under medium heat slowly bring the 32C.  Then add your culture (1/4 tsp dry culture or 1/2 Cup butter milk or 1/2 cup sour cream)  Mix in the culture using the ladle in an up and down motion. Tun the heat off. At the same time add the Calcium Chloride(Pickle Crisp) and allow the mixture to ripen for 30 minutes.  This helps to build up acid that will assist in the formation of curd.  Make sure you put the lid on the pot to keep in the heat.

3.    After 30 Minutes then you can now add the rennet.  Pour it in slowly and stir with the ladle in an up and down motion.  Now I could go into the whole method of Flocculation(deals with the rate at witch the surface of the milk gels) but to make it easy I won’t.  Wait 30 minutes and then take a clean knife and put it into the curd at a 45 degree angle and pull it up.  If you have a clean break, meaning it is a smooth break on the curd and it looks cut jello, then you are good to start cutting.

My Happy Helper “Cutting the Cheese”

4.    Take your knife and cut strips of curd about 2 cm wide going from left to right.  Then turn the pot 90 degrees and repeat (My son does the cutting). Then you want to take the knife at a 45 degree angle and cut again, then turn 90 degrees and repeat.  Now you should let the curd rest for 10 to 15 mins.  This will allow the curd to firm up.  It you look in the pot you will have something that would make Miss Muffet happy because you have curds and whey.

5.     Now turn the heat on again, you want to slowly raise the temperature to 38C.  This can take about 30 mins.  You want to stir gently with your spoon/ladle then more you stir the more whey will be expelled from the curd, the dryer the end cheese will be.  If you want you can use a whisk to break up the curd towards the end of the heating.  Now after you have reached the 38C, you want to let the curd rest for 15 minutes.  All the curd should sink to the bottom, sir every so often so the curd does not mat/stick together in one big mass.

6.    In your sink place the strainer/colander lined with cheese cloth.  Now carefully pour the pot into the stainer (you could save the whey and make ricotta or make protein drinks or use on plants) and let the curd drain for about 10 minutes, you may have to break up the curd mass dot let it drain better.

7.    Now transfer the curd to a bowl and mill (break up) the curd into pea size pieces.  Now add the salt, it may seam like a lot, but you will thank me when you have flavour in your cheese not tasteless rubber pucks. You can add herbs or chillies at this stage.  I waited until I filled my Dixie Cups and mixed one dried Habenero Chilli to the left over curd.

First “Pressing”

8.    Take your milled and salted curd and start putting it into your Dixie Cups, fill them so that they are 3/4 full.  Take the same amount of Dixie Cups and place them on the top of the curd in each of your moulds.  Now take your cutting board(s) and place on top of the cups (your board should cover all the cups). Place one of the milk jugs on top, this will start the pressing.  Every 15 minutes you want to flip the cheese inside the moulds.  You may have to tap on the bottoms of the cups to get them out.  After you have done this for 1 hour you can increase the weight by adding another jug of water on the board.  Press for another hour, flipping twice during this time.

My Three Spicy Friends

***Note if you are doing a mixed batch (chillies and regular/herbs) you might want to keep the presses separate so that you know that you are dealing with chillies

This picture to the left is how I dealt with the three that had Habeneros in them

End of Air Drying Ready for the “Cave”

9.     When the last hour is done (you may want yours plumper so you can stop pressing when they are the size you want them to be), take all the cheeses out of the moulds (the cup will be so soggy by them you can just rip them off the cheese) and then set them on a board or another mat so that they can air dry.  You really want to do this step, it helps to develop the rind and starts the ageing process.  It also helps that you don’t have pools of whey in your container too.  I usually air dry over night, flipping about 3-4 times so that both sides get even exposure to the air.  If you are worried about little critters getting to your cheese cover with a piece of dry cheese cloth.

10.   Now you can eat your cheese now (they are a bit tasteless), or you can age them for 7 days.  I have a wine fridge set to 11C, this helps to develop flavour in the cheese.  I put them in a plastic container with the lit open a little bit to help let the moisture out as they dry even more.  You can age them in the refrigerator, but it will take a few days more.  I don’t wax mine like they do commercially because they don’t last that long.  You can if you want.

I hope you enjoy this and if you have any questions please let me know.  Happy cheese making.

***Note:  It has been over a week since I made them.  I have sampled the minis and they are soft, creamy and flavourful.

3 Comments on “Mini Cheeses with Mini people

  1. These look wonderful! I think i'll try them for the Food Swap at the end of the month… but i'll make a test batch to sample first, of course ;)thanks for sharing! I think i now know why I've had issues with my cheese making before. Your instructions are more detailed than the ones i have.

  2. Thanks, they are actually pretty tasty too. I even like the Habenro ones, and I am usually not a fan of chillies in cheese. I am working on a form you can fill in on your computer to help with makes. When it is done and vetted I will post it too.

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