Each week I receive three half gallons of Coffelt Farm whole raw milk. I use one half gallon to make our yogurt for the week and the other 2 half gallons are used to make various cheeses. So far I've made a couple of batches of brie, some quieso da vinho(wine soaked cheese), romano, manchego, traditional cheddar and caraway gouda as well as the usual mozzarella and ricotta salata.
This week I decided to branch out and try a new cheese, fontina. The recipe comes from a book called 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes. It is a great book, clear and concise with good instructions for the beginning cheese maker. I actually prefer it to Ricki Carroll's book.
In any event, Sunday is cheese making day here, so without further ado, here is the recipe for fontina that makes 1 lb. of cheese.
1 gallon milk
1/8 tsp. mesophilic (I use MA4001) starter dissolved in 1 TBSP water
3/16 tsp. calcium chloride in 1 TBSP water
3/16 tsp. rennet(do not use Junket) in 1 TBSP water
1 quart saturated brine(18% salt)
To begin, sterilize all equipment. I use Starsan for any equipment I cannot or do not boil in boiling water for 10 minutes. I place 1 inch of water in my cheese kettle and put in my curd cutting knife, balloon whisk, and slotted cheese stirring spoon. I bring this to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Remove the boiled implements and place on an impeccably clean towel to dry. Empty the kettle and cover it to maintain is sterility. Let the pot cool to room temperature.
Place 2 quarts of hot tap water in a canning pot. Put the gallon of milk in the cheese kettle and rest it inside the canning pot to make a double boiler. Place a thermometer into the water in the canner to monitor its temperature. Place the whole apparatus on the stove. Keep the water in the canner at about 100F in order to slowly heat the milk in the cheese pot to 88F.
Once the milk has reached 88F, add the mesophilic starter and stir gently with an up and down motion to mix thoroughly. Let the milk rest for 1 hour at 88F, adjusting the water bath as necessary and removing the cheese pot as needed to keep an even temperature. I generally monitor the temperature every 10 minutes and adjust as needed to keep to the 88F temp goal.
After 1 hour, add the calcium chloride and stir gently. Add the rennet and stir gently. Let the milk sit for 45 to 50 minutes in the cheese pot, covered. Again maintain the 88F temperature. This may not be as difficult because the chemical reaction of the rennet does generate some heat. Again, I monitor the milk every 10 minutes to be sure it's not too cold and place the pot back in the water bath if necessary. Keep the water bath at 100F to be sure it can heat the milk when needed.
Meanwhile, heat a quart of water to 145F for use later to 'wash' the curds.
After the 45 minutes when the milk in the cheese pot has coagulated enough to give a 'clean break' (that is when you lift a small bit of the cheese with the curd knife, the edge of the break is distinct and not soft/runny looking). Cut the curds into 1/4 inch pea-sized dice using your curd knife. Make cuts horizontally, vertically and then at a 45 degree angle underneath the curds in all four directions(north south east west). Let the curds stand for 5 minutes to strengthen. Then stir gently with the balloon whisk for 5 minutes being sure all the curds have been cut into the small dice, then continue stirring but with the slotted cheese spoon.
After stirring for 10 minutes, using a ladle, remove 4 cups of whey from the cheese in the pot. Replace the whey with enough water at 145F to bring the cheese to 102F. Stir gently for 10 minutes. Let the curds rest for 5 minutes. Then, pour the pot of curds and whey into a cheesecloth lined colander over a large pot to catch all the whey. You can use the whey in cooking or use it to fertilize plants. Blueberry bushes love the extra acid and plant food. Let the cheese curds drain for 10 minutes, cover them with the whey pot lid to keep them warm.
After 10 minutes, place the curds into a 2 lb. cheese mold, lined with butter muslin or cheese cloth. Put the cheesecloth lined followed on top of the mold and using a cheese press, press for 15 minutes with 10 lbs of weight. At the 15 minute mark, remove the cheese from the mold and cheese cloth. Flip the cheese over, gently and put it back in the cheese cloth and mold. Press for 12 hours with 28 lbs of weight.
After the 12 hour pressing, remove the cheese from the mold and soak it in the saturated brine for 12 hours, turning it after 6 hours.
Once the 12 hour soak is done, remove the cheese from the brine and dry it out on a cheese mat all at room temperature. I usually cover the cheese with 2 layers of cheese cloth so no 'beasties' get into it while it is drying. Dry it for 24 hours turning at least once. When dry. Place the cheese in a ripening box and store at 55F-60F 90-95% humidity (I place a wet paper towel in the ripening box with the cheese to maintain the right moisture level.) After three days and every other day thereafter for the first month, wash (gently pat) the outside of the cheese with a simple brine solution, turn the cheese over for even flavor development and drying. (Simple brine solution - 1 tsp salt in 1 cup boiling water cooled to room temp). Wash and turn the cheese two times a week for the next 2 months. After the three months, you may wrap and refrigerate, use when you like it.