Making Colby Cheese is not hard; it just takes time.
Having a cow that produces an abundance of milk inspired my husband and me to make our own cheese. We have been doing it for a number of years now and still enjoy every delectable step and bite.
One of our favorite cheeses to make is colby. Colby Cheese is an American cheese named after the township in southern Wisconsin where it was first made. It has a more open texture than cheddar, contains more moisture, and has a pleasantly mild flavor.
Colby takes around 4 hours and 45 minutes from the start until the final press, which then takes a further 12 hours. You can time this, so you are doing the 12-hour final press at night while you sleep. That is what we do.
Cheesemaking takes attention to detail as the consistency, and the final product can vary a lot if you heat the milk too hot or not hot enough. I would say paying attention to the temperature of whatever cheese you are making is perhaps the most important step.
Until you become familiar with each cheese, I would not suggest multi tasking.
With that in mind, let’s get you ready to make some colby.
Food items needed:
- 2 gallons skimmed or whole milk (we skim ours so we can make butter. If you are interested in How to make Butter, please follow the link.
- 1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter or 4 ounces prepared mesophilic starter
- 4 drops cheese coloring.
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet.
- 2 Tbls cheese salt
- Cheese wax.
Kitchen items needed:
- One large pot to hold your milk
- Cheese knife
- Cheese thermometer
- Double boiler to hold and heat your cheese wax (We store the wax in the same pot after each use and just let it cool).
- Cheese press
- To Begin, heat the milk to 86 degrees. Add the starter and mix thoroughly. Cover and allow the milk to ripen for 1 hour. (We move the pot to the back of the stove for the 1 hour, and the temperature stays at 86°.)
- Add the coloring and stir.
- Make sure the milk’s temperature is 86° degrees. Add the rennet and stir gently with an up-and-down motion for 1 minute. If you are using farm-fresh cow’s milk, top-stir 3 minutes longer. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, or until the curd gives a clean break.
- Cut the curd into 3/8-inch cubes. Stir gently. Let the curds sit for 5 minutes.
- Next, heat the curds by two degrees every 5 minutes until the temperature reaches 102° degrees.
- Stir gently to keep the curds from matting.
- Maintain the temperature of the curds at 102° degrees for 30 minutes, stirring gently. Again, move the pot to the back of the stove for the 30 minutes, and the temperature should stay at 102°.
- Drain off the whey to the level of the curds. If you want to keep the whey, have an extra pot or container handy to pour it into.
- While stirring, add 60° water or cold tap water until the temperature of the curds and water reaches 80° degrees.
- Maintain the curds at 80° degrees for 15 minutes. Stir to prevent matting. (the temperature of the additional water controls the moisture content of the cheese. If a drier cheese is desired, keep the curd-water mixture a few degrees higher than 80°. For a moister cheese, keep the temperature below 80°.)
- Pour the curds into a colander. Allow the curds to drain for 20 minutes.
- Break the curds into thumbnail-sized pieces. Add the salt and mix gently but thoroughly.
- Place the curds into a cheesecloth-lined mold (cheese press.) Press at 20lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.
- Remove the cheese from the mold, gently peel away the cheesecloth, turn over the cheese, re-dress it, and press at 30lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.
- Repeat the process but press at 40lbs of pressure for 1 hour.
- Again repeat the process but press at 50lbs of pressure for 12 hours.
- Remove the Colby Cheese from the mold and peel away the cheesecloth. Air-dry at room temperature for several days, or until the cheese is dry to the touch (around three days.) Being sure to rotate it several times a day.
- Time to wax the cheese. To start, heat your wax in your double boiler until the wax has melted.
- Now dip half of the cheese into the wax and take it out. Hold for about 5 seconds and dip again. Do this until it is nicely covered. Repeat the process on the other side.
- You can also dip it and then turn it over to make sure you are getting a good cover. If you aren’t, I use a pastry brush, which stays in the wax and fills in where you need it.
- Once the cheese is waxed on both sides, rotate it in the wax, go one direction, like a pinwheel, and keep rotating until the sides are covered in wax.
- Hold the wheel for a minute to allow the wax to dry before placing it on waxed paper.
- Let it sit for about 10 min. Mark the date with a marker if you wish on the wax to remember when it was made.
- Age the colby cheese at 50° degrees for 2-3 months.
- Be sure to rotate the cheese once a day for a couple of weeks. If you miss a day, it will not ruin it; just try your best.
YIELD: 2 pounds
Once your cheese has aged, you are now free to cut into it and share your bounty.
There is something really special about eating farm-fresh food. The taste and product are, in my opinion, the best quality food. However, if you are making cheese in the city, you will still have equal quality as long as you use fresh ingredients. Like any dish, the ingredients make it what it is.
Until next time, friends, enjoy and stay healthy and free.