Here it is, the product of three months of waiting, my first homemade aged cheese: a waxed gouda. It is still fairly young— I'm planning to age some of this cheese another three to five months— but it has an excellent flavor, already tasting rich, with lots of umami body. It's a little bit on the sharp and dry end, but it does have a definite gouda flavor. I used, once again, a recipe from Home Cheese Making, and materials from Leeners.
Here is the curd, after the milk has been heated, the cultures and rennet added, and the resulting curd sliced into cubes. I love how the clear white curds float under the transparent whey, like cubist clouds. Gouda is a washed-curd cheese, meaning that the whey is partially drained and replaced with water several times, in order to draw out the lactose and produce a less acidic cheese.
After the curds have been washed, they are strained and pressed to form the cheese. The cheese, in the case of gouda, spends most of a day in the press, and is then soaked in a brine to add salt. The cheese must then be air-dried in a cool, ventilated place for several weeks. If I had gotten it together to procure some hardwood sawdust, I could have smoked the gouda at this point, but that will have to wait until next time. Finally, the cheese is coated in wax and aged— you can see the waxing step above. Gouda can be aged anywhere between three and nine months.
Last, and most definitely least, here is a photo of my cheese press:
See how I hid this photo down here at the bottom? Those are dried fruit containers with the bottoms cut out, lined with cheesecloth, placed between dishes, and clamped down with luggage straps. The disadvantage of this system is that there is no way to regulate the pressure applied (which is probably why my gouda is a touch dry), but the advantage of it is that it is FREE.
- How much space does it need?
Not much, just a cool dry place to age the cheese.
- How much time does it take?
The initial time investment is only an hour or two, the cheese can require a fair amount of attention during the aging process.
- Does it smell?
No, although I haven't made cheese with mold.
- Does it look grody?
- Does it need special equipment?
Yes. Like beer, you can do it simply, or you can go all-out. The basics are a big pot for cooking, the necessary cultures, a cheese press of some sort, cheesecloth and wax.
- Is it worth it to do this by hand?
Probably not, to be honest. The costs of the cultures and materials add up, as does the time and effort. I'll definitely keep making cheese, and maybe even buy or make a more legitimate press, but I'm pretty sure that I'll never make anything as good as something I can pick up at the local cheese shop for about the same amount of money. The exception is probably fresh mozzarella and ricotta, which are quick, easy, require minimal materials, and definitely taste better than their supermarket cousins.