Cheddar – PART TWO: The Magic

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Where did we leave off again? *Reads past blog, laughs at my own jokes.* The last thing we did was admire the “cheddaring” process, which is fusion and stretching of the curds which causes that beautiful strength and elasticity. At the tail-end of that stretching and stacking process, we start to check the acidity levels of the cheese. Too low of a pH in the cheese can cause bitterness and an acidic taste. Too high of a pH level can inhibit the flavor intensity and gives ground to odd flavors. The pH at this stage also affects the texture of the cheddar further down the line. So how we check the acidity levels is MAGIC. Some people may try to tell you that its “math” and “science,” but friends, don’t believe them. Don’t be swayed by their over-simplification of a divine process. HAH. Just kidding, it is like super sciency, I just understand literally 0% of it. You guys are probably wondering, “why is she trying to explain something she knows absolutely nothing about?” Good question. I think my answer to your query would fall somewhere between “BECAUSE I’M WITTY” and “BECAUSE I CAN.” Take your pick.

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SO first we collect a little sample of the whey that is being expelled from the curds. It flows down like a little stream to the valve. We have this little measuring thing that we use to get the 10ml we need for the test. But we don’t get a cool little turkey-baster style one, or anything like that. No, that would be too convenient. Instead, it’s a fancy straw, so you suck the whey up into it and then pop your finger on top of it and let some drip out until it reaches the line of 10ml.

 

 

 

Stay on target.

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STAY

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ON TARGET

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YOU BLEW IT

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Got it.

We put that in our fancy little Petri dish (a hacked off bottom of a yogurt cup). Then we add five drops of this proplylshfmaihfinsdfn acid thing. It’s a “P” word, that’s all I know. Don’t worry about it, it’s not important. What IS important is this little dropper-vial it is in. I just want someone to walk me through their thought process with mending this thing. Literally just popped another dropper cap into the old one and was like “I FIXED IT.” I’m not even joking. And it has been that way for years now.  You may be starting to deduce that we are jimmy-riggers around here. Farmers, you know? If it works, it works. That’s all that matters.

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Here comes the magic. So into the 10ml of whey and the five drops of the propotatothylensene stuff and then we add NaOH which Google tells me is “Sodium Hydroxide.” Who knew, am I right? I know one of you just said “anyone who took any science class ever” and my answer to you is “BYE.” I was into theater, okay? Don’t judge me. So you know about Sodium Hydroxide, but can you literally *slay* all the songs from Oklahoma? I thought not. So sit down.

When the Sodium Hydroxide hits the whey and propenguinethelyne it goes full 1989 FUSCHIA. We add it bit by bit and when swirled around, it fades to a pale peach and then it is gone without a trace. MAGIC.

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We are shooting for a certain amount of Sodium Hydroxide to fade out to know when the pH is at a good point for those stretchy curd blocks to be milled. When it happens, it’s SHOWTIME.

So milling isn’t one of those “hold on, let me go get my phone and take a picture of this” kind of jobs. We actually have to work fairly quickly and throw the curd blocks in the machine to be chopped up, and then we have to move the curd around a bit so it doesn’t get tempted to fuse back together. So here is a picture of our mill after we milled all of it!

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Now we dry-salt the cheese curds. Now with a cheese like Gouda, for example, we form the wheels and then give it a two day brine-bath. With cheddar, you just throw salt on it like it’s your dinner plate. Not a little, and not from a mouse-shaped shaker (here’s looking at you Ruth…I mean Mom…) we are talking 7.5 pounds of salt in a bucket. So we salt it and stir and salt it again and stir and stir.

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At this point we dose it out into little half-pound containers for your instant gratification, or we pack it in our forms and it presses overnight for some dope cheddar in a few months. This would also be the stage when we would add dried garlic and dill for you herby-folks. And I’d love to tell you that there’s a special way of knowing how much to put in, but every week it is pretty much, “Ummm…I guess that’ll do.”

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NOTE: Never forget to up the pressure on your cheese presses. This is a very applicable life lesson. There needs to be PRESSURE on these babies. Like “you are an adult you should be able to make your own dentist appointments, Marlies” kind of pressure. Sorry, I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

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ADULTING IS HARD. CHEDDAR IS COOL. HAVE A GOOD DAY!! Just gotta go wash the dill smell out of my hair and clothes now.

Cheese Curd Recipe Roundup

Fried Cheese Curds

WAY BACK in the olden days when I was in college, we didn’t have personal computers, we didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t have a coffee shop on every corner.  In spite of these deprivations, there was one bright spot: my best friend introduced me to squeaky cheese.

Washington Cheese Company in Mt. Vernon, Washington made fresh curd every day and it called to us.  Patti and I would occasionally hear that call and take an afternoon to head down for a bag of curds still warm from the vat.  We would then climb up the stairs to the viewing room and watch the crew make cheese while we nibbled away.  I had no idea at that time that I would someday meet and marry a farmer…who would become a cheesemaker…and eventually make squeaky cheese.  It’s like the circle of life, only cheesier.

Curd Making

John started making Squeaky Cheese back in March of 2001 and it’s definitely a favorite here at the Cheese Shop, some local stores, as well as three Farmer’s Markets in Seattle.  For National Fresh Curd Day we are celebrating with four recipes using these yummy morsels:

Poutine Hash Brown Waffles: I am just drooling over this take on a popular cheese curd dish.

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Fried Cheese Bites  So easy to make and so yummy!

Fried Cheese Curds

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Fried Cheese Curds  Comfort food at it’s best!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Fried Cheese Curds

Poutine There’s no way we could have a list of cheese curd recipes without Poutine.

Poutine

Fried Cheese Bites

Eating the Beast Mode Bite

The kids in our area are headed back to school this week.  Even without young kids, you can feel the excitement electrifying the air.  Moments like this bring back so many memories, so many first days, so many changes, so much growth.  The time flits by so quickly that suddenly those days are gone.  We are in a new phase with adult children living their own lives.  I am so proud to see their growth and maturity, at the same time, I miss those special moments and exciting changes.

I get to have some fun moments with my friend’s children though.  I invited a friend over to help me with a recipe for Fried Cheese Bites.  This appetizer is so fun to make that I knew her kids would love to help, and they certainly did.Big brother is helping little sister with cutting the dough

Even the youngest, Grace, got into the mix with the help of her big brother Michael.  They used a pizza cutter and my quilting ruler to cut the dough into even squares.

Casey is wrapping the cheese in dough

Peyton and Casey working together

Casey and Peyton took pieces of cheese and carefully wrapped them in dough.  It’s important to make sure that the cheese is completely covered with no openings so the cheese doesn’t ooze out into the oil during frying.

Michael and Grace working together

These kids have the biggest appetites that I have ever seen and the energy to match.  We make lots and lots of bites, and none of them went to waste.

Fried Cheese Bites

  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
  • 8 oz Jalapeno Gouda, cut in 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • Condiments, if desired.

In deep fryer or 3-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat to 350°F.

Unroll dough, and cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut crosswise into 8 rows, making 32 squares.

Roll piece of dough around each Gouda Cube; stretch dough, and press to seal edges and completely cover the cheese.

Fry cheese bites a few at a time for about 1 minute, turning occasionally until dough is completely cooked through and deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels, and keep warm.

Serve warm with condiments.  We used pizza sauce and the kids loved it!

Grace serving the cheese

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury