Making Swiss Cheese part 1

We were in a cheese making mood this past weekend and made a few kinds of cheeses.  The first we made is a Swiss cheese.  This was our second batch as the first batch had a bit of a learning curve.  Though I have to say the first batch my husband made had a great flavour.  The rind came out a bit thick but we think that was because of old rennet.  Other than it was great.  So we were ready for another go.  With new rennet.  :)  We also use Ricki Carroll’s book “Home Cheese Making” for this.  She also sells the starters and supplies needed for most cheese making.  I know there are more and more sources now as more people are into making their own cheese.  We’ve just stuck with her store.

This is what the cheese looked like from the first batch.

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Before starting sterilise everything!

As we’ve made our previous cheeses we only use raw milk.  Pasteurization breaks down the proteins needed to make great cheese.  Especially the ultra-pasteurization.  That is pretty much useless.  When buying raw milk just make sure the farm does regular testing so it is safe.

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Pour two gallons into a large pot.  Heat the milk to 90F.  Stir as the milk heats so it is consistent and doesn’t catch on the bottom.  We usually have the heat at medium for this.  You don’t want it to heat rapidly.  Once the milk is at 90F then the thermophilic starter is added.  We buy the pre-portioned packets but if you prepare it then 4 oz is needed.  Stir well.

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The take 1/4 milk of the milk with the starter mixed in and add 1 tsp of Propionic shermannii to the 1/4 milk and mix well.  Add back into the milk on the stove and mix well.  This needs to ripen for 10 minutes.

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The next step calls for the rennet.  We purchase organic vegetable based rennet.   The directions on the back are a bit strange.  It says it is double strength so use 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.  To me if it is double strength then it should call for using 1/2 the amount in the recipe.  Right?  So about a minute before the milk is done ripening prepare the rennet.  Use 1/4 cup of spring water because you don’t want any chlorine in it.  The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp rennet to be dissolved so we used 1/4 tsp plus a couple of drops.  Pour into the milk and stir up and down.  If you are using raw milk like we do then it needs to be top stirred for a few minutes to keep the butter fat down.  To do this, use the bottom of your spoon and stir 1/2 inch to and inch down from the surface.

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At this point the milk needs to rest at 90F for 30 minutes.  The thermophilic starter generates heat so if it goes a few degrees above 90 don’t panic.  If it drops just turn the heat on a bit to bring it back up.  After it sets and the curds pull away from the sides it is time to cut the curds.  Her recipe states 1/4 inch cubes.  In a large pot that is impossible.  Use a curd knife for the blocks by cutting straight one way then cutting lines 90 degrees from the original lines.  Then you need to cut at an angle to cut the interior of the curd.  Then gently use a whisk to cut them into the small curd.

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Now get ready for a ton of stirring.  The first bit is for 40 minutes.  You stir gently while keep the temperature at 90F.  According to Ricki’s book this is called foreworking.  It helps expel the whey from the curds.

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Then to add a bit of a challenge the next bit calls for raising the temperature a degree at a time until it reaches 120F.  You need to keep this as close to 30 minutes as possible as this extracts the whey from the curds.  You’ll notice the curds getting smaller through this process.

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At the end of the 30 minutes the curds should be smaller and squeaky if you eat them.  This stage is called the “proper break”.  A way to test them is to take a small handful and press into a ball.  This ball should easily break apart into the little curds again.  Turn off the heat and let it rest for five minutes.  While it is doing that prepare some cheese cloth or butter muslin in a strainer.  You’ll want a couple of large containers to catch the whey.  Don’t throw out the whey!  You can use it to make fresh ricotta cheese.  Stay tuned for that post.  Pour into the strainer.

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At this point you want the mold set up.  My husband made a great contraption so we can press the cheese.  This recipe calls for a two pound mould.  Place the curds into the mould still wrapped in the cheese cloth or butter muslin.

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Fold in the cloth and place the pressing part into the mould.  Place the top of the press over this.  It is important to do all this before the curds cool.  For the first pressing you need 8-10lbs on top and let it stay there for 15 minutes.

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You should see whey being pressed out.  At the end of 15 minutes remove the curd and gently unwrap the curd.  Turn the curd over and put it back into the press.

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Up the weight to 14lbs and press for 30 minutes.  Turn the cheese and press for 2 hours.  Turn again, increase the weight to 15lbs and then press for 12 hours.  We usually leave this overnight.  Once the pressing is done the cheese needs to be soaked in brine for 12 hours.  To make the brine you want to dissolve 2 lbs of cheese or kosher salt in a gallon of spring water.  Let the cheese soak in the fridge during this step.  The exposed side needs to have some salt sprinkled on it.

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At the end of 12 hours pat the cheese dry, place on a clean board and place in the “cheese cave”.  Now some have a real cheese cave.  We haven’t gotten that far so we use a wine cooler.  The temp needs to be 50-55F and the humidity should be around 85%.  For the first week the cheese needs to be turned every day and wiped with salt water.  Do not soak the cheese.  You do not want wet cheese!

Part 2 will be posted when the cheese is done and will have the final steps to it.  This cheese needs to age at least 3 months.  It is very hard to wait!  :)

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26 thoughts on “Making Swiss Cheese part 1

  1. First off, I am TOTALLY jealous that you have access to raw milk. In RI, it’s illegal to even GIVE it to someone outside your immediate family, and accross the border in MA, the rules vary from place to place…
    Second, that cheese looks amazing! Can’t wait for the follow-up!

    • The laws in this country are dumb when it comes to raw milk. They will raid farms over it. Nevermind the majority of illnesses from milk come from the huge conglomerates. It’s rare to get sick from raw milk. What they should do is have regulations on how often testing is done and inspect for cleanliness. And let consumers choose. It’s really frustrating.

  2. Fantastic post. Raw milk is a big issue in England. Selfridges in Oxford Street London sold it for a short while, until it became a legal issue. Getting hold of it is so difficult. I have two sources but both require travel and timing! If I could it would be my daily choice of milk.

  3. Wonderful post! Cheese making fascinates me and I think it great that you’re making Swiss cheese. I’ve made a number of “soft” cheeses but stopped short of the “hard” ones because I don’t have a climate controlled area. I wanted to convert an old fridge but it died before I had the chance. Guess I’m lucky it was before and not 2 months into storing a wheel of parmesan. Although we cannot get raw milk in Illinois, dairy farms in Wisconsin & Michigan offer shares in their herds. For a fee, you become an “owner” and entitled to a certain amount of raw milk every month. It’s a way around the archaic laws for people, including us cheese makers.

    • Oh that would have been bad halfway through aging the cheese! We need to get a few more coolers as aging requires different levels of temp and humidity. So do you cross the border for your milk?

      • No, I don’t make enough cheese to warrant buying shares or going that far. Instead, I searched for local milk that had been only pasteurized at the lowest temp possible. One of the groceries sells milk with the temp on the label. Depending upon the cheese to be made, I’ll add calcium chloride to help the curds form. It cannot be used, however, when making mozzarella for it will prevent the curds from stretching. This is by no means as good as using raw milk but it is what it is and Ricki Carroll’s book details the use of calcium chloride when making cheese.

  4. Baby Lady & I have been wanting to make cheese. We’ve made cream cheese and ricotta but we have yet to make any other mainly because of refrigeration space. You would think with 3 wine cellars, and 2 side by side refrigerator freezers we would have plenty of refrigeration space but we keep the wine cellars full or 85% full and the refrigerators are almost always at capacity. I may break down and buy a mini fridge. Love the cheese press. Can’t wait to read how it turned out. :)

  5. Hi Virginia, was browsing your blog and came across this fantastic post, I have 2 questions, being from LA, where would be a safe place to buy raw milk from? would you know? and 2, i’ve been looking for a cheese press, I don’t want to spend too much money and don’t want anything too bulky, any ideas?

    • Because the US likes to reinvent the wheel 50 times it depends on your state. Where I am I can get it at local farms. Some states like PA gladly have the feds raid the farms that provide raw milk which is crazy. I’m not sure about CA. You may be able to find it at farmer’s markets and such. As for the cheese press, we made it. Two square boards with 4 dowels and then we bought some weights in the sporting section. We did buy the cheese molds but the press part we made from pipes. Saved a lot of money doing that.

      • I’ll have to check out the milk at my local FM but wouldn’t be surprised it was homogenized and ultra pasteurized. Thought about building my own cheese press as well, I made one once, but it was not even as close as refined as your contraption, and as you can imagine, it didn’t work that well either :) thanks for the advice! I’ll give it another shot

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