With all the milk we have around here, making cheese is almost a daily activity. Way back when, I decided to perfect making cheddar. I kind of get on cheese “hobby horses” meaning that I make one kind of cheese intensively and then get bored and move on to another type of cheese. Cheddar was my hobby cheese for a number of months last year. I instantly learned that making cheddar has one amazing side benefit–the cheese curds! Just before you put the cheddar cheese into the press, the curds are sweet, salty, squeaky and savory all at the same time. Coming out of the 100 degree whey bath, they taste AMAZING. They quickly became a favorite snack around here, and every time I made cheddar, I purposely made more than would fit in the press so we would have leftovers to eat. Eventually, I decided I didn’t like making cheddar as much as some other cheeses, and I moved on to gouda, Parmesan, montasio, manchego, etc. You see, cheddar takes the longest to make, it has to age the longest, and I was having issues with the curds not knitting every time. I was also having issues with mold ONLY on the cheddars during aging, so I gave up and decided to come back to it another time.
That decision would have been fine except for the LOUD clamoring from my family that they need cheese curds! I started making batches of cheddar just for the curds. It is an easier undertaking because I know it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter that the curds get mixed exactly every 15 minutes, because we are going to eat them fresh, and if they are warm and squeaky in the end, we’ve achieved our aims. Well, last week, I made a five gallon batch of cheddar only for the curds. This overwhelmed everyone and of course we had tons of left overs after the initial squeak wore off at around the 36 hour mark. I thought I was doomed to feed all that hard work to the chickens. Then, a light turned on, and I started adding cheese curds to the things I was cooking. It started first with some scrambled eggs as I was desperate to not throw out the cheese. The curds got soft and melty and even took on some squeak again. After a full week of cooking with them (fried cheese, YUM), I dumped the remaining curds into a pot of risotto to get that final creaminess at the end. Low and behold, this completed my revelation. The cheese melted and was amazingly creamy and delicious. I know aged cheddar gets sharp and delicious, but fresh curds have a sweet, innocent savory wonderfulness that I am now in LOVE with.
I must admit that I was loathe to give up on making cheddar because I like it’s unique flavor in cooking, but I’ve now figured it all out. If I make cheddar and stop at the curd stage, we have an ideal situation. Most importantly, we can eat curds to our hearts content. I don’t have to worry about a failed knit or mold, which relieves the stress of making such a long, involved cheese. After the curds have lost their squeak, a few more days aging in the fridge and I have a delicious cheese that works well in any oven/casserole/melted cheese dish.
This works well for us. I’m excited to get a bit more cheddar flavor in my life without having to worry about failure and oh… the deliciousness.