Things You'll Need
2 gallons milk
Large stainless-steel stockpot with lid
1 packet mesophilic starter or 2 oz. prepared starter
Long-handled slotted spoon or wire whisk
1 tbsp. liquid rennet
Long, thin knife
Making traditional cheddar cheese at home is not especially difficult, but it is time-consuming. You should set aside an entire day to make the cheese, leave several days for pressing and plan on aging the cheese at least 90 days before eating it. This cheese can be aged up to 1 year for a sharper cheddar taste. There are a number of recipes available for making short-cut cheddar, but the traditional recipe produces a true cheddar cheese.
Pour 2 gallons of milk into a large stainless-steel stockpot.
Add 1 packet of mesophilic starter or 2 oz. of prepared starter. Use the whisk or slotted spoon to distribute the starter into the milk.
Attach a cheese thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the milk to 86 degrees. Turn the heat to low to maintain the temperature and let sit 45 minutes to let the milk ripen.
Double-check to make sure the milk is still at 86 degrees. Add the liquid rennet and stir gently to distribute. Cover and allow to sit another 45 minutes.
Cut the curd using a long knife into ¼-inch cubes. Let the cubes rest for 5 minutes.
Heat the curds to 100 degrees over low heat. The temperature should rise no more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Stir gently during this process to keep the curds from matting together.
Maintain the temperature at 100 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the curds from the whey in a fine-mesh colander and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
Place the curds into 100-degree water and let sit for another 15 minutes.
Drain the curds and dump onto a cutting board. Slice the curds into 3-inch slices.
Place the curds back into a pot and place the pot in a sink filled with 100-degree water. Turn the curds every 15 minutes for the next 2 hours, maintaining the water at 100 degrees.
Remove from the water when the curds have the consistency of raw chicken. Cut the curds into ½-inch cubes and return them to the pot.
Return the pot to the 100-degree water and stir the curds with your fingers every 10 minutes for 30 minutes.
Remove from the water and add 2 tbsp. of cheese salt. Stir the salt through the curds using your hands.
Line a cheese press with cheesecloth and fill with the salted curds.
Press at 10 pounds pressure for 15 minutes. Remove the cheese from the press, remove the cheesecloth and turn the cheese wheel over. Rewrap in fresh cheesecloth.
Return the cheese to the press and press for 12 hours at 40 pounds of pressure.
Remove the cheese, rewrap in fresh cheesecloth and press at 50 pounds for 24 hours more.
Remove from the press and remove the cheesecloth. Allow the cheese to air-dry at room temperature for 3 to 5 days or until dry to the touch.
Wax the cheese by dipping the wheel into melted cheese wax until it is fully covered by the wax.
Age the cheese at 50 to 55 degrees for at least 3 months before eating. Once the process is complete, the recipe given will yield a cheddar cheese wheel that weighs approximately 2 pounds.
Homemade cheddar cheese is not for the faint of heart. If you have no experience making homemade cheeses, choose a simpler cheese to begin with to learn the basic processes.