I said I was going to make a batch of Cheddar yesterday, but I'm making Cheddar again next Sunday, when I have a few friends (and serious foodies) coming over to learn how to make their own Cheddar, including building a cheap but effective cheese press. So I decided to try Gruyere, the queen of the melting cheeses.
It requires much higher temperatures, I noticed, and the curds are stirred and held at 114º, which is quite hot - in fact so hot that I could see the cheese beginning to melt in places. Hmmmm, should have been warned! Anyway, I followed the recipe faithfully, or at least I thought I did. It said to warm the mold before adding the warm curds, wrapped in cheesecloth. And it was a very short draining time. That meant that the curds really didn't have a chance to cool off before the lid went down on the mold. It was to be pressed at medium pressure for just an hour and then redressed before the final 12-hour press with a little added weight.
Redressing means that you take it out of the mold, unwrap the cheesecloth from the curds, which now form the block of cheese, flip the cheese so that what was the top is now the bottom, and wrap it in the cheesecloth again. Then back into the mold. Sometimes one does this several times, but for this cheese, at least in this recipe book, it was one flip and on to the final press.
HOWEVER, when I took it out of the mold, the cheese had melted into the cheesecloth, a little like bubble gum on your kid's new shirt. Sigh . . .
Not one to give up easily, I just flipped the chunk of curds, now well knit together, without removing the cheesecloth, then smoothed the cheesecloth as best I could and popped it back into the mold. It stayed there overnight.
This morning I foolishly hoped that it would have shrunk and dried a bit and the cheesecloth would release. It was better, but there was no way I was going to get that cheesecloth off without destroying half the wheel of cheese.
What do you do when your kid gets gum on his new shirt? Put it in the freezer! So that's what I did, setting it in the chest freezer in the garage for about 20 minutes. Voila! the cheesecloth came off fairly well, although it doesn't have the nice smooth surface I would have liked. It got its 12-hour bath in brine, and I just took it out to put on the drying board for a few days before it goes into the cheese cave. This is a washed rind type of cheese, no wax. I am not pleased with the cracks I see - that's a great place for mold to form where I don't want it to. The mold creates the rind and should just be on the exterior. So I think this batch is not going to be my long aged Gruyere that I was planning on.
I sliced a bit off to see what it would taste like without aging, and I must say that it is quite fantastic. But it will spoil quickly, will probably have to be eaten within a couple of weeks. I'm having company Saturday night, and a house guest who will be here until Tuesday, so perhaps we will take care of it completely before the sun rises Wednesday morning.