The Jack Report


I’ve broken into the Jack! Making Monterey Jack was my first cheese challenge for New England Cheesemaking. In case you missed this, I’m writing a series of posts in coordination with New England Cheesemaking in which they are providing some really fantastic giveaways each month to readers here. My posts run both here and on the New England Cheesemaking blog. (The giveaways are here, though.)

Monterey Jack should have been easy. It’s not that different from cheddar, which I’ve been making for awhile. But oh, did I have trouble with my curds.

Here, I cracked open a plain (no peppers) Monterey Jack.

This one’s a pepper Jack.

I found both of these cheeses to be a little dry, and the reason for that can be seen in my curds here in my Monterey Jack post. I’ve really struggled with getting my curds just right. You gotta have good curds to have good cheese.

Cheese expert Jim Wallace from New England Cheesemaking gave me this advice about achieving a smooth rind with my curds: β€œDry curds can be caused by temps running too high, too much stirring, or even too much acid development caused by excessive milk ripening. I also find that sometimes it is also caused by too much culture addition. For my work here I normally use 1 pack for 3 gallons of store milk or 4 gallons of raw milk. Different milks will behave differently as well.”

When I started working on my cheeses this month, I planned to add only half a packet of starter. Since I use raw milk, my milk is unique to my cow and I need to learn what works best for my milk. But, something I decided to try first was the simple effort of paying more attention to time and temperature. You know, not letting myself get distracted and wander off to feed a cookie to a goat while I have a pot of curds in the kitchen.

I also upgraded to a spring-loaded cheese press. (It’s the press made by New England Cheesemaking.) Part of the reason for this was to see if it would help me improve my curds with more reliable pressing, and part of the reason was because I make a lot of cheese now. There are pros and cons to both a spring-loaded press and a homemade press, but the main con for me with the homemade press is hefting around the weights. A homemade press is an excellent starting tool to get into cheesemaking without making an investment, but if you make a lot of cheese, hefting those weights around gets old. I decided Beulah Petunia and I deserved a spring-loaded press.

Really, it was her. She wanted one and she’s very demanding.

This weekend I made the BEST cheese to date with a smooth, pretty rind.

More on that cheese on January 15 when I post my next cheese challenge adventure. (There’ll be another giveaway from New England Cheesemaking, too!)

Even though my Jacks didn’t come out perfectly, they did come out. The encouraging thing about cheese is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to still be edible. I used my homemade pepper Jack in pepperoni rolls.

I opened one of my cheddars from last summer, too. I’d broken into a few of my cheddars a while back then decided to wait with the rest of them, let them age some more. This one was aged for about 6 months. (The cheddar is the one on the far right in the photo.)

IT TASTED LIKE CHEDDAR. The flavor difference in waiting a few more months was astounding. It, too, was a little on the dry side. (My curd problem isn’t new!) But the flavor was fantastic. There was no mistaking–THAT’S CHEDDAR. I was amazed. Like I’d done a magic trick. The texture was more like a parmesan, however. Which is okay, just not what I want.

I want to make good cheese.

And I’m gonna keep on trying!


  1. lizzie says:

    Looks yummy to me! I have used dryed jack cheese like you would parmesan in sauces and it turns out wonderful! wish I had a cow so I could make cheese! :snoopy:

  2. Jackie Georgiou says:

    Good for you! I made Grandmother Bread yesterday- per your inspiration. It didn’t turn out perfect (my first try at non-bread machine bread). But I will keep trying! πŸ˜€

  3. bonita says:

    great progress on the cheese front But, oohh! that pic of Beulah Petunia is just stunning!!!! Congrats on conquering cheese and camera.

  4. Patty says:

    That’s so awesome! I wish I could make cheese!

  5. greensborodailyphoto says:

    Love the way you are growing in this process. The cheese of choice around our house is the three-year aged gouda. That would be a great goal for you. Can you imagine waiting 36 months?

    Best of luck in your cheesemaking adventures.

    Greensboro, NC

  6. princessvanessa says:

    So your curd problem is either 1) too high of temps, 2) over stirring, 3) too much acid development, 4) too much culture added, or 5) different milks. Sounds pretty complicated, almost like the only thing that won’t affect curds is what color of harness the cow is wearing.
    I must say, your cheeses are beautiful. They all look professionally made, what with the red wax coating. I’ll bet they taste so much better than anything you can buy in the grocery store.

  7. Debbie in PA says:

    That’s so cool that you are making your own cheese. It must be a tremendous source of satisfaction to see them sitting there aging, and then to be able to pull one out to eat when they have aged.


  8. Karen Anne says:

    Suzanne, help!

    I’ve been reading the blog as ever since the reorganization into sections. That way I don’t miss anything or have to hop around, all the posts are there and in chronological order.

    But doesn’t work – it just takes me to the home page.

    What to do…

  9. knancy says:

    Good bread, cheese and wine. The highlights of a great life. Time to start making wine! :happyflower:

  10. claudia w says:

    It all looks very delicious to me. You are so brave to take on this cheese making. I don’t think I could wait that long to try the cheeses out!

  11. Deb says:

    Love that new press!! My Daddy just made me a simple one that I have to use weights for…I love it, but man would I love one of those even more. LOL I think I’ll be using the one I have for a long time though, cause I just don’t have that much extra money very often, besides gotta love having one made by my Dad. πŸ™‚ I’ll put a link to a photo of my press…in case you have a chance to see it, it’s pretty (I LOVE walnut and thats the wood he used to make it). If I could have found plans for a press like yours, I’m sure he could have made one but I couldn’t…and wouldn’t have known where to find the pressure gage for it anyway. LOL

    Oh and your curds problem is interesting…I have trouble like that some too, so reasons why are always helpful. πŸ™‚

  12. holstein woman says:

    Deb, thats simple and beautiful. I have 2 custom made by a friend and made out of hardwood and pvc pipe. I really like both of them.

    But, Suzanne you have opened my eyes to another cheese making. I plan to make commercially and I think I had better get making more for practice. My mozzarella is dry enough to grate and that is what I want, but some others are too dry. Now you have me thinking. I think I need a New England Cheesemaking book for better instructions.

  13. Joycee says:

    So complicated! They look like a master cheesemaker did them, I can only imagine how good yours will be with practice. I blogged about you today, come over for a visit!

  14. Dawn says:

    Dry or not I would eat your cheeses. i think they look lovely!

  15. texwisgirl says:

    Sorry, but had to chuckle at your pepperoni rolls. They looked like frosted pig snouts when I first saw them! Guess I’ve seen one too many dog product/treat catalogs. πŸ™‚

  16. Ramona says:

    I have no doubt that it’s good alread πŸ™‚

  17. windspiritwhimsies says:

    Suzanne, they look so wonderful! I just want to reach into the computer and taste some!

  18. hollygee says:

    This explains why, when I buy commercial brand name jack the texture varies from a smooth plasticity to crumbly cheddar-y (I prefer the smooth). I’m sure that the brand company is buying from different suppliers and each has it’s own type.

  19. Crystal says:

    I think I need a cow! πŸ™‚ I started cheesemaking last year, but so far all I’ve done is mozzarella, ricotta and cream cheese. And I haven’t made any cheese in about 6 months. I love reading about your cheesemaking adventures here, cause it makes it seem much less scary!

  20. lilac wolf says:

    Wow! Making cheese – that’s fantastic!

  21. Sheila Z says:

    I see lots of mac and cheese in your future.

  22. Miss Becky says:

    Beulah Petunia’s face!!! Oh my. Suzanne your cheese looks amazing and delicious. I’m learning so much about making cheese. Now if only I had a cow. :yes:

  23. Darlene in North Ga says:

    And so you don’t have to give away all of your opened cheeses, go to Jackie Clay’s blog and learn how to can it. True, it’s considered “experimental” canning, but she’s been doing it for years.

    Here’s how she cans her Velveeta (Middle of the page)(and she does other cheese the same way):

    And her other cheese to make them creamy:

  24. Jeanne in NC says:

    I”m so impressed with all the things you manage to get done in a day! Taking care of the farm, baking, cheesemaking, writing. . . wow.
    Re cheesemaking: I found your site from the New England Cheesemaking Company! I’ve only made mozzerella so far – maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to try some others!

  25. BeckyW says:

    I love my New England cheese press……I had tried a homemade version previously. It worked but it was ALOT OF WORK in itself…

    I had an issue with my jack cheese being dry also…
    I attributed it to using store bought milk because I was short on goat milk and the fact that I aged it in my produce drawer instead of a fridge just for cheese. Still looking for one of those…
    We already run two full size fridges and a deep freeze…I don’t want to add another full size appliance to the electric bill just for a few wheels of cheese.

    Your waxing turns out so nice…my first attempt resulted in a 1/4″ thick piece of wax!!!!
    Do you let it cool a bit before dipping your wheels? I thought of just brushing it on next time…seemed to take me forever doing multiple dips…it was so thin for the longest time….until the wax started to cool down…

  26. Dawn says:

    Making Cheese is so impressive! I’m rereading “Little House in the Big Woods” for the umpteenth time and last night right before I turned off the light, guess what Ma was making? Cheese!

  27. Journey11 says:

    Oh, I am drooling now. That melted pepper jack looks so good. I am a cheezaholic!

  28. Shar says:

    They look SCRUMPTIOUS! My mouth is watering! GOOD JOB!

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