The Making of Farmhouse Cheddar


Behold, the cheese!

Farmhouse cheddar, set out to air dry on a wood board before being waxed and aged.

At last! I have started my first hard cheese. And it was so easy. I’ve been wanting to do this for months. I got a homemade cheese press made. Then I procrastinated. Then I realized I didn’t have all the right supplies. But I finally got it all together and started some farmhouse cheddar–and it’s no more difficult than making soft cheese. There are a few more steps, yes, but it starts out with the same basic process.

If you’re interested in making homemade hard cheeses (and how can you not be? we’re talking about CHEESE here!), I would definitely recommend starting with a soft cheese first just because you can familiarize yourself with the process in an immediately edible form. I have a ricotta tutorial here. (Ricotta is SO EASY. And you can use it right away.)

If you’re ready to try your hand at hard cheese, check out my homemade cheese press plans. (Cheap. Easy. You can do it!) Hard cheese must be pressed in order to remove a high percentage of the moisture. Farmhouse cheddar is often referred to as a shortcut cheddar. It’s a drier, flakier style of cheddar, but it only requires a month to age and acquire flavor. It’s a great first-timer hard cheese because you can get some cheese satisfaction without waiting months and months.

To make cheese, you need a large pot (stainless steel, glass, or unchipped enamel) and either a perforated ladle or large slotted spoon. If you’re using only a gallon of milk, the quantity specified in most soft cheese recipes, your average large kitchen pot will do. Hard cheese recipes generally call for two gallons of milk. You need a huge pot.

You also need a dairy thermometer, or any cooking thermometer that registers temperatures in the correct range. (Many candy thermometers, for example, don’t register low enough. For dairy purposes, the thermometer needs to register below 100-degrees F and up to 220 F. With farmhouse cheddar, for example, you start out heating the milk at 90 F.) I have a couple of different thermometers I use for cheese. One is a “real” dairy thermometer and the other is actually a meat thermometer but it’s digital and registers in the lower temps needed for cheesemaking.

I also keep butter muslin (which is a fine cheesecloth, primarily used for soft cheeses) and regular cheesecloth (used with hard cheeses) on hand–which type you use depends on the recipe. For farmhouse cheddar, I used regular cheesecloth. For hard cheeses, you’ll also need cheese wax and a wax brush. (Cheese wax keeps the cheese from drying out during the aging process.)

Other supplies such as rennet, starters, molds, cheese salt, and so on vary per recipe. I get all my supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and use the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll as my guide and recipe resource. Starters come in little packets and can be kept frozen for a long time. Liquid rennet should be refrigerated and also keeps well.

Along with the basic cheesemaking supplies discussed above (large pot, ladle or spoon, thermometer, cheesecloth, and cheese wax/brush), you’ll need the ingredients specified below for farmhouse cheddar.

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How to make Farmhouse Cheddar:

2 gallons whole milk
1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter (or 4 ounces prepared mesophilic starter)
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet (or 1/2 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
1 tablespoon cheese salt

I use direct-set starter and liquid rennet because it makes life so much easier. I’m also using store-bought whole milk here, but you can use goat’s milk or fresh cow’s milk if you have it. (I don’t have it right now. CLOVER!)

Let’s get started!

Heat the milk to 90 F in a large pot. (Heat goat’s milk to 85 F.) Add the starter and stir thoroughly. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes. Add the diluted rennet and stir gently in an up-and-down motion for 1 minute. (If using fresh cow milk, only top stir no more than 1/2-inch deep.) Cover and let sit, keeping the pot at 90 F (85 for goat’s milk) for 45 minutes or until you can get a clean break with the curds. Use a butter knife to cut the curds in 1/2-inch slices back and forth across the pot. (If you’re not sure the curds are ready, slice some then lift the curds with your ladle or spoon to see if the curds remain intact and hold their shape–if they do, they’re ready.)

Place the pot in a sink full of hot water and gradually bring the temperature in the pot up to 100 F. This should take about 30 minutes. For me, I don’t have hot enough water in my tap to bring it up to 100. I boiled a small pot of water and periodically (and repeatedly) added the boiling water to the sink water to slowly bring up the temperature. (Use only a small pot of boiling water–you don’t want to add too much boiling water at a time to the sink. You shouldn’t increase the temperature in your pot by more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Check the temperature frequently.) Stir the pot occasionally (and gently) to keep the curds from matting.

Once the pot reaches 100-degrees, cover it and let sit for 5 minutes. Line a colander with cheesecloth and transfer the curds to the colander.

Tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and let the cheese drain in a warm, non-drafty location. I tied the ends of the cheesecloth over a long paint stick.

I propped the stick atop a bucket, allowing the cheese to hang and drain into the bucket. Let drain for 1 hour. GET IT AWAY FROM KITTEN AND LITTLE.

After an hour, place the drained curds in a large bowl.

Remove the curds from the cheesecloth and break the pieces up with your fingers. (This part is messy, like making bread. You gotta get in there!) Mix in the salt as you’re breaking up the curds.

Now it’s time to press! Get out your cheese press. Line a large mold with cheesecloth.

Transfer the curds to the lined mold and press them down firmly. (You can use something such as the bottom of a glass to press the curds down.)

Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds.

Place the follower (the wooden circle cut to fit the mold) on top.

Put the cheese press together by adding the pusher (the smaller white cylinder) over the follower then the wood bar across the top.

When using only one weight, you can place the weight in the middle of the wooden bar, as pictured here (in the first pressing period using one 10-pound weight).

When using dual weights, place dowels in the holes on the bar….

….and place the weights over the dowels.

The mold sits atop an upside-down plate on the drain board. As the cheese is pressed by the weights, moisture seeps out the bottom. I set the cheese press across one of the sinks in my kitchen to allow the cheese to drain into the sink.

Press the cheese as follows:

1. Apply 10 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. Remove the cheese, turn it over, and re-dress it in the cheesecloth.

2. Apply 20 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. Remove the cheese, turn it over again, and re-dress it again in the cheesecloth.

3. Apply 50 pounds of pressure for 12 hours.

This is the first time I’ve used my homemade cheese press and it worked fantastic!

I made this cheese in the evening in order to pass the 12-hour final pressing period overnight and have the cheese ready to deal with at a decent hour in the morning. After pressing for 12 hours, remove the cheese and place it on a wooden board to air dry. The cheese will have the imprint of the cheesecloth on it and may be slightly uneven on the surface, but don’t worry about how it looks–you’ll be waxing it later.

Air drying forms a protective rind to prepare for the aging process. Depending on temperature and humidity, it takes two to four days for proper rind development. After the rind develops, the cheese is ready to be waxed and aged. Turn the cheese several times a day while it’s air drying.

With winter and low humidity, I expect the cheese will be ready for waxing in a couple of days. The one thing the directions left out was where to put your cheese if you have 10 cats. (I can’t believe they left that out!!!!) I set the cheese on a small cutting board inside a cabinet, leaving the cabinet doors slightly ajar to allow for air flow.

Look for a cheese-waxing post in a few days as I continue the process of making farmhouse cheddar. I’ll also share the final results with you in about a month, after it’s aged! In the meantime, I plan to start some other hard cheeses!

My first experience making hard cheese has left me eager to make more. It’s easy. Are there are a lot of steps? Yes. But it’s mostly a hurry-up-and-wait sort of thing. You spend more time not doing anything than you spend doing something. As you go through the various steps, you can carry on about other chores or watch TV or whatever. Most of the time spent making cheese is not spent actually working with the cheese. The process of making hard cheese is very simple, no more difficult than soft cheese, and as long as you keep the right temperatures and times, you can’t really mess it up. Fear not. If I can do it, so can you! And you do not have to have fresh goat’s or cow’s milk to do it–you can use milk from the store, just as I did. I hope to have fresh milk someday (CLOVER), but I’m not letting the current lack of farm-fresh milk stop me from learning to make cheese.

See all my cheesemaking posts here.

Okay, who’s making a cheese press? Who’s making cheese? Who just wants to come over and eat at my house?

Update: See Waxing the Cheese and Cutting the Cheese.

See this recipe on Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print page and to save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Gen says:

    My husband is going to be *SO* excited by this post! Thank you, Suzanne, for demistfying cheese making, so intimidating.

  2. Neeky says:

    Oh I would love to try that! I’ve made homemade butter from fresh cow’s milk, but yum, cheese sounds so much better!

    I checked out your soft cheese posts, I can’t believe Ricotta only takes an hour to make – that sounds so much easier than worrying about having it on hand for when we want lasagna…I may just have to give that one a try.

    Wonder if you can make cream cheese at home? I’m addicted to that stuff. Now you’ve got me wanting to turn my kitchen into a cheese factory! Thanks!

  3. skippymom says:

    Me! I want some cheese! I can’t wait to try this – it does look easy – who knew milk from the grocery store could be used.

    Can’t wait to see it all waxed up! Nice job.

  4. Euni Moore says:

    Your chwwse looks so, so good. I would love to make cheese but with an electric range don’t know if I could control the heat adequately, but will try ricotta. So, until I can make the hard cheese I guess I will have to come eat at your house!

  5. Box Call says:

    My gosh that does sound like I could accomplish it on a weekend. I didn’t know I could use regular whole milk. I have been to Helvetia, WV years ago to watch them make goat cheese and never dreamed that the process on a small scale could be cheaper than buying cheese. I am getting tired of paying $6 a pound for colby and cheddar cheeses. Now I have got to find some old weights.

  6. Cindy Lou Who says:

    Suzanne – First let me say, I love your blog! Second, you and I definitely have different meanings of the word “easy”. Maybe I just haven’t had enough coffee yet, but this cheese thing looks time consuming, technically challenging, with special ingredients needed, and special equipment needed. I think I will wait for retirement to try this. Good luck to you.

  7. Patricia Herman says:

    Finally voted for you = put your name in all the categories I could!!!!

    Interesting post – I learn something new everytime! You are so talented Suzanne.

  8. Leah says:

    I’ve never seen a hunk of cheese that size! Looks good too,the roads are to bad to come to eat a your place tho. :wave:

  9. Anke says:

    I so want to make cheese! We (hubby and I) had actually signed up for a class, but to our disappointment it was canceled. You make it sound pretty easy, though…

  10. Runningtrails says:

    This is something I definately have to do! Thank you for all the info and pictures of your homemade cheese press.

    If you slowly gather the equipment and supplies until you have it all, then making it is easy. Its hard if you are in a hurry and have to run around trying to gather and make it all at once.

    I am going to make a cheese press, slowly when I have time before I start looking at purchasing ingredients. What are the two black tubes, that the dowels go into, made out of? What are you using for a mold? Does the mold have a bottom with holes in it or is it a tube with the plate as the bottom?

    Something else to put on my want-to-do list. Right now I am trying to get the beer and wine making started, as well as getting the livingroom painted.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Sheryl, check out the cheese press post for all the details on what the cheese press is made of–they’re all simple materials!

      Anke, you don’t have to have a class to make cheese (though I’d love to have one, too!)–get a really good book (like the one I mention in the post) and you can do it!

  11. CindyP says:

    I’ve been waiting for you to use that cheese press!!!! I NEED one…..sending John out to the workshop to gather supplies today!!!! And that is one big hunk a cheese!!! Did you weigh it?

  12. Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:

    I’ve been wanting to make homemade cheese for ages! Thought somebody would have gotten me the kit from New England Cheese Making Supply Company for Christmas, but no. I purchased acidic acid from my brother’s spice company so I can make ricotta soon. Cheddar is on the brain. If I don’t get the kit for my birthday in 2 weeks, I’ll purchase it myself. Looks like you had so much fun!

    Thanks for sharing!!!


  13. Deborah R says:

    I have the kit…I have the book…next is the (home-made) press and then look out!

  14. Kristen says:

    I totally want to be you when I grow up. Oh, wait, I’m almost 30. lol

  15. Julia says:

    Fascinating. What did you do with the liquid that drained from the curds? Is that whey?

  16. Janean says:

    i’ve been interested in making cheese for years….you took the scary mystery out of it. thank you for the photos and step-by-step instructions! yay!!!! :snoopy:

  17. kerri says:

    You are an inspiration, Suzanne! This is so interesting. I’m going to check out your cheese press and other cheese making posts. My daughter is interested in trying this, so together we just might do it. I’ll show my hubby your homemade press post and maybe he’ll get in on the act helping to make that πŸ™‚
    Your cheese looks wonderful! Clever girl :sun:
    Quiet weather here today. No snow flakes in the air for a change. Oh wait…I just looked out and saw a few fluttering around. Oh well, it’s quieter than it has been lately, and a wee bit warmer…in the low twenties πŸ™‚

  18. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    Wow, great tutorial! I am no longer milking my little pygmy goat but we are in line to buy a Nubian this Spring that will already be in milk so I am so excited about this! I love trying things with goat’s milk. My son is already wanting some more yogurt!

    Someone told me I could use the whey to water my plants and I tried it. Most of my plants did fine but it killed my Peace Lily in 1 day! It died a fast and horrible death so don’t use whey for watering Peace Lilies! That’s my tip for the day!

    Thanks again for all your wonderful posts Suzanne!

  19. Barbara says:

    Just ordered the kit, Thanks!

  20. Elaine says:

    oooo, oooo, I want to come for dinner! Cheese, crackers and a good Merlot. Ok. Now I am too excited for words. My goats are going to be here soon. We just finished the barn and the fencing will be started soon. Doe’s are bred and waiting to move. They are due in May so I can start the cheese in June? ugh! I may have to go to the store. Can’t wait until June!

  21. Melinda says:

    Sometimes I wonder if you realize the fact that you are a sort of modern day piped-piper. When ever you try something new we all jump on the band wagon and want to try too! You really have found your niche Suzanne. You have this wonderful ability to connect with people and inspire and motivate. That is a gift.

    Now, on to the cheese! Was the milk pasturized, homogonized, etc?? And, do you know how long the cheese is expected to stay fresh?

    I’m excited! Another skill to learn!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Melinda, I’m the one who is inspired by all of you! I want to try new things so I can show them to you! (Win-win!) You can use regular storebought milk, meaning homogenized and pasteurized. You should use whole milk for this recipe. The only type of milk it’s important to avoid in storebought milk is the ultra heat-treated, also avoid anything that is ultra pasteurized. (The label on the milk will say “ultra” so just check the labels and avoid anything that says ultra. Most average milk in the store is NOT ultra. For example, the common storebrand milk at Wal-Mart is not ultra.)

  22. Dixie says:

    Hmmm, sounds like a way to torture some kitties who only desire their noms! Great shot of the cats. Now I’m hungry for cheese and I’m at work where things get “cheesy”, but not in a good whey. Ok. I’m stopping now.

  23. Carol says:

    Did Kitten and Little at least get to sample the whey?

  24. Flatlander says:

    DH made my cheese press..and yes I make cheese.
    Well not right now, but will be again after April when the kids are born.
    (I work with fresh goats milk to make cheese)

  25. Moi says:

    I’m jealous! I just tried my first cheesemaking last week and it was a huge FAIL. Argh. I followed directions from a friend who makes it with no starters or acids, not a thing but milk left to clabber in a warm place. Hers always turns out great — the yummiest cheese I’ve ever had. Mine turned into something out of a horror movie.

  26. Rituparna says:

    I just love the look of the cheese.
    When can I come over …

  27. Claudia says:

    What a beautiful hunk of cheese, can’t to hear how it tastes!

  28. Jessica says:

    You make it look so easy! Can’t wait to read about the next steps. :moo: And very glad you finally got my email, yay! πŸ™‚

  29. TXLady says:

    So cool..I have only made soft cheese but would love to try this one. Are you going to do blue cheese…I love Blue cheese.

  30. Janis says:

    Excellant cheese making demo.
    I LOVE making cheese~!! Nothing like a piece of cheddar on hot apple pie.
    I took a cheese making class last summer and was totally amazed how easy it can be.
    I make kefir cheese from the kefir I make every day–NO COOKING REQUIRED – easy peasy. You and all your blog followers would love it. Lots of health benefits from kefir too.

  31. catslady says:

    That is so beyond me roflmao. It’s fun reading about it (love the Kitten and Little pic the best) but I’m afraid I’d live without cheese before doing all that lol.

  32. Diane says:

    That is soooo cool. You have inspired me and maybe I will make some cheese as soon as I can get my daddy to build the cheese press for me. Please keep blogging about it because I learn from the pictures!!!

  33. beth aka confusedhomemaker says:

    I have never attempted to make a homemade cheese before & so I’m happy to see that it looks pretty simple. I just might have to give this a try. :hungry:

  34. Debnfla3 says:

    I had no idea making cheese could be so easy!
    I totally want to make some now.


  35. marissa says:

    No. Way. You can make cheese with store-bought milk??? This is earth-shattering news! I’m going to be off the island for a few weeks- sounds like the perfect time to get all the supplies together to make a press!
    I’ve been longing to do this for YEARS, but always thought it required raw milk. Like butter- doesn’t butter require raw milk, or was I wrong about that, too??
    (Obviously, I have some homework to do!)
    Thanks, Suzanne, as usual you are amazing!

  36. Kat says:

    Mozzarella? check!
    Ricotta? check!
    Hard cheese? let me get back to you on that…

  37. Linda says:

    You are just amazing. I look at a thing and think about it, then think of all the reasons not to do it. You just jump in. I love it. Thank you for sharing cheese making. I am so impressed. :sheepjump: :sheep:

  38. debbie says:

    Of all the awesomely awesome posts you’ve written, this has to be the awesomest. Why? Because you have me almost believing that I can make cheese, too. I’ve made some soft cheeses, not alot, not often, but I have. Just quesa blanca and yougurt cheese and the like. Many, many years ago I, too, received a cheese kit for hard cheeses. I made one. It turned blue. I threw it out. I read other blogs about making cheese at home. I Don’t Get It! I read the New England Cheese Making Supply pages. They make my eyes cross. This post I got. This I can maybe do. The things that I need to make a cheese press might be in my cellar right now. Now, if I could only talk the city fathers into letting me keep a couple of pygmy goats as pets…

  39. Mel Meister says:

    I’ve always wanted to make cheeses. I bought a book years ago and it sits on the shelf. You are certainly inspiring!

    I do get raw milk through a food co-op. If anyone else wants to try to get raw milk, do a google on it to see if there are any co-ops in your area.

  40. Barbee' says:

    Inspector Kitten and Inspector Little were just doing their job to be sure you were doing it right! I’m sure that’s it.

  41. Cindy says:

    Wow, Suzanne! I’m impressed. Your hunka, hunka cheese looks delicious!

  42. Janie says:

    Hey, Suzanne,
    I have a question not about cheese making, but where would I find the ingredients for the dough enhancer? At the coop maybe…I checked all the local grocery stores and never found it there. Love all your stories every day. You inspire us so keep up the great work. Thanks, Janie

  43. Susan says:

    It’s the mesophilic (sp?) starter that always stumps me….can’t seem to get by it. However, I do make a fab mozz if I do say so myself…

  44. SharonB in WA says:

    That’s amazing. I’m really impressed. Have you thought about making mozzarella next? I heard that’s an easy one to do too.
    Loved the picture of the two cats checking out the cheese. Too cute.

  45. tabbimama says:

    Forget SAM-E. Make extra money by giving Cheesemaking classes. I am only 9 hours from WV and would be totally willing to drive there for a weekend Cheesemaking class.

    Thanks Suzanne

  46. Yolanda says:

    Good for you! I have been doing this too. I do have goats, but they are dried off right now. I managed to make 2, 2# wheels of cheese before that happened. My process is nearly identical to yours. Thank you for sharing! If you want to see my recipe, it is here: It’s very encouraging to see someone else doing it!

  47. Cassondra says:

    Suzanne, I have been trying to find something that says or shows whether or not you pasteurize your milk? Do you have a machine or another way? Details please!

  48. Sheila says:

    Well if you ever move to Nm , let me know and I’ll come and eat at your house πŸ™‚ , btw I’m going to try one of your cheese recipes sometime. I also made your homemade poptarts yesterday (very good btw) :.

  49. Kris says:

    I love your step by step instructions along with photos. Thank you so much for providing this information. VERY helpful. Just beginning to create soft, goat cheeses, but am looking forward to venturing into different kinds in the future.

    Thank you

  50. jasmin70 says:

    Please tell me how does it taste in comparison to the traditional cheddar you have made. Thank you!

  51. captaindave11 says:

    What a wonderful posting on cheese making,it’s got my juices flowing…I make several kinds of homemade Beers and just started my first wine project,cheese just seemed like my next leap in life,I have made some Mottz… but hard cheese is where I’m headed,Got all the materials today to build my press,should be a breeze…I do all kinds of custom home improvements for a living. I will try to post a picture of my first hard cheese when it’s done,Love your farm,my parents where from Ft.Gay,WVa. near Huntington,I can’t wait to explore all of your pictures and adventures … By the way my street is Stringtown rd,take care,Dave

  52. captaindave11 says:

    Cheese press is built and ready to go,making chedder tonight…

  53. captaindave11 says:

    Just wanted to say thanks Suzanne,I’ve now made Cheddar,Gouda,mottz,and am having a blast doing it…You are the best,Dave

  54. jz says:

    How do you know when the rind is right? Does that make a huge difference? Can you develop the rind in the refrigerator and use the frig as a cheese cave if you don’t have one? thanks jz

  55. simplyjo says:

    I found your directions for making the cheese press by googling “how do I make a cheese press”. My lovely and very talented husband made it for me. He did a couple of changes like drilling small holes in the pvc and used his fancy gig saw and made the follower near perfect. He loves to use his tools. πŸ™‚ Maybe cost all in all $35-$40 bucks. I made my first pressed cheese and it was a flop. I cooked the curds to fast. Made the second and it was a success. I am now going to make the farmhouse cheddar. Wish me luck and thanks for all the good advice on here. I have goats by the way and use my goat milk to make my cheese. πŸ™‚ Love my “Girlies”

  56. Davidsca says:

    I know this is an old post, but it was high on a google search (good work). I’m planning on making this cheese and cold smoking it after it ages a bit. I’m hoping it will go well with my homemade bread and homemade summer sausage.

    Yeah, I’m self reliant too.

    Have a good day

  57. Davidsca says:

    Hello again,
    This is a great recipe. I’m on my second batch now. May I post the link to this recipe on another site, or can I blatently copy and paste to share? I wanted to ask first

    Thank you,

    Dave S


  58. Molly T says:

    What is the diameter of the mold you’re using? I bought the large cheese mold from New England cheesemaking and it looks larger than yours! Help! I’m afraid if I use the mold I bought, I will end up with a very skinny cheese…..

  59. Randy says:

    Just put my first batch in the press….I love the simplicity of your recipe. I cant wait to taste it.

  60. Heather S says:

    I know this is an old post, but is the liquid rennet you are using single or double strength? Looking forward to trying your recipe!

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