This post is Part 6 of the continued basic home cheese making instructions. See the Curd Nerd Beginner Page or the Basic Instructions category for previous parts.
Pressing your cheese is not only an important part of shaping the cheese but is also important in creating the texture and as part of the aging process.
What Cheese Needs Pressing
Soft cheeses need either no pressing, are pressed under their own weight or have minimal light weight applied to form the cheese.
Hard cheese on the other hand must be pressed and after your cheese has been through each of the steps to get to the point of having curds ready to turn into cheese, you need to apply enough weight in a way that will knit the curds, expel any extra whey and create the shape of your final product.
How To Press Cheese
Each cheese will require differing weights, at particular points in the pressing process.
The pressing process normally starts off with a lighter weight applied for shorter periods then increases to a heavier weight towards the end of the pressing process with the weight left on for longer periods (up to 12 hours).
Pressing at lighter weights to begin with prevents the soft curds from being pushed out of any gaps in the mold or press. It also prevents too much of the butterfat from being pressed out which can cause a hard outer surface to form too soon and stop the cheese from draining properly.
And if excess whey is left in the cheese, this can cause it to spoil over a relatively short time.
During the pressing you will need to regularly unwrap, redress and turn your cheese.
If you don’t do this, you will find that as the curds knit and shrink down, the cheese cloth will be pulled in and molded into the cheese. When this happens, it’s a bit (ok A LOT) of a nightmare to deal with.
Think loss of effort, patience, curd and cloth.
I learnt my lesson very early on from this Parmesan failure.
Likewise, not turning the cheese can create uneven surfaces, shapes and texture.
Turning your cheese over frequently helps to distribute the remaining whey evenly throughout the body of your cheese, ensuring the cheese isn’t plagued by mismatched dry then moist spots.
You want your cheese to look as good as possible (it’s so exciting when your cheese comes out looking like something straight out of a cheese shop) so take the time to regularly tend your cheese while pressing and reap the rewards.
When pressing, be sure to set the press in a tray or have a drip tray system of some sort. You’ll be surprised how much whey can be expelled from your cheese.
Also, it is important to be aware that if you are increasing the size of the cheese, compared to a specific recipe, you may need to increase the pressing weights as weight (or pressure) is relative to the surface and density of the cheese.
Although you can use all sort of home objects like full paint tins, pots of water, bricks or food tins, having a proper cheese press will give you much more consistent and reliable results.
There are a number of different style presses you can buy but if you are lucky enough to have someone you know that has reasonable DIY skills, there are many sites on the internet that provide instructions for making a suitable cheese press. It’s worth looking around to see which type you prefer.
If I could, I would have a Pneumatic press like this one, but you might prefer a Cylinder Press, a Wall Press or the Dutch Press.
Once your cheese is pressed you are almost there!
You should definitely have something that you can show off and then prepare for the next step of aging, which we will cover next.
Do you have any questions or comments about Cheese Pressing? Join the discussion over at the Curd Nerd Forum. We would love to hear from you!