When I first started making hard cheeses I fashioned a cheese press out of all sorts of items. Filled stock pots of water, cans of food, rocks, anything that would give me enough weight to press the curds in the mold.
Eventually I got frustrated with the balancing acts (and the anxiety caused everytime said balancing acts didn’t work) and went looking for a proper press to upgrade my cheese making process.
I bought a press made by a local engineering student whose father is a cheesemaker.
The press works well but I found the mold that comes built into it is too wide in diameter, resulting in a larger flat cheese rather than a short stout one. The problem with larger flat cheeses is you end up with a lot more rind than paste as the drying area is bigger.
I tried to alter the press but it wasn’t working out too well so I ended up rigging a new DYI pressing system. And surprisingly it is one that works pretty well.
I purchased a round food grade container just the right size, drilled a ton of wholes in it, sanded it back and sterilised it and ended up with the perfect mold.
I then found the ideal follower to fit inside the mold and with a set of plate weights on top I am able to press my cheeses into the short, stout shape I was looking for.
Although it works perfectly I do spend a bit of time stacking and unstacking the weights when I turn and redress the cheese and there is still a bit of balancing that has to be got just right.
It also just feels so budget, DIY and like I’m missing a key component of ’proper’ cheese making apparatus that makes my cheese ‘real’.
I know that sounds a bit silly and I’m sure, back in the day when they first started cheese making they just made do with what ever weight bearing method they have, but anyway, what I really want is a press that is simple to use, accurate in pressure and has just the right size mold. What I really want is one of these –
I don’t know where I found this picture but I saved it at the time and have drooled over it ever since. It’s like the Masarati I will never own, coveted but unattainable at this point.
Getting just the right cheese press is a bit of a trick and I have reasearched a fair bit, reading and hearing about a number of different opinions on each style. Some say that the presses with the spring pressure go slack, and are inaccurate. Then there’s the Dutch style cheese press, which a lot of people make themselves.
But I just don’t have the DIY skills necessary to get one of these pulled together, and it seems like they can take a bit of mathematical, engineering type thinking to get the leverage points and weight ratios just right.
So as it stands, until I find and can afford the perfect press, I will just keep using my make shift system. And at the end of the day, the end result is still fantastic.
The shape of the cheese is pretty good, the knit of the curd has been absolutely perfect and the taste is completely unaffected by the pressing method so I can’t fault it too much.
I might not have the fancy tools of a professional cheese maker but I’m still just as happy enjoying my hobby, and enjoying the results.
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