Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Last night at dinner, Nighean Bhan asks me "Dad, can we make Pepper Jack Cheese?"

Now my cheese making skills are still what I would define as being in a nascent form - the regularity is not quite there.  Sometimes I get great cheese, sometimes I get cheese that I can eat.  Additionally, making cheese seems to be like any other activity:  there's always a little more equipment you can acquire, something else which will enhance the process.

"I don't think so" I replied.  "I need a cheese press".

A cheese press, for the non-cheese educated, is simply a glorified press which, when used with a cheese form, allows a regulated amount of pressure to be applied to curds (here's an example from the good people at New England Cheesemaking Supply Company).  The ultimate purpose is to remove the water and condense the curds into cheese.  They're also a bit pricey - $160 for a simple unit to $279 for the Cadillac of Cheese Presses.

Finally,  I conceded that I would look at my cheese making book to review the recipe.

I pulled The All Powerful Book of Cheese and turned to the jack cheese page.  Sure enough, in the list of ingredients it stated "Cheese Press".  "Well, there you go" I thought to myself as I flipped to the second page to see what the pressure was.

And got a surprise.  It never defined a specific pressure.  It said "medium pressure." 

Medium pressure can come from a lot of things - in my case to date, it's come from a 1 gallon water jug with a plate under it sitting on the lid of the cheese form.  It's not elegant (as if this is suddenly a concern of mine), but it gets the job done.

I went and looked at another recipe.  Sure enough, it said "Medium pressure", not a specific pressure.

Suddenly, my cheese making world opened up.

Am I suddenly going to drop everything and make Pepper Jack all day?  Hardly.  It takes a long time to age and I like my cheese steadily, not making now and waiting for four months without any.  But what it did teach me was an important lesson that I need to apply to every aspect of life:  Just because something is listed doesn't there's not another way to do it, and double check everything before you say you can't.

The important people in your life - including pepper jack loving daughters - will thank you.

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