Local supermarkets carry dozens of kinds of cheddar cheese--white, yellow, sharp, milk, shredded and in blocks. Most of these cheeses have added stabilisers and preservatives that keep the product on the shelves for a longer period of time. Making your own homemade cheddar cheese can be a fun project to undertake and results in a tasty, preservative-free cheddar.
Heat 1 gallon/3.8 litres of non-homogenised milk in a saucepan until it reaches 65 degrees C/150 degrees F. Keep the milk at this temperature for half an hour to kill bacteria and make the milk safe to use to make cheddar cheese. Find local sources for non-homogenised milk at Real Milk (see Resources).
Allow the milk to cool to 21 degrees C/70 degrees F before adding 1 tsp starter. Starters come in both a liquid and a dry form and are available for purchase at stores such as Leeners.com (see Resources). You can use either kind of starter.
Cover the pan of milk with a dish towel and let it sit in a warm place in the kitchen for an hour. After an hour, return the pan to the stove and allow the milk's temperature to rise to 30 degrees C/85 degrees F.
Combine 2 tsp sterile water with 1/2 tsp rennet. You can sterilise your water by boiling it, but wait until it has cooled to mix it with the rennet.
Add the rennet to the milk and stir it well. After 5 minutes, stir the milk again. Cover the pan with the towel and set in a warm, dry place.
Check on the curd that is forming from the milk periodically to see how firm it is. Touch it with your finger to see if it bounces back without leaving milk behind.
Cut the curd into small cube-shaped pieces with a sharp knife so that the liquid whey can drain into the bottom of the pan. After the whey has drained, mix the curd together gently.
Put the pan back on the stove and heat it to 38 degrees C/100 degrees F as you stir. Raise the heat slowly over a period of about 30 minutes. At the end of this time, the solids will sink down to the bottom of the pan.
Place a piece of cheesecloth over another empty pan and empty out the full pan on top of the cloth. The whey will drain off and the curd will remain. Wrap the curd in the cloth and tie it shut with a string.
Let the whey continue to drain by placing the cheesecloth-wrapped curd on a baking tray for about 15 minutes. Prop the sheet up on an incline to facilitate drainage.
Untie the cheesecloth and cut the large piece of cheese into four to five pieces. Stack the slices on top of each other and retie into a bundle. After 15 minutes, open the bundle back up and cut the cheese into small dices around the size of a pea.
Salt the cheese and put in into a mould that is draped with cheesecloth. You can use a small loaf pan for a mould.
Press the cheddar cheese by putting a full gallon bottle of water on top of the mould. More liquid will be expelled from the cheese during the pressing process. Keep the press in place for 24 hours.
Unmould the cheese and immerse it in 150 degree F water for 60 seconds to produce a smooth finish. Allow the cheddar to dry out for one to two days before eating.