- 2 Gallons Whole Milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
- 3/4-1.25tsp (4-6ml) Annatto Coloring
- 1/2 Packet C101 Mesophilic Culture or 1/8 tsp MA011 Culture
- 1/16 tsp C90 Penicillium Roqueforti
- 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) Single Strength Liquid Rennet
- Salt for dry salting curds
- Large Stainless Steel Pot
- Good Quality Thermometer
- Curd Knife
- Slotted Spoon
- Draining Pan or Large Colander
- 2 M3 Small Hard Cheese Mold or 1 E28M Cheese Mold
- Butter Muslin
- Cheese Mat
- Shropshire Blue Cheese Info
- Q & A
How to Make Shropshire Blue Cheese
The guide below is for a cheese from 2 gallons of milk, but the photos are from a doubled batch. I find that the cheese I make here in the larger size tends to be nicer, since the rind to cheese body ratio is so much smaller and it just makes a better presentation when cut. For your first trial I suggest staying with the 2 gallon guide as written below.
I should say again, that is a cheese for the intermediate to advanced cheese makers.
Note: Start this one early in the day because there are some long wait steps as you go (otherwise you could be up into the wee hours).
Heat & Acidifying Milk
For a good curd, if using pasteurized milk, add 1/4tsp calcium chloride and stir well.
Add 3/4-1.25tsp (4-6ml) annatto to the milk, mix in well.
Next heat the milk to 88F (30.5C). You can do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you heat directly on the stove top, do so slowly and stir the milk as it heats.
While heating the milk, remove 1/4 cup and add P.roqueforti to it so the mold is able to re-hydrate, set this aside.
Once the milk is 88F, add the culture. To prevent the culture from clumping and sinking to the bottom, sprinkle the culture over the surface of the milk and allow it to re-hydrate for 2 minutes before stirring it in.
Note: only a small amount of culture is used in order to preserve calcium and moisture in the cheese.
Once the culture is stirred in, add the re-hydrated P.roqueforti mold and stir.
Allow the milk to milk to sit still for 30 minutes while the culture begins to work.
Coagulate With Rennet
Now add 1/4tsp (1.25ml) of single strength liquid rennet and gently stir for 1 minute.
Let the milk set for 90 minutes while the rennet coagulates the curd. You should keep it warm during this period. The milk will begin to show thickening at about 15-20 minutes, but leave it for the full time. The long hardening time will help the curd hold moisture in the final cheese.
Check the curd break for a good firm curd. This one should break very clean, with clear whey washing into the cut.
For those paying attention to the flocculation time and hardening factor (5x), this would be flocculation at about 18 minutes and a factor of 5, which will have a good curd at about 90 minutes.
Cut Curds & Release Whey
The initial cut for this cheese is very minimal. Start by cutting vertical 3/4 to 1 inch cuts in both directions as shown in the photo. There is no need for horizontal cuts with this cheese.
Let this curd set for 3 hours, keeping it at temperature while the bacteria works and consumes lactose. During this time the curd will sink to a considerable depth, as culture works and whey is released.
While waiting for the curd to release its whey and settle in the pot, prepare the draining pan/colander.
I use a food grade plastic kitchen pan and, with a hot nail, I poke many holes in the base of one and leave the other intact. This gives me the option to drain the curds either submerged in whey or free of it.
In this case, I use the drainer pan inside another kitchen pan with no holes. If using a colander for this, just size a colander that fits inside another pan to collect the whey around the curds.
Make sure both cloth and drainer are sanitized and ready for the next step.
Next step is to remove the free whey to the level of the curd. As you can see below, the curds are very distinct long vertical pieces but with plenty of moisture retained. They are still quite fragile and will break under their own weight or if stirred.
Note the curd definition and moisture retention that has already developed at this point.
Transfer the curds to the draining cloth and allow the warm whey being released to gather around the curd mass to keep it warm. Do this by transferring the curds to the cloth-lined colander or drainer which is held in a pot or other container to hold the whey.
I used a small stainless bowl here with a thin edge to both cut the curd and transfer to the cloth. I kept the curds as large as possible to retain the moisture.
Allow the whey to collect around the consolidating curd mass as it drains off. This provides warmth and a ready supply of lactose for the curd. Drain for about 1 hour.
As it drains, the whey will cover the curds. After an hour the whey can be removed, leaving a lightly consolidated curd mass behind.
Consolidate & Prep Curds
Now tighten the cloth by pulling up all 4 corners, then taking one corner and pulling the cloth around tightly, fasten the curd mass into a snug ball. Turn this over onto the knot and allow the whey to collect again.
In about an hour, the whey will rise again and can be removed for the final time.
Untie and turn the curd mass in the cloth then retie it. In about 1 hour, the curds can be removed from the cloth, allow the whey to drain away during this last draining time.
Remove the cloth and cut the curds into large 2-3 inch piecesto allow for more draining.
Keep the curd pieces warm and turn them every 15 minutes for the next hour while the final acid continues to develop.
Now allow the curds to rest overnight and the temperature to drop to about 65-75F.
Note: I was making a double batch, that's why there's two bundles of curds in one of the photos above.
The next morning, the curd is now ready to be broken, salted, and formed in the molds. Begin by breaking the large curd pieces into quarters. Note the nice flaky texture of the torn curd.
Note: A final pH of 4.6-4.7 should have developed by the morning
Add 2% of salt by weight of curds. Mix this in over 2-3 applications while stirring the curds well to allow the curds to slowly absorb the salt and brine created.
Molding & Drying
It's now time to form the curds, they will initially sit high in the mold but will drop to about 1/2-2/3 of the initial pack height after a couple of days of turning.
Because of this, you will need a tall mold. The large mold I use here has plenty of height for my double batch, for a 2 gallon batch two M3 Small Hard Cheese Molds taped together will be the perfect height. Or you can use one of our E28M Stainless Steel Cheese Mold.
To fill the mold, place it on a small board with a draining mat underneath. Fill the mold, packing firmly (the curd is well defined this point). Place another draining mat on-top followed by another board. Moisture will drain for several days, the temperature should be 60-65F during this time. If your curd is too dry, use a follower with about 4-8 lbs of weight to help consolidate the curds.
The curds will settle in the mold as shown over the first few days of turning.
At about 5 days of turning the cheese, it's tie to unmold the cheese. The curds should have consolidated nicely but the surface will show large openings and cracks. These are addressed by closing the surface with a flat bladed knife (dull edge is best) or large spatula. Dip the knife or spatula in warm water and firmly scrape it back and forth over the surface until the scrapings fill the cracks. After 5 days of draining, this is easier because the proteins have begun breaking down and the surface is much softer to work with.
The cheese surface is still moist and should be wrapped with a cloth bandage. Cut a dry cloth to the height of the cheese and wrap it around the cheese. This helps wick moisture to the surface, over the next several days it will begin to dry out. The cheese should then be placed on another cloth square to wick moisture from the bottom with another square smoothed over the top. The drying cheese should be in a cool room of moderate moisture to help dry the surface.
After several days, the wrapped cheese will begin to dry out and blue mold will show on the surface, as seen above. As the bandage dries out, it can be removed and the cheese can be moved to an aging space with about 85% moisture and 52-54F.
At about 5 weeks, the cheese should have:
- Begun to mellow
- Consolidated slightly, there will still be plenty of air spaces for mold to grow
- Be ready for piercing, this allows air into the cheese for the blue to develop internally
It's now time for piercing. This is done by piercing with a sanitized 1/8" sanitized skewer about 3/4-1inch apart over the entire surface top and bottom of the cheese.
In about 3-6 months the mold should have grown well inside the cheese, the surface should be dried down to a dark wrinkled surface and is now ready to enjoy.
Making Shropshire Blue Cheese
Shropshire Blue is one of the least known blues and one of my all time favorites. It's bright orange with very distinctive blue veins and makes me smile every time I see it.
I would not suggest making this cheese if you're just starting out, but it's certenly one to put on your list once you've made a few other aged cheeses.
The primary reason I chose this cheese (besides loving it) is that the long New England winter had me spending a lot more time indoors and I needed something to brighten up my cheese cave.
With more time inside, I tend to look for more challenging recipes, not really difficult, just more steps to keep me ocupied.
What is Shropshire Blue Cheese?
Shropshire cheese is a rather "modern" cheese, with a history going back only as far as the early 20th century. Despite its name, it was not born as a "Shropshire Lad", but far to the north in Scotland. Orange coloring was simply a matter of distinguishing it from others, quite similar to the Cheshire story on coloring. The orange color comes from the addition of annatto, a natural food coloring.
Over time it has moved south and is now made by the same folks making Stilton in the East Midlands of England.
The cheese at first appears to be much like the Stilton but is really more like a Blue Cheshire. It has a more flaky and crumbly texture and the blue is quite mild in a fully ripened cheese. The extensive ripening results in the cheese body collapsing with a fine network of blue veins running through it. It shows a really nice balance between the breakdown of fat and protein, resulting in a cheese that will stand on its own accompanied with only a nice dark ale. Shropshire is generally creamier and less nutty than Stilton.
The cheese is made into drums about 8-9 inches in diameter, 14 inches high, and weighing about 17 lbs. It has a light brown exterior, with an orange interior. The orange interior has blue and green veins of mold throughout the cheese from the same mold that makes Roquefort blue: Penicillium roqueforti.
Note the color of the Shropshire Blue in comparison to other blue cheeses shown in photo to the left here.
Today it is made in a similar way to Stilton, it is a soft cheese with a sharp, strong flavor that takes between six to eight weeks to mature, but longer is usually well worth the wait.
The History of Shropshire Blue Cheese
Shropshire Blue was developed by Dennis Biggins, who actually made his living grading another famously orange cheese, Cheshire, hence the similarities.
When the UK's small scale cheese production began to decline in the 1930s, due to large scale productions and the poor decisions of the UK's Milk Marketing Board, the production in Scotland ended and eventually the cheese making moved south to the East Midlands. Today, one of the most well known Shropshire Blues is produced in Nottinghamshire, England by Richard Rowlett and Billy Kevan at Colston Bassett Dairy.
Originally, the name Shropshire Blue had nothing to do with the county of Shropshire in England, but today 'Ludlow Blue' is also made in Shropshire by Ludlow Food Center (part of the Earl of Plymouth's Oakly Park Estate which extends to approximately 8000 acres of Shropshire countryside). This is the only Shropshire Blue made in Shropshire and is unique in using organic carrot juice to introduce the trademark orange color. The food center sounds rather unique:
"Our Dairy uses milk from our own Friesian-Holstein cows to create cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice-cream. Dudley and Paul hand make all of our cheeses using traditional methods and it is all matured on beech racks in the Food Centre’s cheese store.
Half of our products are made on the premises in kitchen units that surround the food hall. These are visible through glass windows that allow you to see our artisan producers actually making your food."
Shropshire is heavenly
If you love a sharp blue, this is the one for you. I've been making it for about 4 years now and have finally perfected it. the only think I do differently is break the curds the next morning into smaller pieces than those called for in the recipe. (About thumbnail size) and I pierce it early to ensure a great blue vein throughout. It really is wonderful shaved on salads or with your best cracker. Always let it come to room temp before serving.