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Making Manchego is a great way to learn about working with sheep’s milk. My suggestion is to closely observe how the milk reacts to each step in the make. Understanding how different types of milk react to heat, cultures, and agitation will inform your own adjustments to all your master recipes. Sheep’s milk comes at a premium, and you do need a decent amount of it for this recipe, so tackle this recipe once you’ve made and aged a few other cheeses successfully.
From Milk to Cheese: 17 hours plus 30 minutes to make, 3 to 12 months to age
Yield: 1 (2- to 3-pound) cheese
- Large stockpot
- Thermometer with at least a 5-inch stem
- 13-inch stainless steel flat perforated ladle
- Curd knife with a 12-inch blade
- 2 pieces cheesecloth, cut to line the colander and the form
- Cylindrical cheese form (8 inches in diameter and 6 inches high) with follower
- Cooling rack
- Baking sheet
- Mechanical cheese press
- Large draining mat
- 2 gallons sheep’s milk
- 1/4 teaspoon mesophilic lactic acid starter culture
- 1/4 teaspoon thermophilic lactic acid starter culture
- 1/4 teaspoon lipase dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water and allowed to rest for
- 15 minutes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried animal or microbial rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, non-chlorinated water
- (or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet)
- Coarse non-iodized salt
- Saturated salt brine: 2.95 pounds non-iodized salt dissolved in 1 gallon non-chlorinated water
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Beer pairing: Saison
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo
Photo from Adobe Stock/135pixels
- WARM THE MILK: In a stockpot, heat the milk to 86 degrees Fahrenheit in a warm water bath. Stir the milk gently so that it warms evenly.
- CULTURE THE MILK: Add the cultures and let them hydrate on the surface for a minute. Then, gently stir for 1 to 2 minutes until incorporated. Cover and let sit for 60 minutes, maintaining a milk temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- COAGULATE: Add the lipase and the rennet and stir with an up and down motion for 30 seconds. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
- CUT THE CURD: Cut the curd into 1/2-inch pieces using the straight and angled technique. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir and continue to cut until the curds are rice-size. This step should take up to 20 minutes. Maintain the curds and whey temperature around 86 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- COOK THE CURD: By adding very hot water to the water bath, slowly increase the temperature of the curds and whey to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature should increase over the course of 30 to 40 minutes. Stir gently to keep the curds from melting together. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.
- DRAIN THE CURD: Line a colander with cheesecloth and transfer the curds and whey to the colander. Bring together the corners of the cloth to squeeze out the excess moisture from the curd.
- PRESS THE CURD: Line a form with cheesecloth and place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Place the curds in the prepared form and place the follower on top of the curds. Press and flip according to the following schedule (6 hours and 30 minutes total). When flipping the cheese, unwrap the cloth, line the form with the cloth, and place the flipped cheese back into the cloth-lined form:
• 10 pounds for 15 minutes
• 15 pounds for 15 minutes
• 25 pounds for 3 hours
• 30 pounds for 3 hours
Note: The pressing schedule is not exact. Watch the rind to see that the curd is knitting together and smoothing out as the cheese presses. The cheese should be expelling whey at every point in the pressing schedule, albeit slower near the end than at first. If you’re planning to age your Manchego for longer than 3 months, consider increasing the pressure for the later two presses.
- SALT THE CHEESE: Remove the cheesecloth. In the stockpot, mix the saturated salt brine, and submerge the cheese in the brine. Sprinkle the exposed side with salt. Let it sit for 8 hours in a 55 degrees Fahrenheit environment. Flip once or twice during brining.
- AGE THE CHEESE: Dry the cheese with a clean towel and set on a draining mat to age in a 55 degrees Fahrenheit environment for 3 to 12 months. In the first week of aging turn the cheese daily; after that, twice a week. Rub the cheese with olive oil when the rind looks dry to you throughout aging.
Note: Be sure to note the schedule of when you oil the cheese, and also the conditions of the aging environment. That way you can either re-create a beloved rind or troubleshoot a less likable result.
Target Flavor and Texture: Manchego should be very buttery and sweet, with a hint of woolly flavor. The texture is pliable when young, drier and latticed when older.
Storage: Once cut, the cheese should be wrapped tightly in wax or butcher paper. Cut pieces can keep for up to 2 to 3 weeks in your refrigerator, but the sooner you enjoy the cheese after cutting the wheel, the more flavorful it will be.
Note: For longevity in the fridge, store cheese in one of the lower drawers near the back. This is the coldest spot in your fridge, and the best for maintaining a high-quality product.
Also from The Beginner’s Guide to Cheesemaking:
- Cheesemaking Ingredients: Acid, Cultures, Rennet, Water, Mold and Yeast, Salt
- Havarti Recipe
- Beer-Washed Cheese Recipe
- Leaf-Wrapped Cheese Recipe
Reprinted with permission from The Beginner’s Guide to Cheesemaking by Elena R. Santogade and published by Rockridge Press, 2017.