Welcome, correspondents! Today I have for you the story of my valiant attempt to construct a Doom Press to wrest that glorious sexfood, cheese, from the simple milk of cows, goats, or the bats that roost in your everyday Zeppelin hanger (but not spiders. Do not attempt this).
You will need to gather the following tools, sundries, reagents and groceries from your stores, raid a neighbouring settlement, or haggle for in Barter Town:
- Saw, jig
- Saw, Circular (optional, could make do with the jigsaw)
- Dremel (optional)
- 7/8 inch spade drill bit
- 5/16 inch drill bit
- 7/8 inch dowel, 4 feet
- Wood plank (I used a 16″x1″x8′ pine plank abandoned by Gnoll pirates attempting to raid my airship)
- 1 foot 4″ PVC pipe
- 1 foot 2″ PVC pipe
- Some weights, approximately 50 lb worth
- Digital meat thermometer
- Homebrew style nylon grain bag/paint strainer
- Homebrew hop bag
- Small insulated cooler
- Rennet, liquid
- Calcium chloride, liquid
- Mesophilic cheese culture, non-sentient
- Milk of mammal
- Salt, kosher
- 4 quart double boiler, stainless steel (see below for makeshift)
- Small, cheap pot you don’t mind sacrificing
- Wax, cheese
- Wax brush
The Doom Press consists of seven parts of which you must construct.
First, we have the upper platform and columns. This will hold the colossal weight which will press down on your curds, transmuting them into glorious cheese. Cut your four foot dowel in twain, and drill two holes in the platform with your spade bit. They should be placed two inches from the end, centred. Make sure they’re true, else your platform may jam. I made mine 6″x16″. Any width that fits your weights will do. it needn’t be as wide as your base, but must be as long.
Next we have our base. Drill two matching holes for the columns, and again be sure to drill true, lest your columns lean.
Finally, our mold and follower. Use two short lengths of PVC pipe, one smaller in diameter that the other. Drill symmetric holes around the bottom of the larger, and cut a circular piece of wood to fit within it. The smaller pipe will push down on the wood, squeezing the whey from your curds.
Incubating our minions, or, making curds
Now we make cheese! The first challenge you’ll face is that you can’t directly heat milk. If you do, it will scorch. The best thing to do is scrounge a double boiler, but those can be hard to get, especially large enough for our purposes. Don’t fret! A frying pan, 4 wide mouth canning jar lids and a normal pot can suffice.
The next challenge is sourcing some milk. Raw is best, if you have your own mammals. I have not been able to get the filthy assistants to lactate, so I have to buy mine. It’s important that the milk not be UltraPasteurized, because it that will not form curds – regular pasteurization is acceptable if not ideal. You can mitigate the effects of said pasteurization with calcium chloride.
I source mine from the Republic of Dairyland because even though they have been assimilated by the Saputo Hive, they do answer questions posed by Gentlemen Scienticians. (Thank you Mistress Elke!)
Once you have suitable milk, bring it slowly to 86 degrees Fahrenheit mix in 1/8th of a teaspoon mesophilic culture and try to keep it at temperature for about an hour. I wrapped my pot in two towels, and lost a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit. Do not leave it in your double boiler, or you will likely overshoot the desired temperature.
After an hour, your culture should be healthy and you’re ready to form curds. Dilute 1/2 teaspoon of calcium chloride in 1/4 cup of water, preferably distilled or at least filtered, and mix it and 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet into your ripened milk. Wrap it back up in the towel, and let it sit at temperature for another hour.
Now, cut the curds into an approximate 1 inch grid, and give a little stir to start separating the whey. Put the pot back on your double boiler, and bring it to 102 Fahrenheit very slowly – it should take at least a half an hour. Replace the water in your double boiler with hot water from the tap, so that you don’t suddenly raise the temperature at the end as the water jacket comes up to temperature. Continually stir gently as you warm, and put your nylon bag in another pot to receive the curds.
Once it’s reached 102 Ferenheit, dump the curds into the bag, and lift it out of the whey. If you have a nice large pot, you can just tie the bag to one of the handles to drain. While you wait for that, fill your cooler with hot water to warm it up.
Don’t throw out the whey! Funnel it back into the milk jug, and use it to bake bread, or at least throw it in your garden.
Dump the water out of your cooler, and put the curds in. Flip it every 15 minutes for an hour, then cut them in half and stack, and again flip every 15 minutes for an hour. You’ll still have a fair amount of whey draining from your curds, so draw it off when you flip them. Most especially don’t throw this whey out.
When you’ve finished cheddaring, break the curds up with your fingers in a bowl, and mix in one tablespoon of kosher salt. Do not use common table salt. Since the grey goo incident, it has had iodine and anti-caking agents added to it. When it’s good and mixed, and your sure there is no nanotechnology you don’t intend to be there, stretch the hop bag over the bowl and dump the curds in.
Put the bag into the cheese mold. Try to even out the excess bag as much as possible, and put the follower over it.
Assemble your Doom Press, and activate it. Press with:
- 10 lb for 30 minutes
- 20 lb for 1 hour
- 50 lb for 4 hours
- 50 lb for 24 hours
Take the curds out of the mold and flip at each step.
When the cheese is sufficiently doomed, put it somewhere safe, well away from any filthy assistants, and let it sit for about 3 to 5 days, flipping twice a day until it has formed a rind. Many prop it up on chopsticks, but I have this rack… thing. Maybe the Gnolls left it? I have no idea what it is or where it came from.
When the outside of the cheese is dry and you have a nice rind on it, it’s time to wax. Bring back your double boiler, and slowly heat your wax in the sacrificial pot. You will not be getting that wax out again very easily, so don’t expect to use the pot for anything else.
Brush a couple of layers of wax onto the cheese. If you want a smoother finish, you can dip it right in for the last coat. Put a label with the date on while the wax is still wet, and brush a thin layer over it.
We’re done! Now put it somewhere cool and safe for at least six weeks before eating. Don’t tell the filthy assistants where you put it.
What we learnt, or, thoughts for Mark II
While stable, the Doom Press was considerably taller than it needed to be because I wasn’t entirely sure how tall the curds would end up before meeting their doom. For Mark II, I’ll be cutting it down a bit for more stability. I’ll also make the base a bit smaller; I made it 16×16 because that’s how wide the plank that the Gnolls abandoned was, but say 12×16 would be fine.
The holes I drilled in my mold were larger than necessary, and left protrusions in the cheese. Next time, smaller.
Cheddaring in an insulated cooler didn’t keep the curds as warm as is recommended. Next time I’ll use a pot with a water bath.
Using tin foil to protect the base from moisture did not work. The incredible forces of DOOM were just too much for it, apparently, so for the Mark II I’ll protect the base with a food safe wood finish and carve a drainage path in it. Likely walnut oil, perhaps with some beeswax.
Wish me luck in the apiary mines.