Pepper Jack Cheese

Photo Credit: Everyday Annie

Pepper Jack Cheese

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Pepper Jack cheese is a pressed cheese with added peppers. You can customize this recipe by adding more or fewer peppers for additional flavor. We recommend starting off slow when it comes to adding peppers and add more gradually after making it a few times.

Yield: 2 Pounds

Aging: 2+ Months

Skill Level: Intermediate

Ingredients:

  • 2 Gallons of Milk (Not Ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 Packet of C1010 Mesophilic Culture
  • ¼ tsp Single Strength Liquid Rennet
  • Salt
  • Dried Whole Red Chilis
  • ½ tsp Calcium Chloride (from pasteurized milk)

Equipment Needed:

  1. Heat & Acidify Milk

  • Place your pot of milk in hot water and stir.
  • Once it reaches 88F, sprinkle the culture on top of the milk, let it sit for two minutes, and then start stirring again.
  • Once it’s stirred in, let the mixture rest for 60 minutes.
  1. Prepare Peppers

  • There are two common types of peppers, black peppercorns, and red peppers.
  • For a recipe using 2 gallons of milk use about 1-1.5 tsp of good quality peppercorns. You can toast them for additional flavor.
  • For red peppers, it’s best to use about .75-1.25 tsp.
  • You can also use your own smoked Jalapenos or fresh hot peppers. We recommend using about ⅓-¾ of the pepper for this and blanching your peppers to avoid harmful bacteria.
  1. Coagulate with Rennet

  • Add about ¼ tsp of single strength liquid rennet to the mixture and allow milk to sit for 45 minutes.
  • The mixture will thicken during this process and it’s common for the temperature to drop a few degrees as well.
  • When the curd is ready when it can split with the flat of a knife and should have clean breaks.
  1. Cut & Stir Curd

  • In this step, we begin with separating the solid from the liquids. To do this, cut vertically in a checkerboard pattern at about ½-⅝ inch. Allow it to rest for a few minutes and allow the whey to rise.
  • Using a spoon, make horizontal cuts, making the final cuts about ½ inches. Allow it to rest again for a few minutes.
  • Slowly and gently stir from the bottom to the top to keep curds moving and separated for about 10 minutes.
  1. Cook Curd

  • Cooking the curd is a gradual process. You will need to slowly increase the heat to 95F over 30 minutes increasing it 3F every 5 minutes. Once it’s at the correct temperature, cook for an additional 30-60 minutes depending on the texture of the curd.
  • The curds should be well cooked, and moisture should have been removed. You can tell by feeling your curd. It should be firm throughout and have a moderate resistance when pressing.
  1. Wash Curd

  • Washing your curd helps make your cheese sweeter and moister and involves draining most of the warm whey out and adding cool water instead.
  • Start by removing about 40% of the volume in whey, leaving about 1 inch of whey covering the curds. Immediately start washing with cold water and slowly stir for about 15 minutes until the curds stabilize at 75F.
  1. Form Curd and Add Seasoning

  • Once your curd is dry, you can allow it to drain for a few minutes in the colander. You can gently stir if required.
  • While it’s still draining, start to add salt in 2-3 batches once the curds are pretty well-drained. The final weight of your cheese should be about 2.5-2.75 lbs. so adding 2.5% salt to it should only just be about 1 oz of salt.
  • If you’re only making one batch of pepper jack cheese, you can start to add the peppers directly into this mixture. If you’re making multiple batches with different peppers, make sure to drain the curds first and then add them to the mold in layers to allow for separation.
  1. Pressing

  • Your press cloth should be pulled up and smothered and then folded over the surface. It should be as smooth as possible.
  • It’s important to gradually add weight as you go. For a 6inch cheese start 15 minutes at 8lbs and work your way up to 2 hours at 20lb and then lastly 4 hours at 40lbs.
  1. Aging

  • Allow the cheese to dry down for a few days. Once dry, you can wax your cheese or place it into an appropriate space to age. This space needs to be between 52-56F and 80-85% moisture levels.
  • In about 2-3 months, your cheese will be ready to enjoy!

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