I found a new dairy in northern Colorado, just outside of Gill. They are just starting out but have a great set up and some super tasty raw milk. Mandy Mercer and her husband Warren are doing things the right way with milk you can trust. As a first make for them I made Cheddar, some fresh curds; plain, garlic and dill, bacon-ranch, and spicy chipotle. I also pressed a 2.5 lb wheel for aged cheddar.

first 15 minute stir.

8 gallons whole raw milk
1/2 tsp MM100 – 1/4 tsp Flora Danica
3/4 tsp Rennet (Needed More 1/4-1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup Distilled Water
88 drops Annato – 11 drops per gallon

curds coming up to temperature.


  • Heat milk to 80°
  • Add Culture
  • Continue to heat to 86° – 87°
  • Let the culture re-hydrate for 2 mins and mix in an up and down motion, don’t stir.
  • Wait 45 mins
  • Mix Annato with a 1/4 cup distilled water and mix into milk in an up and down motion, don’t stir.
  • Add Rennet to another 1/4 cup distilled water and mix into milk in an up and down motion, don’t stir.
  • Wait 45 mins , Check for a clean break
  • If curd not set, wait 10 mins and retest curd. Add in 10 min blocks until curd is set.
  • Cut 1/2 inch cubes
  • Let rest 5 mins.
  • Stir slowly for 15 mins careful to not destroy the curd.
  • Heat up to 95° over the next 40 minutes, continue stirring slowly
  • Check the curd, you should notice it shrinking and getting firm enough to stick together when squeezed. You can stir longer if needed for a firm curd(5-10 min blocks).
  • Drain off most of the whey, press curds to one side of the pot and place a clean plate on top of the curd.
  • Place a few pounds on top of the plate(3-5 lb) for 15 mins
  • Flip curd and reset plate and weight for 15 minutes
  • Cut curd in half and stack, reset plate and weight for 15 minutes
  • Continue to cut and stack curd in 15 minute blocks until the curd is firm and solid. Cut off a piece and taste for firmness.
  • Remove from pot, cut blobs into pieces small enough to go through the french fry grate.
  • Place all pieces back into pot and begin adding salt. Split your salt into three portions. Salt the cheese and wait 15 minutes before adding the second portion of salt, mix, wait 15 more minutes.
  • You can mix the curds at various times during the 15 minute windows to make sure the salt is mixing and the curds aren’t sticking together.
Curd blob, before the first press
  • When the salt is all mixed the curd complete. At this time you can add additional flavoring; Bacon-Ranch mix, Garlic-Dill, Creole Seasoning or plain.
  • The curds will keep for up to 3 weeks but are best during the first week.
  • Curds can also be pressed into a wheel for aging.
Cheddar wheel fresh from the press
  • Curds for pressing often require 20-50 lbs of pressure to fully seal the curd. Today I used 35 lbs. to get it closed.