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This blog is meant to be a chronicle of the (mis-) adventures of my family and I as we adjust to country life. I'm a hands-on kinda guy, so many of the posts will take the form of illustrated How-Tos.
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How to Make a Cheese Press

January 25th, 2010 by Blogging Farmer

The Cheese Press in Action!Our cheese press is not the prettiest The finished cheese!thing in the world, but it also took under 1.5 hours between making the decision to do so and the finished product, including the time it took to visit the hardware store for supplies. And it makes good cheese.

The reason for this amazing feat was not some sort of manic bout of inspiration. What happened was this: my mom had decided to try making hard cheese (we’d been making soft cheese for several months at that point) and I had promised to put the press together by the end of a week. Naturally, she went ahead and started the cheese-making process. Equally naturally, I completely forgot about the promise. I was reminded when my mom came up to me at 5 p.m. that Friday and told me she needed to put the cheese in the press at 7. Needless to say, cheese-making is a pretty time-sensitive process.

This is how I did it. The design is something of an amalgamation of various designs I’ve found in books or online. I’d give credit where credit is due, but I honestly don’t even remember all the stuff I looked through. There are also many, many solutions to this very simple problem.

Materials needed:

  • 2 thick boards measuring 12″ x 12″ or so. When I was cruising around Lowe’s, I spotted 1″ thick maple rounds around 14″ in diameter.
  • Four 1″-diameter hardwood dowels measuring at least 14″ long. I bought two 36″ long dowels and sawed them in half to get four 18″ dowels.
  • Mold, plunger and PVC pipeThe cheese mold and plunger. We ordered this one from New England Cheesemaking. And yes, I cheated a little bit because I didn’t include the wait for that in my build time.
  • An 8″ length of 4″ PVC pipe. This has to be wide enough to fit around the plunger and narrow enough to fit into the mold, so the dimensions depend on the size of your mold. The 4″ is perfect for the mold we used. Note: The consensus is that regular, rigid PVC pipe is food safe. High-temperature PVC may contain bisphenol-A, and flexible PVC contains phthalates (see this website). Personally, I wasn’t too concerned as the pipe used in this cheese press never actually touches any food products.
  • Assorted weights. Regular dumbbell weights will do. We didn’t need to buy these as we had a few lying around.
  • 9″ diameter tin foil pie pan
  • Olive oil (or any other vegetable oil; we used olive oil because we had just purchase several gallons of it for very cheap)

It really just took me longer to enumerate all the things you need than it took me to put them together. The total cost of the materials (excluding cheese mold and plunger) was just over $20.
Cheese press schematicFirst, I screwed the maple rounds together, figuring that this would be the easiest way to align the holes. I then used a 1/2″ spade bit to make 4 holes around the perimeter of the rounds. Refer to the little schematic on the right for the positioning of the holes. I then took out the screws to separate the rounds.

Second, I covered one end of each dowel with wood glue and inserted them into the holes I just drilled in one of the rounds (this will be the base of the press). The wood glue will drip, so put some newspaper or something under it.

The basically finished pressNow, in order to make sure the dowels are straight and don’t lean, place the PVC pipe onto the base round, and then slide the second round onto the dowels. The two rounds, separated by the PVC pipe, will keep the dowels aligned correctly. Wait for the glue to dry. The picture on the right shows the basically finished press.

Finally, coat the dowels lightly with olive oil. This will firstly protect the wood from PVC Pipe on top of the plungermoisture and secondly lubricate the dowels. Now, you can place the pie pan on the base dowel (to collect drips), place the mold with the cheese on top of it, insert the plunger, place the PVC pipe on top of the plunger (you can see that in the photo on the right), lower the second round onto the PVC and lay the required amount of weight on top of that. Presto!

The finished cheese!We used the cheese press to make some basic hard cheeses, though we need a coldroom to age it properly. I haven’t yet figured out a way to solve that issue on the cheap. But I’ll keep you posted!

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