Photo by Tim Belyk
Place the press block close to the pivot bolt to optimize pressure.
You’ve milked your cows (or goats) and even mastered making simple soft cheeses, like mozzarella or ricotta. Now it’s time to graduate to more artisanal cheese making by implementing a cheese press. The one we used for the purposes of this article is a lever-type press. Whether you buy a press or make your own, here’s what you need to know to make it work effectively and efficiently.
Place a block of cheese in the proper-sized mold. (Molds can be purchased at a cheese-making supply store or website.) Position the mold under the sliding press block located on the press arm.
Center the press block over the cheese mold by sliding the block forward or backward on the arm and moving the mold from side to side as needed. Keep in mind, the amount of pressure and the length of time it’s applied will affect the finished texture of the cheese.
The press arm is a class-2 lever, meaning the distance between the pivot bolt and weight at the end of the arm is greater than the distance between the pivot bolt and press block. By placing the mold and press block as close to the pivot bolt as possible, you will get the most pressure on your cheese for a given amount of weight hung from the end of the press arm. You can calculate the pounds of pressure applied by using the following formula:
(Length from pivot bolt to weight ÷ length from pivot bolt to press block center) × size of weight in pounds
Place spacers under the cheese mold until the mold is raised to such a height that the press arm is horizontal and level. This ensures that the cheese will be pressed uniformly and won’t have a slanted top when it’s finished. You can use scrap pieces of wood or other materials as spacers.
Once the mold is correctly positioned and the preliminary height is adjusted, hang a weight from the end of the press arm. The weight can be anything from a pail of sand to a jug of water or a heavy brick—whatever you choose. Just make sure the weight is heavy enough and positioned far enough down the arm to provide the desired amount of pressure on your cheese. (Consult your cheese recipe for the amount of pressure and length of time at which the cheese should be pressed. These variables will change depending on the type of cheese you are making.)
Over time, you’ll notice the press arm start to lower. You may need to add more spacers under the mold to bring the arm back to a horizontal position and ensure a straight, downward pressure on the cheese again.
For instructions on how to make your own lever-type cheese press, pick up the March/April 2012 issue of Hobby Farm Home.
About the Author: Tim Belyk uses his central-Canadian farm to learn how our ancestors got by at the turn of the century. He makes butter, cheese, sausage, jerky, firewood, hay, simple farm tools, fences and more with as little outside help as possible.