The Making Of: Gouda Cheese

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This article describes my first attempt at making cheese. I picked up a copy of Cheesemaking Made Easy: 60 Delicious Varieties from the local library for instruction. Most (all?) of the recipes start with 2 gallons of whole milk and end up creating 2 lbs of cheese. The shopping lists and instructions below are for creating 2 lbs of Gouda from 2 gallons of supermarket whole milk.
Gouda 1.jpg

Before you Start Gathering Material

  • The author points out, specifically, that aluminum cookware should not be used as it can impart a taste to the cheese.
  • A good thermometer is very important. The cheese making process appears to be sensitive to temperature.
  • Use a glass bowl for the brining process. I had a couple spots of oxidization form in my stainless steel bowl.

Hardware List

  • 12qt stainless steel pot
  • stainless steel ladle
  • stainless steel curd knife
    • I bought a 14" but a 12" would be fine for a 12qt pot
    • Also sold as an "icing spatula"
    • link
  • stainless steel food thermometer
  • glass bowl
    • used for brining
    • should be able to hold 1 gallon of liquid
  • cheese cloth
    • I don't think the grade really matters too much for this recipe.
  • cheese press
    • You can build one of these for pretty cheap
    • I'll talk about it below.
  • cheese drying board
    • Can be made pretty easily.
    • Discussed with the cheese press.
  • (optional) 10 gallon pot for steam sanitizing your cheese press
  • (optional) propane patio stove for the 10 gallon pot
  • (optional) Cheese Wax Brush link
  • (optional) 2 qt cheap pot (wax pot) link
  • (optional) some kind of liner like foil, wax paper, etc


  • 2 gallons of whole (vitamin D) milk
  • 1.25 lbs of course salt
  • water
  • cheese rennet tablets
    • do NOT use junket rennet tables as they sell to make ice cream
    • can use rennet liquid instead
    • can be bought off
  • mesophilic cheese starter culture
  • Vinegar
  • Sanitizer
  • (optional) Cheese Wax link

The Cheese Press

It is necessary to use some kind of cheese press to press excess liquid (whey) out of our cheese. The book referenced several types of presses including 1 that is pretty simple to make at home. I opted to build a version of the home cheese press and you can see the results below. If you build a similar press, the book states that well seasoned hardwoods are ideal materials and specifically calls out birch and maple. I made my press and cheese board out of birch plywood from the hardware store.
Gouda 17.jpg

  • LEFT: The Base
    • This is made from 3 12" dowel rods and a 10"x10" birch plywood board. I drilled 3 holes HALF-WAY through using a spade bit. I then used a normal round bit to put a small hole in the center and a similar hole in the center of the dowel rod. This allowed me to have a little cup for the rod to fit into as well as being able to screw it together.
  • CENTER BACK: The Mold
    • The gray plastic part is the "mold" and it made from a 1 gallon bucket with the top rim and bottom cut off and holes poked in the sides.
    • I first cut off the top (as there was a nice lip to guide my blade) using a utility knife with a fresh blade.
    • I then used a permanent marker held in a bench vice at the correct height to draw a nice straight line around the bottom of the bucket as a guide. Then I cut it with the same knife.
    • Lastly I poked holes in the side. Make sure you POKE the holes (from the inside to the outside) and don't use a drill. The poking method makes for a nice smooth inside surface. If you use a drill you will never get the inside smooth.
  • CENTER FRONT: The Top Plate
    • This top that slides over the dowel rods. The holes were drilled with a spade bit. Make sure you use the base board as a guide when you drill these holes. I actually clamped both boards together and drilled the holes together.
  • RIGHT: The Follower
    • The round part is made by using the bottom (slightly smaller diameter) of the cut bucket mold as a guide to trace out a circle onto a piece of birch plywood. I then used a jigsaw to cut it out and sanded it a bit to smooth it out.
    • The block part is actually a cut down piece of 6"x6" that I had available. Anything that will give you a spacer so that your top plate can press down on the follower will work here
    • It isn't necessary but I glued these 2 pieces together as well as weighing and labeling this piece so I could accurately press my cheese.

Cheese Making Procedure

  1. Disinfect and Sanitize
    • Cheese, like any fermented food, is created by the action of micro-organisms and as such you are really creating an environment that is ideal for the growth of bacteria. Good bacteria makes cheese (or beer or bread or kimchi). Bad bacteria smells, can make you sick, and will ruin your cheese. Therefore it is vital to ensure that you don't introduce and unintentional foreign bacteria into your cheese making process. For this reason we make sure to sanitize all of the equipment that we'll be using.
    • Cheese Press & Cheese Drying Board
      1. Wooden items need to be sanitized using steam. A topical sanitizer (like we'll use for the rest of the tools) can't adequately penetrate the porous wood. Wooden items should be steam sanitized for 20 minutes.
      2. I setup a 10 gallon pot on a propane patio stove with about 2 inches of water in the bottom, fired it up and waited for the water to boil.
      3. Once the water was at a rolling boil, I placed my Cheese Press base in upside down, put the lid back on, and left it for 20 minutes.
      4. After the time was up I pulled it out, added a bit more water, and placed the other wooden components of the Cheese Press, as well as the Cheese Drying Board, into the pot for another 20 minutes.
        Gouda 2.jpg
    • Everything Else
      1. For everything else I used a No-Rinse Sanitizer left over from beer brewing. The book talked about using a Bleach/Water Solution (2 tbsp bleach to 1 gallon water) or steaming/boiling metal utensils for 5 minutes. If you opt to use the Bleach/Water Solution, ensure you rinse off equipment afterwards so the bleach doesn't kill the good cheese bacteria.
        Gouda 3.jpg
      2. I also chose to have a little tray of sanitizer to leave my equipment in as well as having a bowl of the sanitizer water to dip my hands periodically.
        Gouda 4.jpg
  2. Ripening
    1. The first step is to warm up 2 gallons of whole (vitamin D) milk in your 12 qt pot to 90 degrees F. The cheese making process is sensitive to temperature so make sure you keep an eye on it.
    2. Once the milk is warmed ad 4 ounces (1 packet) of mesophilic cheese starter culture powder, and mix thoroughly.
      Gouda 5.jpg
  3. Renneting
    1. The next stage is where the curds (milk solids) and whey (milk liquids) begin to separate.
    2. Dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet (or 1 teaspoon liquid rennet) into 1/4 cup cool water.
      Gouda 6.jpgGouda 7.jpg
    3. Gently stir rennet mixture into the milk for 1 minute.
    4. Continue to stir the top of the milk for another 3 minutes.
    5. Here the instructions say to cover and leave to set for 1 hour. After an hour I didn't think that my milk was setup enough. The test is supposed to be that you run your curd knife through the milk and the gap stays. I ended up leaving the milk to setup for an extra hour. I believe that it didn't setup as fast as it should have because it was a bit too warm. I don't think that this extra hour hurt anything so play it by eye and make sure your milk as setup.
  4. Cutting The Curd
    1. At this point you need to, using your curd knife, gently cut the curd first one way at 1/2" intervals, and then again at a 90 degree angle creating a bunch of tall curd columns. Make sure that your knife reaches all the way to the bottom.
    2. Next, using a ladle, carefully lift the curds and cut them sideways to make 1/2" cubes. You want to be gentle here, but don't expect the curd to stay in nice cubes. Mine didn't.

Gouda 8.jpg

  1. Cooking The Curd
    1. Over the next 30 minutes you want to raise the temperature of the curds to 100 degrees F. This, however, should only be done 2 degrees every 5 minutes.
    2. During this 30 minutes, continuously stir very gently. What is happening now is that the curd and whey are continuing to separate. You'll see the curds appear to get smaller and the volumn of whey appear to increase.

Gouda 9.jpg

    1. Now remove 8 cups of whey (try to not remove too much curds... I used a cheese cloth stretched over a 1 cup measuring cup to help with this) and replace with 8 cups of water.
    2. Keeping the temperature at 100 degrees F continue to stir gently all the time. Wait 10 minutes, remove 8 more cups of whey and replace it with 8 more cups of water.
    3. Again wait 10 minutes, remove a final 8 cups of whey and replace it with a final 8 cups of water.
    4. Stir for 10 more minutes to finish out this phase
  1. Draining
    1. Pour the curds into a cheese cloth and let the whey drain away. You should now be left with a nice pile of curds in your cheese cloth.
      Gouda 10.jpg
  2. Molding and Pressing
    1. Place the cheese cloth filled with curds into your cheese press. Place a second cheese cloth on top. Do not twist of the excess of your primary cheese cloth and lay it on top. Otherwise you will get a big dent in your cheese wheel (like I did!)
    2. Put the follower on top and install the top plate. Then place 20 lbs on top and let it press for 20 minutes.
    3. Now flip the cheese over in the mold (or flip the entire mold), place 30 lbs on top and let it press for another 20 minutes.
    4. Now flip the cheese one last time, place 40 lbs on top and let press for an additional 3 hours.
      Gouda 11.jpgGouda 12.jpg
      Gouda 13.jpgGouda 14.jpg
  3. Salting
    1. The next step is the brine the cheese. First prepare a 20 percent brine by mixing 1 1/4 lbs (about 3 cups) of course salt with 1/2 gallon of cold water in a large glass bowl.
    2. Float the cheese in the brine for 3 hours. The book didn't say to, but I chose to flip it after 1.5 hours to ensure that both sides get equally salted.
      Gouda 15.jpg
  4. Drying
    1. This is the longest part of the process. 3 week!
    2. Place the cheese on the drying board and try to keep it somewhere as close to 50 degrees F as possible. It is winter and my basement is about 55 degrees so that's what I did.
      Gouda 16.jpg
    3. Flip the cheese daily to ensure even drying.
    4. If any mold forms, wipe it off with a cheese cloth dipped in vinegar. Check the image below and you will be able to see that there is a rind that has formed on the cheese. I read, later, that the optimal drying conditions is 50 degrees F and 85% humidity. I dried my cheese in closer to 50% humidity. I suspect that the dry environment contributed to the cheese forming the rind as the outside dried too quickly. *NOTE Waxing will eliminate the rind, see the updates at the end of the article.
  5. Waxing
    1. The last, optional, step is the wax the cheese like the professionals do!
    2. The book says to refrigerate the cheese for a few hours before waxing to help the wax adhere. I chose to leave it in the fridge overnight just based on my schedule. I decided to cut the cheese into 1/8ths and wax 6 of them (I ate the other 2 ;P). Note that cutting the cheese and letting it dry overnight caused cracks to form in the softer inside of the cheese. If you are going to cut up your cheese wheel into smaller chunks before waxing, I recommend you do it right before waxing to avoid these unsightly cracks.
      Gouda 18.jpg
    3. Ok, onto the waxing. The first thing to do is setup a double boiler and get good ventilation because wax fumes are combustibles. The doubler boiler keeps the wax from getting heated above 212 degrees F. See my ghetto double boiler below.
      Gouda 19.jpgGouda 20.jpg
    4. Once the wax has melted use a waxing brush to paint the wax onto your cheese. I found that the easiest way was to do the "top" with a couple coats (letting it dry between coats). Then hold the cheese so an edge is flat & level, and paint that side. Continue on with the other sides and finish up with the "bottom".
      Gouda 21.jpg
    5. Optionally you can wax a paper label into your cheese which is kinda cool. I tried 3 different methods shown below.
      • From left to right:
      1. Laying down a layer of wax and pressing the label in.
      2. Laying down a layer of wax, pressing the label in, and the waxing the "border".
      3. Laying down the label and the waxing over the top.
      • I'll update this in the future with a note on which techniques seems to hold up the best.
        Gouda 23.jpg
    6. As for clean up. You can see that a real mess was made of the board during this process. I scraped excess wax off of the board and put it back in the pot for use later. Hot water and a couple paper towels seems to do the trick to for final cleanup. It's hard to see, but the brush has a good bit of wax left in it. This should be fine as it will melt and liquefy next time you do this process. Also, the board, and even the pot, are very slightly stained pink.
      Gouda 22.jpgGouda 25.jpg
    7. As for the excess wax, DON'T DO THIS I lined a small tuperware with foil and poured it in to let it dry into a block.
      1. I must have poked a hole in the foil as I pressed it into the tuperware because some wax leaked through and underneath sorta gluing the foil/wax into the tuperware. I had to float it in a larger bowl of hot water to warm the wax up to get it out.
      2. The wax is too weak/brittle. It didn't really conform, cleanly, to the shape of the tuperware and instead made little ridges & valleys. As a result I had to peel the foil off in little 1/2" squares as it kept tearing.
      3. If I were to do this step again I think I'd just poor the hot wax into some hot water. Wax floats and tends to cool into a nice floating disc that is much easier to get free.
        Gouda 24.jpg

1 Month Update

After letting the cheese sit at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees F) for a month we opened up and tried another section. It still tasted good, but the most interesting part is that the rind was gone. I believe that after being waxed, and sitting, the moisture in the cheese redistributed to make all of the cheese an even texture.

2 Month Update

After letting the cheese sit at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees F) for two month we opened up and tried another section. The flavor didn't change much as far as I can remember. Everything was still good. still no rind.