Colby is one of the only cheeses invented in America! It was invented in Colby, Wisconsin in the late 19th or early 20th century. The flavor of Colby is similar to cheddar, though milder and softer. It derives its color from annatto, an orange-red dye attained from the pulp of a tropical fruit. If you're not concerned with making a yellow/orange cheese, feel free to leave the annatto out.
2 gallons milk
1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride
1/2 teaspoon rennet
4 drops annatto oil (optional)
Stainless-steel pot large enough to hold your milk (double-boiler set-up is best)
Cheese mold with follower for pressing & weight to press with (alternatively, you may use a cheese press)
Long knife (blade approx. 9 to 12" or longer) for cutting curd
pH strips or pH meter (optional)
Cheese "cave" for ripening step (many hobbyists use a second refrigerator that allows temperature and sometimes humidity control). Colby may also be eaten fresh!
Add ¼-½ teaspoon of MA culture or ¼ teaspoon of RA culture per 2-3 gallons, as well as your optional annatto. Allow to sit on top of the milk for 3-5 minutes. Then stir into the milk.
Allow culture to ripen for 60-90 minutes. Keep pot covered to help maintain the temperature at 90⁰ F, pH may not change during this time
Add ¼ tsp of calcium chloride per 1 gallon. Dilute in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water.
Add ¼ tsp rennet/coagulant per gallon by diluting in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water. Stir in an up and down motion 5-7 times. Allow the milk to stop moving and do not disturb the milk during the coagulation time.
Allow rennet time of 30-40 minutes until the milk is coagulated.
Cut into cubes ¼-½" by using a metal spatula or long knife. Cut the coagulated milk into cubes by cutting at a 45⁰ angle, from the left and then to the right and then turn the pot ¼ turn and repeat process.
Allow the curd to sit in the whey for 5-10 minutes to heal.
Start stirring the curd slowly and gently as it is very fragile at this point. Raise the temperature to 100⁰ F over a period of 30 minutes. Caution: Do not cook too fast or over cook. Continue to gently stir throughout cook to allow for good heat distribution. As the curd firms up you can start to stir faster and not as gently.
Drain half the whey.
Add 100ºF water to curd, replacing the amount of whey that was drained off.
Stir curd and water for 15 minutes.
Drain all whey/water.
Cut up curds and salt with ½ - ¾ tablespoon per gallon of milk, adding the salt in three increments that are spaced about 5 minutes apart. Stir curds well after each addition to distribute the salt.
Place curds in a form and apply pressure to create a block of cheese (First 15 minutes at 4 lbs. weight; remove from form and flip cheese; 12 hours with 8-10 lbs.). Alternatively, curds can be consumed fresh.
Colby can be aged but tends to gain bitterness after about 6 months. If aging your Colby, wax cheese (not required but helpful for protection and moisture retention) and age less than six months.