Colby a true American cheese

Salted curd colby.  Notice all the small eyeholes in the cheese
Salted curd colby. Notice all the small eyeholes in the cheese

One of the only cheeses ever created in the united states is the wonderful Colby cheese.  Unfortunately what you buy in the store is not a true Colby.  Store bought Colby is closer to the taste and flavor of a young cheddar. I found two different recipes that the only difference was that in one the curds were salted, then pressed, and another where the curds are pressed and then brined.  For this first attempt at Colby I will try the salt added to the curds.  Next time I will make it and brine it.  I will add both instructions to the page for anyone who would like to try either recipe.


  • 3/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride Liquid (30%) Dissolved in 2 Tbsp. distilled water (if using store-bought milk)
  • 3 ounces prepared Mesophilic Culture.
  • Annetto as per instructions on variety
  • 3/4 Rennet Tablets (microbial) Dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 3 gallon Whole Milk Cow

Cheese making steps:

  1. Add your calcium chloride to your milk. Then gently stir the milk and heat to 86° F.
  2. Remove pot from heat. Sprinkle culture or frozen cube over milk surface and let hydrate for 1 or 2 minutes. Gently and thoroughly stir culture into milk. Let sit for 60 minutes
  3. Add rennet and mix it into milk with an up and down motion for about 1 minute. Let sit for 30-40 minutes for curd to develop.
  4. After you get a clean break cut curd into 3/8 inch pieces. It is okay if they are not perfect cubes. Let the curds heal for 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly heat your curd to 102°F over 30 minutes. Do not let it heat but more than 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Gently stir every five minutes during the 30 minutes.
  6. Next cover the pot and let the curds set for five minutes.
  7. Pour off the whey until it is level with the curd mass. Stir in cold tap water until the temperature in the cheese pot is lowered to 80°F. Hold the temperature at 80°F for 15 minutes while gently stirring to keep the curd from matting. The temperature of the cheese pot during this step will determine the moisture content of the finished cheese. A slightly higher temperature will produce a drier cheese. Lowering the temperature a few degrees will make a moister cheese.

Draining / Pressing time:

  1. Drain your curds into a cloth line colander taking care to not spill as it fills.  Allow to drain then mix in 3 tablespoons of salt into your curds (if brining please go to the next section on brining and skip adding salt at this point)
  2. Fill you cloth lined cheese mold and put the follower on your mold and press with 20 lbs. for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the cheese and re-wrap and press at 30 lbs. for 20 minutes
  4. Turn and re-wrap one more time and press at 50 lbs for 12 hours

Brining/salting/aging time:

  1. If you are brining the Colby add your finished cheese to your salt brine and let soak for 8 hours flipping once.   Keep your brining cheese in the fridge. The standard cheese brine is 2 pounds of salt per gallon of water.  You can also use the whey to make your brine.  It will give a slightly different flavor then using just water.
  2. After pressing and or brining place the salted cheese on a bamboo mat to air dry for 1-3 days. Cover with a clean cheesecloth. Turn the cheese over twice each day. When it starts to form a darker yellowish rind and is dry to the touch, it is ready to wax for storage.
  3. Age at 55° to 60°F (55°F is ideal) for 4-6 weeks.  This cheese is supposed to be eaten with little to no aging.  Any longer then 6 weeks and it will get hard and crumbly.

Update:  my cheese with salt added to the curds has flattened out a bit as it air-dried but still looks tasty.  It reminds me more of an inner tube then a wheel now.

A little history on how Colby was made from the New England cheesemaking website:

Colby cheese was invented in Wisconsin by Joseph F. Steinwand in 1885. It was named for the township in which his father, Ambrose Steinwand, Sr., had built the first cheese factory in Clark County three years before.

“At his father’s cheese factory about one mile south and one mile west of here, Joseph F. Steinwand in 1885 developed a new and unique type of cheese. He named it for the township in which his father, Ambrose Steinwand Sr., had built northern Clark County’s first cheese factory three years before.”

Ambrose and Susan Steinwand and their children moved to Colby in 1875. They bought a quarter-section of railroad land in Colby township and in 1882 built a cheese factory, a small wood building that produced 125 pounds of cheese a day.
Their eldest son, Joseph, assisted his father in the factory from age 16, quickly learning the cheese making process. Joe Steinwand was inquisitive, and when his father sent him to a cheese making course in Madison, he began to experiment in the Colby factory.
He made minor changes in the cheese process, but these were enough to create a cheese both milder and moister than cheddar. The new cheese was named “Colby” and became almost instantly popular.

One thought on “Colby a true American cheese

  1. Pingback: Caramelized onion Colby « Shane's outdoor fun

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