Sunday, November 3, 2013

Making a Horizontal Curd Cutter

Submitted by Jerry Pittman of Castle Rock, Washington

Cheese makers really are the most interesting people in the world!  They constantly come up with better ways of doing things and then share their ideas with other cheese makers.  We are truly amazed by this "generosity of spirit."

Jerry Pittman found a better way of cutting curds and he shared it with us.  He took pictures and wrote out the directions.  I asked him if he might also tell us a little bit about himself:

I am a retired medical technologist. I worked in hospital laboratories for over 40 years.  I live in Castle Rock, Washington with my wife, youngest son and our black Labrador, Barney.

I first started making cheese in the mid 90's using recipes and supplies from New England Cheese. Now that I am retired, I have time to start making cheese again. I came up with this horizontal curd knife as a way to make more uniform horizontal curd cuts.

This picture was taken before he added the plastic sleeve.
I use a cake spatula to cut the cheese curd and I have found that making the horizontal curd cuts reasonably uniform isn't that easy.  I wanted to find an easier way.  I came up with the idea using a copper tube as a horizontal cutting blade by attaching it to a wooden dowel.

My cutter is made out of items I picked up at the local hardware store: 1/8 x 12" copper tubing cut to the diameter of my cheese pot, 3/8" wooden dowel with 3/4" etch marks, small screw and star washer to secure the handle, small "O" rings to hold the tubing in the dowel.  I added a plastic sleeve around the dowel which gives you something to hold while turning the handle.

This was my prototype.  I would change the copper tubing to a stainless steel rod and change the etch marks to 1/2."  It would be nice to use a stiff nylon rod in place of the wood, but I couldn't find one to suit.


I use a cake spatula to make the vertical cuts in the curd.  I make my first vertical cut through the center of the pot, then make parallel cuts toward the edges.  This keeps the curd from moving around in the pot and gives me a central cut line for using the horizontal curd knife.

Here are the steps:

1. Hold the cutter by the handle, align the blade over the center vertical cut.

2. Hold the cutter by the grey sleeve and insert the blade down into the curd to the first mark.

3. With the other hand, turn the wood handle 180 degrees, this makes the first horizontal cut.

4. Insert the blade down to the second mark and turn the handle again. Continue in this manner until you reach the bottom of the pot.

5. Give the handle one final turn to make the last cut and remove cutter from pot. 

This device makes uniform horizontal cuts, which makes the curds more cubic in shape.  I found this much easier and quicker to use than either a cheese knife or ladle for making the horizontal curd cuts.

For printing:

1. Hold the device vertically by the wooden handle so that the pointed tip of the dowel is over the center of the curds and the copper cutter lines up with the central vertical cut.

2. Gently push the tip of the dowel down into the curd to the first etch mark above the copper tube.

3.  Next, with one hand hold the device just below the handle.  Hold it so that the dowel can rotate between your fingers when the handle is turned.

4. While holding on to the dowel, turn the handle 180 degrees using the other hand. This will make one complete horizontal cut through the curd.  The dowel and handle have an index mark on them to help keep track of  the position of the copper cutter. 

5.  Next, gently move the device down in the curd to the next etch mark and turn the handle another 180 degrees.  The second horizontal cut has been made.

5.  Continue in this manner until the wooden dowel reaches the bottom of the pot and turn the handle 180 degrees one last time to make the final cut.


Corina Sahlin said...

That's brilliant!!! I am always wondering if there is a better way to cut curds with consistent size. I make ten gallon batches of cheese at a time, and my husband made me a stainless steel knife to fit into the pot. It looks pretty scary! Maybe I can convince him to make one of these cool horizontal curd cutters!
Thanks for sharing!

Jeri said...

I know! It's such a simple solution!

Leaf said...

What an absolutely fantastic idea! And it's so simple!! Bravo, monsieur! :D

Simona said...

Thank you Jerry for sharing your creation and thank you Jeri for posting about this very useful tool. I'll ask my husband to build me one.

Jeri said...

Thanks, Simona. Let us know if he makes it...

Allen Burns said...

Thank you Jerry! I'm going to take your article over to a cheesemaking friend with a machine shop; I think he will be inspired and I'll let you know what he does. Brilliant idea!

Greg G said...

Is there any reason that you can't use multiple rods at the proper interval and make all the cuts with just one turn instead of moving the cutter up a mark over and over?

Jerry Pittman said...

I answered earlier, but don't see my posting. Yes, I did add more cutting blades to the cutter. I can cut up to a 2 gallon batch with a single turn of the handle.
Jerry Pittman