For the beginner there can sometimes be confusion about cheese molds. What is a follower? Do I need a cheese press? How does this fit into the cheese making process as a whole? When making homemade cheeses in your kitchen (or small scale dairy), you’ll very often require a cheese mold. They come in all shapes and sizes and selecting the correct one will go some way to ensuring your finished cheese turns out right.
Soft cheese molds are usually taller in height than they are wide. The curds shrink down quite a bit during the cheese making process - sometimes by as much as two-thirds. They tend to have lots of holes in the sides and base of the mold so that the whey can drain out. They come in various shapes and sizes - beaker molds, square, cylindrical (often open ended - these require a draining mat), pyramid-shaped and even heart-shaped! One thing worth remembering… Cheeses ‘shrink’ as whey is released, even those that aren’t pressed.
Soft cheeses do not require a cheese press, so they don’t require a follower. A follower is a ‘lid’ that sits on top of the mold and is then put into the cheese press with this lid on. Pressure is applied to the lid and in turn, to the cheese in the mold. Pressure is everything. Too much, or too little, can leave too much moisture or dry out the cheese (and leave it wonky if you don’t press flat). Please, please, please, ensure you press according to the recipe’s instructions, both in terms of weight AND time. Cheesemakers focus a lot on measuring the ingredients accurately, so make sure you press with as much precision.
If you were to make a homemade cheese such as Cheddar (which is classed as a semi-hard cheese) you’ll find the molds for these types of cheeses tend to be shorter in height with less drainage holes. Often, they are lined with a cheesecloth and will usually have a follower as it will be placed into a cheese press.
Hard cheese molds are pretty much always wider than they are tall, with fewer drainage holes for the whey. A cheesecloth should be used to line the mold during the cheesemaking process.