Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cheese making notes

Cheese is so wonderful.  I love cheese.    Sing : "Cheese!  Glorious Cheese!"
My friend Kathleen once accused me of having a "Cheese Problem".  She opened the refrigerator in my apartment and found two of the largest blocks of cheese sold at our local health food store.  There was little else to be found in there with the cheese.  Oh how I wish that Kathleen could see me now.  My head inside the vat on cheese day, wrist deep in fresh, salty curd.  She was right and life turned my "problem" into a lovely adventure.
 Here are some limited, incomplete notes taken during a typical Cheddar Cheese day here on the farm.  It all goes back to the education question.  I have been a poor cheese making apprentice, preferring to hover near the vat snatching bits of curd away.   But I know that the information and experience here is unique and a bit rare in this country.  So I started really listening to miguel and taking notes one day, with the intention of creating a cheese guide.  We have people visit occasionally on cheese making day and I love the idea of offering visitors a few pages of wisdom that can only come from many years of loving and making cheese.

draining whey from curds

filling molds with curd that will continue to drain whey and become...


Cheese making notes for 'cheddar' recipe 

 - WARM - 
Stir milk occasionally while it warms to 27 d Celsius

 Add culture.  Powder culture is sprinkled onto surface of milk and allowed to rest without stirring for a few minutes as temperature rises to 28 d.  Stir culture well into the milk.  
Culture added for this “farm house cheddar” is KAZU, a mixture of cultures.  There are meso and thermaphillic cultures, meaning medium (meso) temperature and heat (therma) loving bacteria.  

 - WARM -  Stir milk occasionally while it warms to 31 d

 - REST -  With the temperature at 31d and the culture well mixed into the milk, now the whole batch will rest for one hour.  

 - RENNET - 
After one hour has passed add the Rennet.  Also bring temperature back to 31 d if there has been any cooling over the rest period. 
Rennet is added directly to cold water that is roughly 10 times the volume of Rennet.  For example, if Rennet to be added equals 2 ml, then add this small amount to 20 ml of water.  Add this mixture to the milk and stir well.
Adding too much Rennet does not produce noticeable changes or problems.  
Not adding enough Rennet or using old Rennet can cause the curd to be not firm enough.  This soft curd allows the fat to leak out and that is no fun.  We want all the fat in the cheese.  

 - REST - 
With the temperature at 31d and the Rennet well mixed in, now the whole batch will rest for approximately 45 minutes or more.  

 - CURD - 
After 45 minutes has passed, visually inspect the curd that has formed.  The desired curd is firm and offers a “Clean Break” when cut.  Holding a knife with blade parallel to the cheese, direct the knife point into the curd at a 45 degree angle.  Insert half way and then slowly lift up so curd breaks over, or falls over the blade.  There should be clean lines as the curd releases and breaks away from itself.  Not seeing a clean break means that more rest time is required.  Come back and check again in a bit.
The 45 minute rest time following the addition of Rennet can vary.  For example, spring time milk has less solids and can take longer to set up.  Winter milk is richer with a lower percentage of water so it will tend to set up in the expected time.

 - CUT CURD - 
Slice curd into smaller and smaller pieces being fairly gentle in the process.  The curd cannot be cut too much or too small.  The pieces will begin to float in the whey and eventually they will just move out of the way of your cutting device.  
Stir the whole batch and examine curd size, cutting up any large pieces that are found.  Stirring also breaks up big groups that are sticking together.  

 - WARM & STIR -
 Over a 45 minute time frame, warm the whole batch up to 38 d.  Temperature should be rising gently and consistently so that as 38 d is attained, 45 minutes has passed.  This time block of time is needed to allow the _________.   Stir the curds gently and frequently to prevent clumping and keep them floating in the whey.  

 After 45 minutes with the temperature at 38 d, allow the batch to rest.  The curd will be ready for the next phase after the desired texture has been achieved.  Texture is determined by grasping curds in the hand and squeezing firmly.  Open the hand and the resulting blob should release and  separate when flicked with the thumb.  Curd should feel elastic.  Each curd has formed a thin “skin” that keeps it gently separate from neighboring curds.  
During this rest period of 0 to 30 minutes the curd should be stirred occasionally and observed for texture changes.  The pH of the batch is changing towards acid.  If the pH becomes too acid then the curd may feel crumbly, hard, without elasticity.  

 - Drain Whey - 
to be continued...


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