2013 Cheese-making conclusions
Having given up the search for a hole-free cheese (see post), I have decided to make a note of things I have learned during this season’s cheese-making.
- Regarding the size of cheese mould needed, around 5 litres of milk is good for a 1kg mould, 10 litres would be good for a 1.5kg mould and 15 litres is good for a 2kg mould.
NOTE TO SELF: Buy a 1.5kg mould so that I can make cheese every two days.
- During the height of summer, the most difficult thing is to keep the milk from going off. I’ve replaced the glass shelf at the bottom of the fridge with a custom-made stainless steel version after it broke under the weight of the milk containers. Although the 2kg mould needed about 15 litres of milk (3 days’ milking), it was not possible to keep the milk for so long in the fridge without it going off which was why I experimented with freezing the milk. I think in the future, it would be better to make a small 1.5kg cheese every two days.
- I’ve found that the ideal pressure is 10kg for the first pressing as this is just enough to press the curds but not so much that they are squeezed out of the mould. I line the inside of the mould with cheesecloth and add the curds. I then press them at 10kg for 30 minutes before removing the cloth and turning the cheese. I then press the cheese with 15kg for 12 hours.
I have never managed to make a cheese without holes so in my unending quest to find the cause of the problem and to make the perfect cheese, I’ve been carrying out a series of experiments to see if I can remedy the situation.
I reckon that the problem could be influenced by any of the following factors: milk temperature, amount of rennet, amount of pressure or ambient temperature.
My original cheese-making technique was to heat the goat milk to 28-30ºC before adding the rennet. Once a clean cut had been achieved, I would then slowly heat the milk to 38ºC.
1. The first experiment was to heat the milk to 34ºC, add the rennet, cut the curds after the clean cut and heat to 38ºC. This didn’t seem to make any difference whatsoever.
2. The second experiment was to heat the milk to 38ºC, add the rennet, wait for the clean cut, cut the curds and then leave them to settle to the bottom of the pan. The difference in this case was that the curds were softer than normal but it made absolutely no difference tot he finished cheese.
I normally use 1.25ml of powdered rennet to 5 litres of milk but some people on Internet say that holy cheese could be caused by too much rennet. The instructions on the back of the rennet pot actually say that 0.01ml of rennet should be used to each litre of milk. Too much rennet is a bad thing and can make a cheese which squeaks on your teeth but I wanted to see what would happen if I used less than I normally do. Normally, it takes 45-60 minutes for the milk to achieve a clean cut but when I used less rennet it took about 2 1/2 hours. Apparently it can take as long as 3 hours to achieve a clean cut. Once again there was absolutely no difference in the finished cheese.
AMOUNT OF PRESSURE
I started this cheese-making season by applying pressure of 5kg for 30 minutes, 10kg for another 30 minutes and finally 15kg for the final 30 minutes.
1. I decided to change the pressure to 10kg-15kg-20kg
This didn’t make any difference to the final cheese but is the pressure that I will use in the future.
2. I tried doubling the amount of final pressure: 10kg-20kg-30kg
The cheese still expanded in the press and had the additional problem of an unstable stack of weights on top.
In conclusion, I don’t think that the pressure makes much of a difference.
Unfortunately, there is not much I can do about this but I think this is what is causing the problem. I therefore think it’s a good idea to make the cheese early in the morning, and get it into the fridge as soon as possible. I have also started applying a 2kg weight on top of the salted cheese in the fridge to stop it expanding.
All things considered, I’ve decided to embrace my cheese’s holiness wholeheartedly and join the ranks of Dutch and Swiss cheeses.
Home-made cheese press
Originally, I started making cheese using a fruit press but the problem was that it didn’t apply a constant pressure and I would have to wait for the mass of curds to release the liquid before tightening the press further.
I therefore looked on Internet to see if there were any home-made versions and there were plenty. This one is easy to make and I found it on the Fiasco Farm website.
Materials for the cheese press
To make the press, you need:
2 wooden boards measuring 30cm x 30cm
4 dowel rods (40cm long and 2cm diameter)
4 stainless steel base supports
4 stainless steel screws
2cm drill spade bit
3cm drill spade bit
Drill 4 holes (3cm diameter) in each corner of one of the boards with the 3cm spade bit.
Drill another 4 holes (2cm diameter) in each corner of the other board with the 2cm spade bit. It is important that the holes match up.
Screw the base support on each of the lengths of dowel rod, with a washer between the rod and the screw.
I use the bottom part of my original fruit press to press the cheese and place 5kg weights on the press. For the first 30 minutes, I press the cheese with 5kg, for the second 30 minutes I use 10kg and for the final 30 minutes I use 15kg.
Making ricotta cheese
Ricotta is a low-fat, spreadable cheese made by reheating the whey once you have removed the curds for pressing into cheese. The word Ricotta is Italian for recooked. While some prefer it mixed with sugar and then spread on bread, others season it with salt and pepper and use it as a savoury spread.
I had tried making ricotta cheese before but had never had much luck. So I decided to look on Internet to see what temperature the whey should be heated to. I discovered that 94ºC – just below boiling point – was the magic temperature.
It is important not to let the whey boil as this will toughen the curds.
Heat the whey on a medium heat to 94ºC. Once it the liquid has reached this temperature, the creamy curds will float to the top of the pan.
Straining the ricotta cheese
Skim off the curds into a piece of muslin. I used a jam bag and stand and a fine-meshed sieve.
How long you leave the cheese to drain for will depend on how firm you want the finished cheese to be. After a couple of hours, the cheese was still quite moist and spreadable. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added some lemon zest and chives and mixed well and it was delicious.
The colour of the whey changes drastically once the curds have been removed and it almost looks greenish.
Goat’s cheese preserved in lard
The cheese I smeared in lard and wrapped in brown paper had been hanging in the bathroom ever since and had started to smell fairly strong. I decided to get it down and have a look. It didn’t look too promising but once the lard had been scraped off, it looked better. The texture was quite firm and it tasted delicious – quite strong just like parmesan.
Sliced goat’s cheese
It seems like a good way to preserve it and one that I would repeat in the future. I sliced the cheese into thick slices and vacuum-packed it.
A pleita is a long strip of plaited esparto grass which can be used instead of a mould in cheese-making. The band is wound round and round and the end tucked in and the cheese curds pressed down into the middle. It needs to be placed on a wooden board and the finished cheese looks better if the board used below and on top have some sort of carved design which is then embedded into the cheese.
I managed to find one in a shop in Guadix for 12 euros and was quite excited. This is what the neighbour uses and it has the advantage of being able to adapt to any amount of milk for any size of cheese. The only thing you have to be careful of is not letting the curds dry on the pleita as it takes ages to get them off.
This is a picture of the cheese once it has been pressed. As I didn’t have any suitable weights or boards, I pressed it in the fruit press.
I was really pleased with the finished cheese with its design:
Because the first time I had tried using a pleita, the cheese had dried onto it, I didn’t want the same to happen again. So I removed the cheese quite soon from the pleita. As the cheese dried, it lost most of the sharp design and in the future I would probably leave it on for longer before removing.
Once the cheese has thoroughly dried out, the third method is to slice the cheese finely and place in a tupperware container and then cover with olive oil and close the lid. The cheese should be stored for about four months before eating and by the end of that time it should have matured deliciously.
Cheese in oil
The only problem with this method is that it takes a fair amount of oil.
I got some lard from the baker in the village and spread a layer over the cheese with a spatula. I coated some greaseproof paper with some more, and then carefully wrapped the cheese. I needed two coats as the width of the roll wasn’t big enough to fully cover the cheese. I then tied it up with sting and hung it in the bathroom from the top shelf.
To get over the problem of the paper not being wide enough, the neighbour uses the inside of a paper flour sack from the bread shop. Here’s a picture of his which he tied with fine, plastic string.
One way to preserve cheese is to wax the outside. Heat some wax in a wide-rimmed metal bowl in a water bath.
Dip the cheese into the wax, covering the bottom half of the cheese and letting it dry before coating the other side.
The only problem with this is method is that it is probably better for a compact cheese without any air bubbles. I tried it on mine and as I hadn’t let it warm to room temperature it wasn’t long before the cheese started to expand and the wax to fall off.
Powdered and liquid rennet
Rennet is a natural enzyme found in mammal stomachs and is used for setting cheese. After adding the rennet, the milk is left for 45 minutes. After this time, the curds separate from the whey and it is possible to cut the curd.
Normally the rennet is extracted from calves’ stomachs but vegetarian rennet is also available. Natural forms can also be found such as in the sap from figs There are two types of rennet: powdered rennet and liquid rennet. Here in Spain, the liquid version is not readily available but the powdered form can be bought in any pharmacy.
How much rennet to use? These are the quantities that I have found to work.
For 5 litres of goat milk, I’ve found that 1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) is good dissolved with 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 tablespoon of water.
For a firm cheese, I use two drops per 1 litre of milk and for a softer cheese, 1 drop per litre.
The problem of using too much rennet is that the cheese makes your teeth squeak. Information on Internet and on the jar said that a lot less was necessary and so I did an experiment today with a cheese using only half this amount. The result was that the curds weren’t firm enough to be cut and the resulting cheese was a lot more fragile then usual.