Conclusions about Cheesemaking 2013

2013 Cheese-making conclusions

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Cheese-making: the pursuit of perfection and embracing the holy cheese

Cheese experiments

Cheese experiments

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.

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.

Cheese press

home-made cheese press

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

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 washers
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.

Base support

Base support

Ricotta Cheese

making ricotta cheese

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

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.

ricotta3The colour of the whey changes drastically once the curds have been removed and it almost looks greenish.

Preserving cheese (Part 2)

Preserving goat's cheese

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.

cheese preserved in lard

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.