Salt is an essential ingredient in cheese. It expels whey, slows the conversion of lactose to lactic acid and preserves the cheese. It also adds flavour and helps form a rind. The oft quoted “Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality” would not be so, if it was not for salt.
There are two ways to add salt to the curds before maturing a cheese. One method is to add salt directly to the curds during milling, and the other method is to soak the pressed cheese in a brine solution. Cheese like Parmesan, Romano, Feta and Edam are soaked in brine so that the salt is absorbed and it preserves the cheese. Others like to brine Caerphilly or Camembert.
So how do you go about making brine for cheese? Well it is pretty simple. I boil up 2 litres (approx 2 quarts) and add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of non-ionised salt and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and teaspoon of calcium chloride.
Then I let it cool and submerge the cheese, which usually floats to the top.I find that this is just enough salt, and the vinegar and calcium chloride stops the cheese from leaching calcium back into the brine. I then reuse the brine as a washing solution on other hard cheeses to help inhibit mould growth.
|Parmesan waiting for the brine to cool.|
Just make sure that you cool to room temperature before adding finished cheese. In fact it is best if both brine and cheese are at the same temperature.
How long do you leave it in the brine? Well it depends on the density of the cheese. A nice hard cheese like Parmesan needs at least 24 hours. Ricki Carol’s cheesemaking.com site recommends the following:
“Cheeses of different densities and shapes will require varying times in the brine. A general rule is 1 hour per lb (450gm). per each 1 inch (2.5cm) thickness of cheese. A very dense low moisture cheese such as Parma will need more time than a moist open texture cheese.”
If you like you can store the brine for future use in the fridge.
I hope this answers any brine questions anyone has. If you have a cheese question, I am more than happy to see if I can answer it. If not, I will refer you to the Internet experts.