Saturday, 30 July 2011

Wensleydale Video Tutorial

As promised, here is another in the cheese making tutorials.  I made it about a year ago, but the method is still the same as the last post.

I hope you enjoy it and if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will endeavour to answer it.

Part One

Part Two

No wonder Wallace and Gromit like it so much! 

Now for a little joke;

I was having lunch with my son Adam a year ago, and he asked, "Dad, what are you doing tonight?"

I replied, "I am waxing the Wensleydale".

He retorted, "So that's what the kids call it these days!"
I just could not stop laughing. He is a funny lad, and a chip of the old block. Cheese block that is!

Friday, 29 July 2011


Of all the cheese that I have made so far, I believe that Wensleydale is my sentimental favourite.  Why you ask?  Well if you like Wallace and Gromit as much as our family does, then you would have figured it out already

You see, both Wallace and Gromit have a fancy for Wensleydale, as do I.

Here is a bit about the cheese itself. Wensleydale cheese is a firm and slightly flaky cheese but not dry and crumbly, in fact quite the reverse, its moist and quite succulent with a melt in the mouth forte to it. Slightly sweet but not that it is immediately noticeable and with no after-taste, Wensleydale is perfect to accompany all fresh fruits including apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit and strawberries to name but a few.

Also nice with a glass of light wine, or a cold beer with a Wensleydale ploughman's lunch, Wensleydale is also great on rye or crackers.  It was made popular again by the Wallace and Gromit movies, and sales took off in the UK.

Anyway, enough about those two.  Have a look at this one that I prepared earlier

Here is the cheese recipe I use for Wensleydale. Just make sure you have at least 9 hours up your sleeve and don't start making it at 7pm and end up finishing at 3am like I did a few weeks ago!

Wensleydale Cheese.
Makes about 850 gm (2 pounds)
8 litres (2 gallons) whole milk
1 quarter teaspoon Direct set Mesophylic culture
2.5 ml Rennet mixed with 25 ml non-chlorinated water
3 ml Calcium Chloride if using homogenised milk
3 teaspoons non-ionised salt

Sterilise all equipment. I put a litre of water into the pot, put all utensils in it, cover and boil for 15 minutes. Anything that may melt, I wipe down with vinegar and a boiled cloth. If I handle the milk/curds or finished cheese, I spray vinegar on my hands from a spray bottle and rub together until dry. That way the milk will not get infected by any wild yeasts or molds that maybe on my hands.

Using a double boiler, heat the milk to 30C (86F). If using homogenised milk, add calcium chloride to 2 tablespoons water and mix to the milk gently. Add Mesophylic starter, mix well for a minute, cover and allow milk to ripen for 45 minutes.

Add rennet whilst stirring and stir bottom to top for 2 minutes. Cover and allow to stand for 45 minutes until the curd sets, maintaining the temperature. Test with your finger for a clean break in the curds, then cut the curd into 13 mm cubes and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Stir the curds and whey for 10 minutes, then let rest for 15 minutes. Stir the curd again as you raise the temperature to 32C (90F). Maintain this temperature, and stir the curd as often as necessary to stop the curd knitting together. Do this for 2 hours.

Drain the whey off and ladle the curd into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Tie in a bundle and for 2 hours, open every 15 minutes to break the curd into small pieces.

After the two hours break up the curd for one final time and apply the salt. Mix the curds and salt well.

Place half the curd into a cheesecloth lined 1 kg cheese basket and apply a layer of sterilised sage leaves (sterilise on clean oven tray at 120C (250F) for 10 minutes), pressing down well.

Fill with remainder of curd and press at 5kg (10 pounds) for 15 minutes. Carefully remove cheese from cloth, turn over and press at 25kg (50 pounds) for 12 hours.

Remove from press and cheesecloth. Place on a board and allow to dry for 2 days. Apply wax and store at 13-15C (55-59F) at 80-85% humidity. Can be eaten in 3 weeks or aged for up to 3 months.

This is a wonderful cheese, and I have never been able to find Wensleydale in the local grocery store. There is no equal as far as I am concerned and beats the store bought tasty cheddar any day.

I have a video tutorial for this cheese which I will post tomorrow.

Cheesy dreams everyone!

Monday, 25 July 2011


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 is to add salt directly to the curds during milling, and the other 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.

So how do you make a brine?  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 submerse 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 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.

Cheese factoid: The terms “Big Wheel”and “Big Cheese”originally referred to those who were wealthy enough to purchase a whole wheel of cheese!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Big Cheese

I have been busy making cheese today.  So what is new you probably think to yourselves, you always make cheese.

Well, I have been making big cheeses.  You see, now that I have a 14 litre pot and two cheese presses, I can make double the amount of cheese in the same time frame as it used to take me to make just one.  I am so glad that I "upsized" my equipment, because now I seem to always have cheese at hand, and some left over should friends want to buy some from or to give away as gifts. Nothing says 'I love you' like home made cheese!

Last weekend, I made two Caerphilly cheeses, and the week before that, I made the biggest Parmesan that I have ever made.

The only problem I have is that it has been so cold here of late, that the cheese will not dry and form a rind.  The Caerphilly above, which are the two wheels at the front, have been sitting at room temperature for 7 days, and have only formed a slight rind on the edges.  Because they have been moist, I have had to wash with brine to inhibit mould growth. 

Not so bad though for the Parmesan at the back.  Because it is a brine dipped cheese, the rind forms really easily, with minimal mould formation.  I will wax it this week, as I find this helps it from drying out.  As for the Caerphilly, I will wait for the rind, and then put them in the cheese cave for a few more weeks before vacuum packing them to stop them from aging further.

Today, because it was raining heavily and I couldn't do much outside, I decided to make another big Parmesan.  It took me about 4 hours from milk to press (as shown above), and tomorrow I will brine it for 24 hours.  In ten months it will taste absolutely delicious! 

This morning, Kim found some Feta in the fridge that I had made about 3 months ago, still in the brine and looking very healthy.  I tried a little and found it to be sharp, very edible, with a crumbly texture to the cut, but when spread on toast it was smooth and creamy and delicious.  I remember following my standard recipe for this one, and it just goes to show that if kept submerged in brine in a sealed container, Feta can last for a long time.  Now that we have discovered this, I think I will age all of my Feta for this long!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Feta - Video Tutorial

After a request from Annet who was looking for more information about Feta, I knew that I could fulfil the request easily. She was disappointed at the diminishing quality of commercially made cheese.  What better way to overcome that issue, by making your own Feta!

Feta (Greek: φέτα) is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is an aged crumbly cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g the Greek salad), pastries and in baking. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Now what are you waiting for?  Get some milk and get cracking!

Just so you know exactly what I put in it, here is the ingredient list that I used.

4 litres full cream milk (1 gallon)

1/4 teaspoon of lipase diluted in 60ml (quarter of a cup) of non-chlorinate water
1 gm (1 heaped smidgen) direct set mesophilic culture
2.5 ml rennet diluted in 60 ml of non-chlorinated water
2.5 ml calcium chloride diluted in 60 ml of non chlorinate water (if milk is homogenised)

Follow these instructions.

Enjoy this wonderful cheese!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pepper Jack, Son of Monterey

This type of cheese is a variation on Monterey Jack which hails from the Monterey area in California.  It was bought over by the Spanish via Mexico and was originally known as Queso del Pais.  I made this cheese quite some time ago and here it is fresh out of the press around the 25th May 2009.  I waxed it after it had was touch dry.

Anyway, we cracked it open on the 1st August, after having left it to ripen for a good couple of months.  The recipe stated that it should ripen for one to three months, so I thought that two was a safe bet.  And a safe bet it was.  The end result was a crumbly, whitish cheese with a decent kick due to the organic chili flakes.  Both Kim and I agreed that it was well worth making and that it tasted divine. 

Kim, kids and friends believe that my signature cheeses so far are Wensleydale, Caerphilly and Pepper Jack.  I tend to agree, but since then they have sampled my Emmental, Stilton and Parmesan.  They love them all! 

So where's the recipe I hear you all asking?  Well, hold your horses, here it is.

Pepper Jack Cheese

Makes about 850 gm (2 pounds)

8 litres (2 gallons) whole milk
¼ teaspoon Direct set Mesophylic culture
5 ml Rennet mixed with 60 ml non-chlorinated water
1 ml Calcium Chloride if using homogenised milk
1 tablespoons non-ionised salt
1 teaspoon hot chili flakes
½ cup (125 ml) water

Boil the chilli flakes in the water for 15 minutes.  I bought to the boil and just simmered and when it looked like it was going to boil dry, I added another 60 ml of water at about the 10 minute mark.  Strain and remove the chilli flakes and set aside the chili water.  I used my home-grown birds eye chilli that were sun dried on the bush.

Add the chili water to the milk and stir well.  Using a double boiler, heat the milk to 31°C (88°F). If using homogenised milk, add calcium chloride to ¼ cup of unclorinated water and mix into the milk gently.   Add Mesophylic starter, mix well for a minute, raise the temperature to 32°C (90ºF), cover and allow milk to ripen for 30 minutes.

Keeping the temp at 32°C, add the diluted rennet and stir for one minute.  Cover and let sit for fourty five minutes.  Check for a clean break and cut the curds into 6mm (¼") cubes.  Maintain the target temp and stir the curds for forty minutes.

Gradually raise the temp to 38°C (100°F) which should take about thirty five minutes.  Stir frequently to keep the curds from matting.  Once the target temp is reached, maintain for 30 minutes and continue stiring (your arms should be sore by now ;-)).  Let the curds rest for five minutes.

Pour off the whey to the level of the curds, taking care not to loose any of the curds.  Let the curds rest for an additional thirty minutes, however stir every 5 minutes to prevent the curds from matting.  While the curds are resting ensure that the target temp of 38°C (100°F) is maintained.  Line a colander with a sterilised cheese cloth and spoon the curds into the colander and toss through the salt and the boiled chili flakes.  Blend well with your clean hands, then let the curds drain for five minutes.

Line a 900g mould with cheese cloth, and fill with the curds.  Cover the curds with the corner of the cheese cloth, top with a follower, and press at 5kg (10lb) for fifteen minutes.  Remove the cheese from the press, and slowly, carefully unwrap it.  Turn the cheese over, rewrap it in the cloth and press at 15kg (30lb) for thirty minutes.  Repeat the unwrapping and turning process, this time pressing at 20kg (40lb) for 12 hours.

Remove the cheese from the press, and take it out of the mould and unwrap the cheese cloth.  Place the cheese on a cheese mat and board and let air dry at room temperature until it is dry to touch (usually 2-5 days).  Mine took 4 days to dry in Autumn.  Turn twice daily to allow for even drying.  Wax the cheese and allow it to ripen for one to three months in a humid cheese cave at 13ºC (55ºF) at 80-85% humidity.  Don't forget to turn weekly to evenly distibute the fats and flavour.

We have managed to make the cheese last for three weeks, eating a little every few days.  I have learnt that if I cut the wheel into quarters and rewax three quarters, then Kim and I are just a little more hesitent to scoff the whole lot in one weekend.  Once I rewax, I place them in the normal fridge at 4ºC to inhibit the ripening process.  As Dorothy, my cheese instructor once told me, "Cheese is a living organism and you should treat it with the respect it deserves".

I highly recommend this cheese.  It takes a bit of stiring, however if you are new to the process of making cheese, then give it a go if you like a bitey yet mild cheese.  It is very satisfying to make and to finally eat.  You certainly don't need any fancy crackers to enjoy this cheese.  Just a plain watercracker or wafer will do fine.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Emmental Cheese

This version of a Swiss cheese is quite easy to make.  I have had good results so far, and have made it about 4 times now. This cheese has a fantastic nutty flavour, and each time I make it, I end up with different hole sizes.  So what makes the holes?  Well, Wikipedia states;

"The cheese originally comes from the Emme valley in the canton of Bern. Unlike some other cheese varieties, the denomination "Emmentaler" was not protected ("Emmentaler Switzerland" is, though). Hence, Emmentaler of other origin, especially from France and Bavaria, is widely available and even Finland is an exporter of Emmentaler cheese.
Emmentaler is a yellow, medium-hard cheese. Failure to remove CO2 bubbles during production, due to inconsistent pressing, results in the large holes ("eyes") characteristic of this cheese. Historically, the holes were a sign of imperfection, and until modern times, cheese makers would try to avoid them. It has a piquant, but not very sharp, taste. Three types of bacteria are used in the production of Emmentaler: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus, and Propionibacterium freudenreichii. In the late stage of cheese production, P. freudenreichii consumes the lactic acid excreted by the other bacteria, and releases carbon dioxide gas, which slowly forms the bubbles that make holes."

I didn't take any pictures during any of the making sessions, but be assured the procedure is not that dissimilar from other hard cheeses I have made.  The only real difference is that you add the Propioni Shermanii to the milk at the same time as the Mesophilic culture and let it ripen for the specified time.  Add Rennet, cut the curd, stir for a long, long time, then press.

Once pressed, you have to leave it in the cheese cave for a week, turning it daily, then remove and keep it at room temperature (21°-24°C) for two to three weeks.  This is to let the eyes develop and the cheese swells at the top, bottom and the sides begin to bulge.  This is unlike any other cheese I have made.  You also have to turn and wipe with a brine solution daily to help the rind form.  It even smells like Swiss cheese now after a week.  Here is a photo of a week old cheese.  Note the swelling sides.

After the eye formation is complete it gets returned back to the cheese cave for another three months for final ripening and is turned three times a week and wiped in the brine solution at the same time.  This cheese is not normally waxed.  I was looking forward to the day that I cracked open this cheese. 

Well, the four months were up after a long wait.  When we cracked open the wheel and this is what we found.

There was a 3cm split on the top and it was a little infected with Penicillin Roquefort, however the Propioni Shermanii culture did its work.  Well, some of the work in most part of the cheese.  I believe that even though I gave the wheel a wash of brine a couple of times a week as per the recipe, after I let the eyes form, the rind is far too thick.  I think that because the cheese was not waxed, as stated in the recipe, it just hardened too much.  

Since this time I have waxed it after about three weeks of eye development.  It makes for a more moist cheese however the eyes do not form as big.

Now, how did it taste I hear you ask.  Well, it tasted like a Swiss type cheese like you can buy in the supermarket, however there was an obvious difference due to the Penicillin Roquefort culture.  It was very nice, and both Kim and Pam (Kim's Mum) agreed that it was a very tasty cheese.  The rind had a very strong flavour and as you can see more eyes formed closer to the rind than in the centre.  Here is it sliced on a platter.

The quarter I served up was very holey indeed.  Easy to cut and great flavour with a plain cracker.  I really liked the extra flavour in the blue vein part!
When made commercially this cheese is made in 60-80 kg wheels, which aids the uniformity of the eye formation.  Apparently, from what I have read, the bigger the Emmentaler, the larger and more frequent the eyes.  

Now last week, I cracked open a wheel of Emmental that I made in February this year.  This is what it looked like.

After I took the wax off, I was pleased to note that it still had a nice yellow rind.  As you can see I used Jersey Milk, which was about 4.2% butterfat.

It sliced well, and if you look closely, it has many hundreds of tiny holes.  I don't think that I put in enough  Propioni Shermanii, or it may have been too hot in Summer when it was resting at room temperature during hole formation.

Anyway, it still tasted nutty and smooth.  This is a fantastic cheese for anyone who has a little patience, and I recommend it after you have a few other cheeses under your cheesemaking belt!

This cheese definitely sounds like a candidate for a video tutorial.  Maybe next Friday.  What do you think?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Caerphilly - Video Tutorial

Of late, I have been cheesing up a storm.  Every Friday night for the last month, I have made large (14 litre) batches of a single recipe.   It seems to definately the way to go, because with all the same equipment, I can make two rounds of cheese instead of one!

Tomorrow night, I intend on making Caerphilly.  Caerphilly is one of my favourite cheeses to make.  It is relatively quick to make, only takes 3 and a half hours from milk to mould, and you can eat it in only three short weeks.  I wrote about the method in the last post, so I thought I would follow that up with the video tutorial due to the fact that I said I would, and that Melinda asked this question;

Hi Gavin, could you clarify a couple of things for me please?

How do you "Let mixture sit for forty minutes at the target temperature" Is that a constant reheating to keep it at that temp? If this is the case, that would mean that the mix is constantly dropping a couple of degrees, then being warmed up agian. Or is there an easy way to do this? I'm assuming that you can't just walk away from the cheesemaking while it's resting?

"until you get a clean break" What is a clean break? Would you be able to show this in a photo or video please?
To specifically answer your first question, you will find that if you use my double boiler method the milk stays a constant temperature when at rest.  It takes a little practice, but as soon as the milk reaches the target temp, turn the heat off, and keep the cheese pot on the smaller saucepan.  The heat from the water in the lower pan keeps the milk at about 30-33C.  You can definately walk away, as I do when I make long ripening cheeses like Camembert (90 minute wait for the curd to set), however I check with the thermometer at about the half way mark just to make sure.  You should get a better idea from the video.  The second question will be answered in the video as well.  May I also recommend that you purchase one of the cheese books that I reviewed recently?  It has all of the introduction to cheesemaking info you will ever need.  The authors do a much better job of describing the ins and outs of the methodology than I could do justice to.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the video, but I must warn you that it was the first one I ever made.  The photography was a bit wobbly, and I invested in a tripod very soon after!

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will endeavour to answer it.  The recipe for this cheese is located at this post titled, "Caerphilly" if you are interested in trying to make it.  It is relatively quick to make and only takes 3 and a half hours from milk to mould, and you can eat it in only three short weeks.  Also, and most importantly, it tastes divine.  Unless you live in the UK, it would be very rare to find this cheese in the shops.

Enjoy!  Blessed are the Cheese Makers, or so Monty Python says!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Yearning for a cheese that would be on the table quickly? Caerphilly is the cheese that you are after. It has Welsh/English origins, and is a lightly pressed cheese that ripens in 3 weeks.

Here is a bit of history about Caerphilly from Wikipedia;

Caerphilly cheese is a hard, white cheese that originates in the area around the town of Caerphilly in Wales, although it is now also made in England, particularly in the South West and on the English border with Wales. It was not originally made in Caerphilly, but was sold at the market there, hence taking the town's name.

Caerphilly is a light-coloured (almost white), crumbly cheese made from cow's milk, and generally has a fat content of around 48%. It has a mild taste, with its most noticeable feature being a not unpleasant slightly sour tang.

It is rumoured that the cheese was developed over time to provide the coal miners of the area with a convenient way of replenishing the salt lost through hard work over ten hour shifts underground and so was a staple of the diet of the coal miners.
So here is my method for making it. I used the recipe out of Making Artisan Cheese by Tim Smith and modified it a little.

7.6 litres whole milk (2 gallons)
1 quarter teaspoon (about 2 ml) mesophillic culture
1 eighth teaspoon (about 1 ml) calcium chloride diluted in 60ml cool unchlorinated water
1 teaspoon (about 3 ml) liquid rennet diluted in 60ml cool unchlorinated water
2 tablespoons non-ionised salt

Heat milk to 32°C user double boiler (I use a smaller saucepan under the large pot).

Add the calcium chloride if you are using homogenised milk. Stir for a minute. Then add the starter culture and stir for another minute. Cover and let rest for thirty minutes at target temperature.

Maintaining the temp of 32°C (90°F), add the rennet to the milk, stir for two minutes, then cover. Let mixture sit for forty minutes at the target temperature, or until you get a clean break.

Cut the curds into 6mm (¼ inch) cubes, keeping the size as uniform as possible.

Slowly raise the temp to 33°C (92°F); this should take about ten minutes. Hold the curd at the target temp for forty minutes and be sure to stir frequently to keep the curds from matting. Let rest at target temp for five minutes.

Drain the curds into a cheese cloth lined colander, and let whey drain for a 5 minutes. Cut the curds into 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick slabs, and stack on top of one another. Turn the stack over, top to bottom, two times in ten minutes. This will assist in draining a lot of whey from the curd.

Using your clean hands, break the curds into thumbnail-sized pieces, and blend with salt.

Fill a cheese cloth-lined 1kg cheese mould with the salted curds.

Cover the curd with one corner of the cheese cloth, lay the follower on top, and press at 5kg (10 pounds) for ten minutes.

Remove the cheese from the press, take it out of the mould, and unwrap the cheese cloth. Turn the cheese, and rub a layer of salt on both top and bottom before rewrapping with cheese cloth. Press at 5kg (10 pounds) for ten minutes. Repeat the same procedure (salt), pressing at 7.5 kg (15 pounds) for twenty minutes. Repeat the same procedure, pressing at 7.5 kg (15 pounds) for sixteen hours. I finished this stage at 6 pm on Saturday evening, so I had to wait until 10 am Sunday morning for the next part.

Take the cheese out of the cheese mould, and let it air dry on a cheese mat and cheese board for about 3-4 days. Make sure you turn the cheese several times a day to ensure even drying and fat distribution.

When the cheese is dry to touch, it is ready to be ripened. Place in your cheese cave at 13ºC (55ºF) at 80-85% humidity for three weeks, turning several times a week. No need to wax this cheese. It will form a rind, and if any mould develops, simply rub the cheese with cloth dipped in some brine. The salt in this cheese retards mould growth anyway.

At this time of the year in Australia, you could find a cold cupboard to ripen your cheese in if you don't have a fridge that you can get warm enough.

This cheese has been profiled on Cheesemaking Help, which is the blog of Ricki Carrol's New England Cheesemaking Co.  I was very pleased when they asked my permission to repost my recipe!

I have been making this cheese every two months for the past two years, and it never fails to please family and friends.  Any easy, quick, and tasty cheese to make at home.  What more can one ask for?  What?  A video tutorial?  Well I will post one just for you all tomorrow!  All good things come to those who wait.

Monday, 11 July 2011


This well known Italian cheese is one of my favourites and I have made it about 8 times, with each wheel being a success.  In fact, I try and make one about every 3 months to keep up with the constant supply necessary for our appetite for this strong, flavoursome cheese.

Parmesan is really called Parmigiano Reggiano, named after the two regions in Italy where it is made.  It is one of the worlds most famous grating cheeses.  Normal sized wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano weigh about 46 kg each, but this recipe is modified to make about 1 kg of this delicious cheese.  It certainly beats the crappy, smelly, powered cheese you can buy in those green containers!  Everyone in my family gives it a massive two thumbs up, and we eat it shaved or grated on many types of pasta dishes.

I have made a video tutorial for this cheese in two parts, so to get a feel for how I made it, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Part 1

Part 2


Brine solution (1 litre water plus 2 tablespoons non-ionised salt, boiled for 5 minutes)
4 litres full cream milk, at least 3.4% fat
4 litres lite or semi skimmed milk, no more than 1.4% fat.
1 quarter teaspoon direct set Thermophilic starter culture
1 quarter teaspoon Lipase powder, mixed with 20ml of unclorinated water
2.5 ml rennet mixed with 60 ml unclorinated water
2.5 ml Calcium Chloride mixed with 60 ml unclorinated water

As usual I set up all the utensils and ingredients before I begin, then I sterilise everything in water in the 8 litre pot for 15 minutes.  People are often surprised to discover that it is made with low fat milk (no more than 2.5% fat), because it has such an intense flavour.

Once sterilised, I put the big pot on a small saucepan of water to act as a double boiler.

Add the milk and alternate a litre of each type to so that it mixes well, and then bring the temperature up to 35C.  Once at temperature, add the Thermophilic culture and mix well.  Cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Add the Calcium Chloride and mix well.  Then add the Lipase mixture and stir for a minute.  Keeping the mixture at 35C, add the Rennet mix and stir for at least 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Cover and allow to set for 45 minutes.

When you get a clean break, cut the curd by using a balloon whisk.  Push the whisk all the way to the bottom of the pot and lift back out.  Do this all the way around all over the surface for 3 times.  This will ensure that you have cut the majority of the curd to about 4mm.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir at 35C for 10 minutes

Increase the temperature to 42C over half an hour and hold this temperature for 15 minutes continuously stirring with the whisk to prevent matting.  You will notice that the curd will start to shrink into smaller grain sized pieces.  

Increase the temperature to 52C over half an hour stirring regularly.  When the temperature has been reached you should notice that the curd will have a very small grain size and that it will be dry to touch and squeeky when you chew them to test for doneness.  Let the curds rest for 5 minutes off the heat

Drain the curds and whey into a cheese cloth lined colander.  Be careful as the whey is quite hot.  Gather up the cheese cloth and form a ball of curd big enough to fit into your 900gm mold.  Cover one of the corners of the curd with the cheese cloth and top with the follower then press at 2.5kg for 15 minutes.

Remove the cheese from the press, and slowly unwrap the cloth.  Turn the cheese over, rewrap it in the cloth, and press at 5kg for 30 minutes.  Repeat this procedure, press at 7.5 kg for 2 hours.  Repeat again, pressing at 10kg for 12 hours.

Remove the cheese from the mould and unwrap.  Immerse the cheese in the brine solution.  I use a 2 litre icecream container, add the cheese first then pour over the brine.  The brine should be at room temperature and not hot or the cheese will begin to break up and absorb too much salt.

Leave it at room temperature (21C) for 24 hours, and flip the cheese occasionally.

Take the cheese out of the brine solution and pat it dry with paper towel.  Here is your chance to smooth the cheese with your hands if there are any rough bits.  Then place on a sushi mat and put it into the cheese cave at 13C/80% humidity for 10 months.  Turn the cheese daily for the first week, then weekly after that.  Remove any mould that forms on the exterior with some left over brine and a bit of cheese cloth.  This also helps to harden the cheese as it ages. 

I usually wax this cheese at about the three week mark, because otherwise, even if rubbed with olive oil the wheel is just too small to hold the required amount of moisture and it will dry out.  The first wheel of Parmesan made in May 2009 turned out very well and had that sharp flavour that Grana cheeses are well known for. 

The trademark texture and flavour of this cheese is obtained though the lengthy maturation process which results in a cheese with a hard, gritty texture.  I guarantee that this cheese is well worth the wait.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cheese Book Review

So where do I mainly get my cheese recipes from?  Well I have two wonderful cheese books that I utilised equally as much.

Wensleydale with Sage, drying before waxing.
Note: The recipe for Wensleydale (pictured above) is missing from both of these books. It does not rate a mention. I am so glad that the little recipe book that I received with my initial cheesemaking kit has it listed. I love this cheese!  I will post the recipe for Wensleydale in an upcoming post.

Home Cheese Making - Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses.
By Ricki Carroll.

The first thing that struck me about this book was that there were no photos in the entire book. All the pictures are illustrations which are quite well done, but not the same as seeing a photo of the cheese the recipe is describing. The only real problem with this book is that all the measurements are in Imperial with no metric equivalent in the recipes. There is not even an Imperial/Metric conversion table as is present in most cookbooks. That struck me as very odd in this modern day and age and obviously geared towards US audiences. With this book being the 3rd edition, you would think that they would have corrected this oversight to appeal to an international audience. I have converted each recipe myself and add the metric measurements, weights and temperatures in pencil. Not an easy job, and one that the reader should not have to do.

Other than these two issues the book is well written for the novice, starting with the history of cheese, what all of the ingredients are, and equipment you might need. Then the author describes the process of cheese making with illustrations which was a good guide to help you understand what you are in for. There is even a section on how to smoke a cheese with a kettle BBQ.

The recipes are divided up into sections which start at Soft Cheeses for the novice, and then Hard, Italian, Whey, Bacteria and Mould-Ripened, Goat's-Milk Cheeses, all which have ample instructions and are simple to follow. I do like the occasional page dedicated to 'A Cheese Makers Story' in which the author has interviewed many prize winning cheese makers throughout the U.S.A.

To finish off this book, the author chose to include 47 pages about serving, enjoying and cooking with cheese. Some of the inclusions are how to cut different cheese, a little bit about what wine to serve it with and then pages and pages of recipes. These recipes cover off how to include your home-made cheese into simple, yet delicious fare. They even mention a few ways to utilise the whey into some of the dishes. I have often wondered what to do with the whey besides making more Ricotta!

Over all, a very good book which would certainly whet your appettie and put you onto the right path for creating your own wonderful and tasty cheese. You just won't know what they are supposed to look like!

Making Artisan Cheese - 50 Fine Cheeses That You Can Make In Your Own Kitchen,
By Tim Smith

This book is truly a delight to read. With lots of colour photos to tantalise the taste buds, my first impression was that this book was going to be a great tool in my cheese making journey. I am a firm believer that if you are just starting out in something, you will more than often need a picture to compare to your finished product. Maybe it is just the way I learn, I am a visual kind of guy.

The book is divided into three main parts, Part 1 - How Tradition Influences Modern Cheese, in which the author give a brief history of cheese making and cheese-making basics. I found these the two chapters in this part very informative, even for an intermediate cheese maker like myself.

Part 2 is titled 'Making Cheese' and covers of how to make Basic (Fresh & Soft), Intermediate (Intermediate, Washed-Curd, Cooked, Pasta Filata, and Whey), Advanced Cheese-Making (Mold & Bacteria-Ripened), and Butter & Ghee making. The good feature about each chapter is that it describes the techniques for each level and the equipment needed. I found this a good addition, because if you only want to make basic cheeses you don't have to wade through a myriad of equipment types to figure out what you need. Each recipe have both Imperial and Metric conversions and the majority have a colour photo of what the final cheese should look like. I really liked both of these features, as it helps add to the experiance and you can make an informed decision about each type of cheese before you take the next step and actually make it. For me, it was the photograph of the Pepper Jack that enticed me to give that recipe a go.

Part 3 - Beyond Cheese Making gives you tips on how to serve your cheese to bring out its full potential. It has a detailed advice on how to best present your cheeseboard, what wines go with which cheese, and something I really liked was which beer paired the best with each type of cheese.

I also liked the 'Artisan Advice' that featured in the sidebar of some recipes, and additional tips on how to add herbs to various types of cheese. For instance, the addition of green peppercorns to Pyrenees, or cumin or mustard seed to Gouda. All of these variations actually take the number of cheese recipes to 55, which is a bit of a bonus for the reader.

I would highly recommend this book to novice and advanced cheese maker alike. It is well written, simple to follow, and has more than enough information to get you motivated to run down the store and buy 10 litres of milk and make your first wheel of cheese!

Now just to see if there were any variance in each book, I compared the Monteray Jack recipies. Both are identical in ingredients and method until you get the pressing section. Also, one book recommends 1-4 months maturation, the other 1-3 months. Similarly, one book stated the method would yield 2 pounds (900gm) and the other 1 pound. When I made this cheese, it yeilded 878gm, so both were wrong. I suppose it all depends on how much whey remains in the finished cheese.

I hope you have enjoyed these two reviews as much I have in writing them. Both book are informative and well written, but if I saw them both in the same bookstore, I would only purchase Making Artisan Cheese if I was strapped for cash. Unfortunately, the title is missleading and suggest some form of experiance is necessary to use it, and maybe it is the reason why the other book is so popular.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Marinated Feta

From this.....

before feta

To this......

Marinated Feta

Marinated Feta is very simple to make, once you have mastered the art of the cheese itself.  Wash a large jar, then sterilise it and the lid.  This ensures that no bad bacteria start growing in your marinade.

To this marinade, I added a sprig each of rosemary, thyme and oregano,  2 dried  and crumbled birds-eye chilies, and a liberal grinding of black pepper.  Then top it all off with half extra virgin olive oil and half sunflower oil.  If you just use olive oil, it solidifies in the fridge and doesn't look very nice. 

The recipe I followed recommended at least a week in the fridge for the flavours to infuse into the cheese. I  gave it two and it tasted fantastic! 

The only ingredients that were not home grown was the milk in the cheese and the olive oil.  Give me a few years and I might figure out how to milk chickens!  I wonder what cheese will be next?

Friday, 8 July 2011

My First Cheese - Feta

Sunday the 15th February 2009 was a monumental day.  I made my very first cheese! 

All my life I have wanted to give it a go, but never made the time or found the opportunity.  Since trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I have seized as many opportunities as I can, and willing to learn new skills where I can.  This golden opportunity was too good to pass up.

The Cheese Making Workshop was held at our local community centre.  The two ladies who ran the workshop were just fabulous.  Dorothy and Loraine made the day a relaxed affair, and no question was too hard to answer.  I could see that between them, they had years of cheese making experience.

So, starting at the beginning, I rocked up at about 0950, after having had to turn around once because I forgot my wallet.  Yes, readers, I was that excited!  I was not the first to arrive, and met most of the other students.  They were are friendly bunch, with 3 men and 8 ladies in the class.  We were asked to pick our preference of cheese recipes, and being a clever lad and having done a little research before hand, I decided to ensure that the fruits of my labour were going to be able to be sampled with in a few days.  Therefore I chose to make Feta.  One lady chose Wensleydale (hush Wallace and Gromit), and would you believe that the majority chose Parmesan.  The reason I was a bit shocked was because Feta takes 2-3 days before you can eat it, Wensleydale 1-3 months before maturity, and Parmesan 9-12 months before it matures!  All worth while, but if I have learnt any thing on my sustainable journey, it is that if you put effort into anything, you must be able to reap the rewards quickly, which then gives you a sense of achievement that pushes you to carry on.  The other thing to take into consideration is that the harder cheeses must mature at a temperature of 10-15C for the entire time.  It is very hard to keep anything at that temp here in summer without a cellar or modified refrigerator which at the time I did not own.
Anyway, enough babbling, here is what I saw when I first arrived.

Feta 001

On the table is a small gas camp stove, a pot with water, and a 20 litre bain marie with 10 litres of full cream milk.  The pot acted as a double boiler.  Next to the spoon is a cute hair net (no photos of me wearing it either) that we had to wear so as not to get hair in the cheese.
It is illegal in Australia to make cheese out of non-pasteurised milk.  Pasteurisation kills certain bacteria in the milk that can breed when the temperature of milk is raised during the cheese making process.  To pasteurise milk, simply bring the temperature up to 68C, hold it there for 1 minute, then cool rapidly.  We were already using store bought milk, so it was already treated.  Next we had to reverse the homogenisation process.  Apparently homogenisation shrinks the milk fat globules, which makes it nearly impossible to make into cheese.  To reverse this process, we added 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride to 2 tablespoons of boiled rainwater which was then added to the milk and stirred for 25 seconds.

I then had to raise the temp of the milk to 32C, and keep it there.  Once at temperature, I got to add 10 grains of Mesophilic starter culture and a quarter teaspoon of lipase powder mixed with 50 ml of boiled rainwater.  Here is the milk at temperature with the starter and lipase mixed in (not very exciting).  You must not let the milk get over 40C or it will kill this type of culture.

Feta 002

At this stage it must ripen for 45 minutes.  The starter and lipase gives the cheese its distinct sharp flavour.  After the time had elapsed, the rennet is added.  The temperature had to be raised again to 32C, and then 2.5ml of rennet is added to 16ml of boiled rainwater, then added to the milk with a quick stir.  At this stage you cannot reheat the milk, because something magical happens.  The milk starts to change composition into curds and whey (Miss Muffett's please stand).  For my cheese this process took about 40 minutes.  I was told not to stir it during the setting.  This is what it looks like when set.  Click to enlarge and you will see where I had to put my sterilised finger in to test the firmness.

Feta 003

Once firm enough, I then had to cut the curd into 1 cm cubes using a whisk.  Basically you gently stab the whisk vertically into the curd until you reach the bottom.  You repeat this all over the curd three times.  Then you leave it to sit for 5 minutes.  Here is the cut curd.

Feta 004

Now the boring part.  You then have to stir every 10 minutes for about 2 minutes for two hours!  You also have to maintain the temperature at 32C again during the process.  It was during this time I decided to buy a cheese making kit, because I was determined to make more types other than Feta.  The kit was $122 and from looking at other cheese making web sites, it was great value.  I believe I managed to make at least 60kg of cheese with the kit ingredients!
This is what it looks like after the two hours.  You will notice that the curds and whey have really separated and the curd sinks to the bottom.

Feta 005

The whey looks a little yellow doesn't it.  I bet you are thinking that this is why some cheeses are yellow.  Not so my friends.  The yellow in most cheeses is a food colouring.  Real cheese is usually off-white!

Next the curds are strained through a cheese cloth and the whey kept for later on.  Don't throw the whey away (that is a mouthful), because you can make something special out of it.  I will show you later.  The cheese (finally) gets returned back to the bain marie and you massage it a little until rubbery.  Here is my rubbery feta.

Feta 006

Now it gets strained for a second time and put into the basket (mould).  Luckily they had a cheese press and we could speed up the process.  Here is my semi finished cheese.

Feta 007

It was still a bit watery, and had a little whey still oozing from it.  I wrapped it in foil for the journey home. 

I said goodbye to my classmates, thanked Dorothy and Loraine for a great class and told them I was coming back in three weeks for the mould cheese course.  They gave me 3 litres of whey to take home.

Upon arrival at home, I placed the Feta on a wire rack to dry.  It must be fairly dry before you brine the cheese.  The tray is to catch any excess whey still trying to escape.

Feta 008

Now for the surprise!   If you add a cup of milk and bring the whey to a temperature of 80-90C and hold it there for 30-50 minutes, the excess protein in the whey coagulates into Ricotta cheese!  What a bonus.  It tastes fantastic as well.  Nice with crackers, but Kim thinks it needs a little salt to sharpen it up.

Feta 012

Back to the Feta.  I left it on the kitchen bench overnight with a vinegar soaked tea towel (rung out tight) covering it all.  This morning it was quite dry and about 50ml of whey was in the drip tray.  

I then added the Feta to the brine solution.  The brine is simply 3 tablespoons of non-iodinised salt to 1 litre of rainwater and bring it to the boil.  Here is the photo from this morning with the Feta in the solution.  The brine must be cold before adding the cheese to it, otherwise the cheese absorbs too much salt.

Feta 010

I used a food grade plastic container, and then put it in the fridge until I got home from work.  My son Ben met me at the door and was so excited that I was home.  Not because he wanted to see his Dad safely home, but to taste Dad's first homemade cheese!  And taste it we did.  It was wonderful and had a firm consistency.  I liken it to a texture in between the softness of a Danish Feta and the crumbliness of a Greek Feta.  In the middle of the two textures and just right.  It was so nice that my wife Kim and I had some more in our home grown garden salad for dinner.  It was a great feeling that I had made or grown everything in the salad bowl!

The feta should last for a few months in the brine solution, as long as I keep it submerged.  To keep it longer you can cut it into 1 cm cubes and place it in some olive oil seasoned with herbs and garlic.  It takes about a week for the flavours to infuse when storing it in this method.

So stay turned over the next few months (and years I hope), as I show you how to make other cheeses that I have made since this initial cheese making workshop.

If you ever get the chance to do a cheese making workshop, I can't recommend it highly enough.  It was a great day, fantastic fun and very fulfilling. I have never looked back since!