Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Waxing Your Cheese

I recently produced a 'how to' video on waxing cheese.

Cheese wax is a special formulation and is not the same as paraffin or candle wax. That type of wax is too brittle to be used to coat cheese, as the cheese needs a solid yet flexible covering to keep the air and bacteria out of it and to keep the remaining moisture locked in to help with the maturation process. I received a kilogram of red cheese wax with my kit and it is about $15 per kilo. It should last quite a while, because you can reuse the wax again after you have eaten your cheese. I have even used wax that Ben collected off of his baby belle cheeses!

I find this process relaxing and rewarding knowing that when the cheese matures, it will be mould free and moist as expected.

You could use bee's wax to be a bit more eco-friendly, however I have found that over the years, I have lost very little wax, and am still using most of the initial supply that I bought back in 2009!

How is that for recycling?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Blue Cheese Update #2

I have now turned the blue cheese for the second time and am 8 days into the process.  This is what all 3 look like.  Click to enlarge.

The two smaller cheeses have blue mould all over and the humidity is just right.  They are developing well and will mature much quicker than the larger one below.

The large blue has a blue hat!  The bottom was very moist before I turned it, so I elevated the mats off the floor of the icecream container so it would drain better.  I think because of this, the mould is struggling to form on the sides.  Now that it is draining better, it should have no trouble.  I think the humidity is okay, as there is lots of condensation on the inside of the container.  Time will tell.

Next update for this cheese in a week.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Joy of Cheesemaking

Now in which other hobby do you get to do something like this with your food?  I had a ball making this Mozzarella for friends to eat.

Nice little balls of Mozzarella.  Note the yellow colour.  I added 2 drops of Annatto colouring to enhance the visual effect.

The finished product, all made with Demeter Biodynamic Milk, which is as good as it gets unless of course you have a house cow or goat!

We used this batch on pizza that we served up to our Sustainable Living Group as thanks for helping to make our Clay Oven on Saturday.  It was very tasty!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Blue Cheese Update #1

The blue cheese that I made on Friday was dry enough today after 3 days turning, that I made the decision tonight to pierce the holes in each cheese so that they can develop the blue mould, and to put them in their maturation boxes then into the cheese cave.

Here are the two smaller wheels before piercing.  Notice the slight blue blush or the mould already.  They are dry to touch, but still very moist.

As a piercing tool, I simply use one of my milk thermometers and stab from top to bottom.

Here they are tucked safely in their box waiting to be put into the cheese cave.  Under the stand is a little bowl of water to keep the humidity high.

Here is the large wheel, which weighs about 1.5 kg.  It was also starting to bulge but in a bad way, so I had to slip the hoop back on it.  

It has a large crack through the middle, probably from when I shoved it back into the hoop.  To patch it up, I smoothed the outside around the crack and it sealed like glue.

I pierced from top to bottom with the thermometer.  About 40 holes in all.  That should give the cheese a lovely even blue flavour and nice lines throughout.

Finally, here it is in its maturation box.  As this is the biggest blue I have ever made, I had to improvise a little.  I used a 4 litre ice cream container, and the cheese is resting on two 2 litre ice cream container lids and on top of that is some sushi mat cut to size.  I put a little water in the floor of the container to raise the humidity.  The cheese is well above this little bit of water.  With the lid on, I put both containers into the bottom of the cheese cave. 

Next steps are to turn ever 4 days for 30 days, then scrape any blue and red mould off with a knife.  This cheese matures for at least 90 days, where I will wrap in cheese wrap and refrigerate in the normal fridge for another month.  It should then be ready to eat!

Looking forward to writing the next blue update.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Wikipedia states;

"Romano cheese is a type of cheese that is known for being very hard, salty and sharp. It is usually grated. It is different from normal cheeses because it requires more milk per pound, most water being lost in the creation process.
There are different types of romano cheese. True romano cheese is made from sheep's milk (pecorino romano) or goat's milk (caprino romano), though mass produced versions, as in the United States, are often made from cow's milk (vacchino romano).  Pecorino romano is sharp and tangy. Caprino romano, the goat's milk version, has an extremely sharp taste. Vacchino romano is very mild in taste. Most of the romano cheeses made in the United States are made from cow's milk or with a mix of cow's milk and either sheep or goat milk."

So, if you don't want to go to the trouble of making a Parmesan then Romano should be your cheese of choice to make, and of course that it goes great with most pasta dishes.  In the shops it is sometimes sold as Pecorino Romano, which is vacuum packed to make it all the way from Italy to Australia and also very expensive.  Think of all those food miles!

Anyway, here is my method that I adapted out of the book "Making Artisan Cheese" by Tim Smith.

I found that Warrnambool  Cheese and Butter Factory Company now sell Jersey Milk via supermarkets.  I bought 8 litres because the milk is much creamier and higher in butter fat (4%) than the normal milk you can buy (3.1-3.4%).  This makes for a much fuller and richer cheese, so I reduced the amount of milk by one litre down from the normal 8 that I normally use.  This is because if I used 8 litres the curds would not fit in the cheese mould after cooking them.

Romano Cheese.

7 litres whole milk (Jersey Milk) or 8 litres of full cream milk 3.4% butterfat
1/4 teaspoon Thermophilic culture
1/4 teaspoon Lipase dissolved in 60ml cool boiled water
2.5ml liquid vegetable rennet diluted in 60ml cool boiled water
2.5ml calcium chloride diluted in 60ml cool boiled water (omit if using un-homogenised milk)

Brine solution
2L water
1/3 cup non-ionised salt
1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride


Sterilize all equipment.
Heat milk to 33C (90F), stir in the calcium chloride if required.  Add starter culture, stir, then add the diluted lipase.  Cover, and let milk ripen for 15 minutes.

Maintaining the target temperature of 33C, add the diluted rennet whilst stirring for two minutes.  Cover and let sit for 40 minutes, or until you have a clean break.

Once you have a clean break, cut the curds into 6mm cubes (1/4").  Let the curds rest for 10 minutes at the target temp.

Slowly heat the curds to 46C (115F), which took about 30-45 minutes.  Stir frequently, with a whisk.  When you reach the target temp, maintain for another 45 minutes, continuously stirring (sore arms) to prevent matting of the curds.

Drain through a cheese cloth lined colander.  Keep the whey for your animals if you like or set aside for baking!

Pour the curds into a 1kg (2lbs) cheese cloth lined mold.  Cover the top with the excess cloth, top with the follower, and press at 5kg (10lbs) for 30 minutes.

Remove from the press, unwrap (be gentle), turn over the cheese, re wrap and press at 11kg (25lb) for 3 hours.  Repeat procedure, pressing at 20kg (40lb) for 12 hours.  Repeat again, pressing at 9kg (20lb) for 12 hours.

Remove the cheese from the mold, and unwrap and immerse the cheese in the brine solution.  Flip the cheese every 6 hours and let it sit in the brine for 24 hours at room temp approx 21C (70F).

Take the cheese out of the brine, pat dry, and place in the cheese fridge at 13C (55F) at 80-85% humidity for 10 months (shorter if you like).

Turn the cheese daily for the first three week of aging, and weekly thereafter.  Remove any mould that forms on the exterior with a clean cloth and brine solution.

After 1 month, rub the cheese in olive oil to keep it from drying out, and again after a week.  Repeat oiling every month until maturity.  You can also skip the oil and wax if you like.

In the picture below, I am only up to the last pressing, but have a look how yellow this cheese is already.

I have never had a cheese this yellow at this stage of its life.  I did notice that the milk was certainly not a white as normal milk, and more like a off-white to yellow colour.  Also with this milk, the curd set stronger than I have ever seen.  The clean break test was very positive with a nice solid curd.  I am looking forward to full maturity and don't know if I can wait for the entire 10 months ;-)

This cheese is still in the cheese fridge and matures in October 2011, however I made some last year, and it had a comparable taste to a mild Parmesan, with more body.

I highly recommend this cheese for anyone looking for a tasty slicing and grating cheese that will accompany any Italian meal!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cheese Cave

I had a request the other day to show my cheese cave that I talk about quite often.  Well, I dug up this old post (June 2009)  from The Greening of Gavin, when I wrote about the day I received this vital piece of cheese making equipment.

Up until now, I have not been able to make rind cheeses like Parmesan or Gruyere.  Nor have I even thought about making mould ripened cheeses like Camembert, Stilton or Gorgonzola. 

That is until now!  After a fair bit of discussion on my part, and much research on Kim's part, we are now the proud owners of a Cheese Fridge.  OK, I confess.  It is really a wine fridge with the racks replaced so that cheese will sit on it flat!  I believe that we paid $295, and unfortunately had to buy it new because we couldn't find a cheap, economical one on ebay or in the trading post.  Freecycle did have a normal fridge but it would have been too hard to change the thermostat to get it up to the temperatures required to ripen cheese.

That aside, it has the right temperature range, it is very economical using about 0.4 kWh per day (yet to measure a full day so this may be lower), and it has a nice light.  I have set it to 12C (nice cheese weather), and will check the energy statistics tomorrow night.  Being on Solar PV, I don't expect it to be much of a strain on our resources.  Kim found some powder coated racks that were laying in the cupboard which fit very well.  I had to bend the ends so that they fit, but at least I can lay sushi mats down for the rind ripened cheeses and plastic mats for mould-ripened cheese to rest on.

This will allow us to make and ripen cheese all year around, and to be able to make all types of cheese and not just waxed ones.  So far in the fridge we have two wheels of Pepper Jack, a Pyrenees with green peppercorns, a Wensleydale sage, half a wheel of Gouda, and a quarter of a wheel of the original Wensleydale.  As you can see I left in two bottle racks just in case I find some local Red Wine worth storing.  The image below is taken without the flash on.  You can see the temperature and the little LED light that you can turn on/off when necessary.  I placed a normal thermometer in the fridge just to see if it was reading accurately.  It is about 1 degree higher, but that could be my crappy thermometer as well.

Once the other types of cheese matures and I get a few friends to taste test, I will investigate what it will take to sell some at a local farmers market.  I know I have to get a food handling certificate, but other than that I am clueless about the procedure.  Of course I won't sell it all, but it might be a bit of extra pocket money in the future.  I have a mould-ripened cheese making course on the 21st June, so the fridge arrived just in time.

Who knows where this may lead?  Wallace and Gromit might come over for a visit and a nice piece of Wensleydale!

I now have a hygrometer in the cave so I can tell if it is humid enough. It works well, as does the method for increasing the humidity, but that is a post for tomorrow!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Blue Cheese

As you may know already, Friday night at my place is cheese making night.  It has become a regular institution, whereby Kim leaves the milk out on the kitchen bench for me and as soon as I get home, I start to set up and sterilise the equipment as she serves up dinner.

Tonight I am making a simple blue cheese using the recipe from Ricki Carrolls Home Cheese Making book which uses 2 gallons or 8 litres of milk.  It is easy to follow, and I am currently about 5 hours into the process with about an hour to run until it is time for bed.

Here is where I have got to so far.

Sushi mats on top and bottom of the moulds.

I used 14 litres of milk and adjusted the recipe to suit.  I ended up with these two smaller cheeses which are in Camembert hoops.

I also had enough curd for this very large cheese.  Now all I have to do is find a container large enough for it to fit in to keep it humid enough in the cheese fridge.

As they mature, I will show you what happens as the blue mould grows.  This recipe is very quite similar to making Camembert, with the after care of Stilton.  A bit of a hybrid cheese.  After about 3 days of drying and salting, I pierce each one with many holes so that the bacteria can breath and make the blue mould.  Then they go into the humid cheese fridge.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Stilton - Video Tutorial

I love this cheese.  As I mentioned in the previous post Stilton, a type of blue cheese that hails from England,  just has it all.  So creamy, and smooth with that unbelievable blue vein flavour.

This is the fourth time I have make this cheese, and it just gets better and better as I learn how to make it.  I am now confident with my method that I am able to share it with you all.

Please enjoy my Stilton video tutorial on how to make Stilton cheese.

A good blue cheese, a nice red wine and great friends is all anyone could ask for!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Back in 2009 I attended my second cheese making course.  This one was for mould ripened cheeses.  I was very excited, and didn't sleep very much last night.

The course was held at our local community house, and started at 10am.  A most civilised start time for a Sunday, I thought.  There were 8 people on the course, and I knew one gent called Kasper who I met during my first course.  He also has made many different types of cheese as I have since the first course in February, and we both have the cheese making bug.

I chose to make Stilton, which is a English Blue vein cheese.  You can read how they make it commercially at the Official Stilton Cheese Makers Assoc page.  Here is a little history of the cheese.  It has an uncanny link to my town of Melton.
Stilton was first made in the early 18th century in the midlands of England - specifically in and around the Melton Mowbray area. Stilton takes its name from the village of Stilton (though no Stilton was ever made there) located about 80 miles north of London on the Great North Road. It is here that the coaches travelling from London to Scotland and other northern cities made their first stop for fresh horses and overnight stays. Convenient to Melton Mowbray and the surrounding area, the village became the central market place for the cheese with thousands being sold every week. Thus the blue cheese one would buy in Stilton became known as Stilton cheese.
Well there you go.  Stilton was never made in the town of Stilton!

Anyway, history lesson over.  It was a fairly simple recipe, and started off the same as making most hard cheeses, bringing up the temp to 32°C, add the Calcium Chloride, add the Mesophilic culture, and then the Penicillin Roquefort (the smelly stuff) to the milk.  After 30 minutes I added the rennet and let set for about 45 minutes.

After cutting the curd with a whisk into about 4-6mm squares, it was rested again and then the whey was drained off to the level of the curds.

That is when it all went to custard and down hill from there.  After another 30 minutes of resting, I drained it through a cheese cloth and it was still very moist.  I had to leave it in the cheese cloth and press it with a pot filled with water to get more whey out of it.  I then took it out of the cheese cloth, broke it up into smaller pieces and sprinkled 2 teaspoons of salt over the top and mixed it through.  I thought it was still quite moist, but because we couldn't really follow the recipe properly because of the time limitation we attempted to press it in the hoop.  It did not like it very much and oozed out of the sides of the follower.  Still too much whey in the curd.  I had to return it back to the bain marie and heat the curd until more whey was released.  Normally you would just leave the curds to drain a few hours in the hoop and add more when it shrank by itself.

The heating process released a lot of whey and the curd became very rubbery.  Hopefully I didn't kill the cultures.  The cheese itself looks a bit abnormal, lopsided and rough.  It didn't press very cleanly.  We all cleaned up our gear and were finished by about 2pm.  Here is the finished product at home, which looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I bought a special container that has a rack in it to mature the cheese in, because we were told not to leave mould-ripened cheese in a fridge with normal cheese unless we wanted strange moulds all over our nice cheese!  The phillips head screw driver is to make holes in the cheese so that oxygen can given to the p.roquefort and give those wonderful blue-green mould lines that you find in this type of cheese.  It has been sterilised, and is relatively brand new.

I rubbed salt liberaly over the cheese, and I turned the rack upside down, put a bit of water in the bottom of the container (to raise the humidity to 85%), and pierced the cheese with about 30-40 holes top to bottom and bunged it into the cheese fridge.

The first Stilton I made turned out very mouldy all over and I wrapped it in foil with the ends exposed to encourage mould growth in the holes.  It smelled fantastic, and we ate it within days of maturity.

It looks a bit squished, but that is how it came out of the cheese mould.

As for the second Stilton I made, it turned out to be a bit too dry and cracked in half.  I have had to wrap it in foil early to get it to keep together.  In this photo it is just showing signs of blue mould growth at the top.

You can see the crack better in this picture.  I nearly cried, until I remembered watching how they wrapped Roquefort cheese in thick tin foil in France.  Before I wrapped the cheese it was laying in half on the bottom of the ripening container.

To tempt your taste buds further, here are a few shots of the 3rd Stilton that I made.  It had been maturing for the last 4 months.  Once again, home made blue cheese is simply divine.

It had a nice, strong rind, with lots of marbling inside.  I went crazy with the piercing it this time as I wanted lots of veins in the wheel.  I put in about 40 holes. It clearly worked well.

Click to enlarge any of the photos to get right in there.

Kim and I sampled this small piece with a few crackers and local cherries.  The flavour combination was amazing.  We love this cheese!

In summary, Stilton or any blue cheese for that matter is not that difficult to make.  You just have to set up the right conditions for it to grow the mould successfully.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mozzarella Cheesemaking Workshop

Teaching cheese making via a blog post or a video tutorial is one thing, but standing in front of a class of 8 keen individuals is a totally different ball game.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of teaching a 30 minutes Mozzarella cheese making course at the Spotswood Community House.  The class were fantastic people, and I really enjoyed teaching them how to make this quick and easy cheese.  Really this was my second cheese making workshop, as I gave one to our sustainable living group's members, but this is the first one where I did not know anyone.  I was a little aprehencious, but in a nice sort of way.  I asked Kim and Ben to come along to lend moral support.

Here is a group picture of the course, and their instructor in his nice stripy apron.

I set everything up ready to go so that we would have no delays.  I had 2 hours to get through 8 batches of cheese.  We were using Biodynamic milk, so I was excited to see what difference this wonderful milk would make.

First of all, a little about hygene, and the principles of cheese making. 

Then the first group of four got stuck into making their cheese. The stove was on the small side, but we coped okay.  I think they are adding diluted citric acid at this stage.

At this stage, everyone had added their rennet, and turned off the heat for about 5 minutes to let the milk set.

Showing everyone what a clean break was, and how to do it themselves.

Stiring the curds, and bringing the temperature up to 40C.

Draining the curds from the whey. 

The biodynamic milk formed a wonderful curd, and was very easy to handle for the students.

Here we are going through the microwave process.  I think this is the second zap at 35 seconds.

Iced water ready to cool down the hot mozzarella.

Cooling down some boccocini.  After all, they are just small mozzarella balls!

Finally, the finished product after the salt was added.  The cheese was great, and I managed to get everyone through in just over 2 hours.  The class sampled their cheese, and loved it!  I think we now have 8 new cheesemakers in town!

A big thanks goes out to Madeleine for approaching me and inviting me to teach the class.  I would love to teach another of this size. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

30 Minute Mozzarella

One cheese that I have been procrastinating about is Mozzarella.  Don't ask me why, I just was!  The Mozzarella recipe listed in Ricky Carrol's Home Cheesemaking book had quite a few precautions as did her instructions on her website, but I figured that now that I had a few cheeses under my belt (an understatement I suppose?), I should be able to rescue any potential disaster.

The ingredients are simple.  All you need are the following;

Four litres of full cream milk.  I chose one that was 3.4% butterfat.

A microwave bowl, 1 and a half teaspoons of citric acid mixed with a half a cup of un-chlorinated water.  A quarter teaspoon of non-ionised salt, and a quarter teaspoon of rennet mixed with a quarter of a cup of unchlorinated water.  I also make up a quarter of a teaspoon of lipase mixed with a quarter of a cup of water (let this sit for 20 minutes before hand).  Don't forget to sterilise your utensils or give them a spray with vinegar and dry.

Heat the milk to 15C (55F) then add the citric acid solution which I add about 5 drops of calcium chloride.  Then I add the lipase and stir well and continue to heat.  It will curdle a little on the surface.

Heat to 32C (90F), then add the rennet solution and stir gently.  Keep heating during the milk to 38-40C (100-105F) and the curd will begin to come away from the edges of the pot.  This happens in about 5-8 minutes.

The recipe calls for scooping the curds (not cutting) into a microwave bowl.  The whey went clear and yellow and I managed to drain it all through cheese cloth.  I drained as much whey from the curds in the bowl and then put it in the microwave for 1 minute on High.  I drained the whey again, then into the microwave for another 30 seconds on High, drain and form into a single mass, and back into the Microwave for a final 30 seconds.

I then added the salt and started kneading quickly like bread dough until it was smooth and shiny and it could be stretched like Taffy .  The it is as simple as forming the cheese into five balls and then put them in a big bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.  This helped the cheese to have the same consistency throughout and cools it rapidly.

We then took it out of the water and have already eaten one ball sliced onto crackers, topped with tomato and freshly cracked pepper and salt.  Delicious!  Apparently, it can be stored covered in the fridge for a few days, but don't think it will last that long.  I usually make it on Friday night, and we use it on home made pizza on the Saturday night!

The New England Cheesemaking supply company site has the full recipe and a better step by step guide which is a little different than the book version of the 30 minute Mozzarella.  This web version includes cutting the curd and leaving it a little longer before draining.

You can also add lipase at the same time you add the citric acid solution which should give it a stronger flavour and leave it for 20 minutes before adding the rennet. The lipase gives it some much need flavour, as I initially made it without this enzyme.  It was too bland for me, so we add lipase every time.

There is nothing quite like fresh Mozzarella!  Why did I wait so long to make it, I will never know.

In fact, I am teaching a 30 minute mozzarella workshop in Spotswood, Victoria, this Saturday.  It should be a lot of fun, and I will let you all know how it goes.