Poor Parmesan

Cheese can be a funny thing.  Of late, I have made a few mistakes, which have come good in the end.  This example of a poorly executed Parmesan is no exception.

I was performing a cheese muster on the weekend to make sure that everything was okay in there after a bit of hot weather, and was curious about this cheese in particular.  Over time it had swollen and started to dry out, even though it had another month to mature.

poor parmesan

So without the benefit of a cheese trier, I had to cut this wheel in half.  I had a bit of a shock when I did open it, as it looked like an Emmental on steriods.  It was also very dry and hard to cut.

I did what any good cheesemaker would do, and decided to save the cheese by grating it.  Because it was so hard, it took just under an hour to grate just half of it, but it was definately worthwhile in the end.  The taste was not as strong as my normal parmesan would be, partly because of the dryness and lack of maturity.

To be frank, it was like a rock, and turned into very fine gratings.  The inside was a little more moist, however the outside just powered.  It reminds me of that underwhelming grated Parmesan that you can buy in the shops made by Kraft!  At least my version is made to the traditional recipe and not processed.

I have thought about why this poor Parmesan among many that I have made, turned into Mr Bloaty.  Here is the conclusion that I have come to;

a.  Not left in the brine long enough.
b.  Brine not salty enough, therefore allowing the culture to continue working
c.  The milk quality was not premium and was bog standard shop bought milk
d.  It was far to warm when drying at room temp for a few days.
e.  I oiled it instead of waxing it.

So these five factors contributed to an extremely hard and bloated Parmesan cheese.  It pays to buy good milk from a non-industrial source, and ensure that your brine is strong enough so that it retards additional, unwanted culture activity.

We all live and learn and at least I managed to save it.  It made the best Basil Pesto!


Farmhouse Pepper Blue

Make no mistake, I must have a gift.  My cheese disasters seem to turn into fantastic creations!

Quite a while back in September 2011, I made two wheels of Farmhouse Cheddar with Peppercorns.  Kim and I opened one, shared half with friends and I wrapped the other half in cling wrap and put it into my big cheese box in the normal fridge at 4°C.  I sold the other wheel to one of Kim’s friends, who loved it.

To my surprise, when I opened the cheese box on Sunday, 5th Feb, the half was still in there.  It was now over 6 months old, and still in the plastic wrap.  However something wonderful happened.  Somewhere along the line, this cheese had become inoculated with penicillium roqueforti, and had grown blue mould.  It had turned into a Farmhouse Pepper Blue!

I believe that I did have some Stilton open in the same cheese box, so it must have passed the mould on.  I was a bit dubious at first, but had a smell, and it did not smell off, just blue.  So here is the verdict:
Farmhouse pepper blue

Texture:  Now I wasn’t sure how this cheese would taste, because when it was a Farmhouse cheddar it was sharp and very crumbly.  I didn’t know how far the mould had penetrated the cheese as I had not pieced any holes in it as I would when making a blue or Stilton.  The crumbliness had gone, which had developed into a rich creamy texture that was easy to cut.

Farmhouse Pepper Blue!

Development: Once I cut it in half, there was indeed some marbling in the top half.  As the Farmhouse cheddar had been so crumbly, there were air gaps and cracks in the top when I first put it into the fridge after de-waxing.  These gaps had helped the blue mould seep deep into the cheese, enhancing the flavour.

Taste: So then I had a taste.  OMG, it blew my mind.  This was a wonderful cheese.  The cheese was no longer sharp, but had a smooth creaminess to it, with a mild blue taste.  Then the pepper hits your palette to add to the complexity.

Farmhouse pepper blue

I have never tasted anything quite like it.  I am so pleased with this serendipitous discovery.  I wonder if I can make it again?  I might make it exactly the same, but spray it with some blue mould after two months normal maturation in the cheese fridge, wrap it up and store it in the normal fridge at 4°C for another four months.  I think I will pierce it a few times to help the mould develop inside just in case.

As I have said before, cheese making is more art than science.  What a fluke!

Temperature Control Of Milk

I recently had a question from Holly G about temperature control of milk.  It reads;

“Gavin, I’m having trouble with my cheesemaking. This evening I cracked open a wheel of Jack that I had made on 11/11/11. It was better than the last two, but still pretty crumbly and sharp with what seemed to me to be a hint of iodine. I seem to have a lot of trouble regulating the temp while cooking the curds. It goes for a while with no temperature change and then jumps up too high. I am cooking them in a pot on a gas burner. Do you have any suggestions that might help? Thanks”

Well the answer is quite simple.  Use a double boiler.  Here is a photo of my set up, and how it helps me regulate the temperature of the milk during the cheese making process. (click to enlarge)

temperature control of milk
I learnt this trick on the very first cheese making course I went on.  Due to the fact that there is no direct flame on the main pot, it heats up quite evenly.  All I do is fill the smaller pot about a third full of tap water, and keep an eye on the thermometer.  It heats up quite slowly, however when you reach the target temp, turning off the heat does not cause the milk to keep rising in temperature.
It just seems to sit around the target.  I also leave the milk on the double boiler (heat off) when I am waiting for the culture to develop, and waiting for the rennet to set.   With the lid on the main pot, the heat from the water alone keeps the milk at the target temperature which makes it very simple to control.  It may drop a few degrees over the period of an hour, but no real harm is done.
As for your Monterey Jack, here is a variant, Pepper Jack one I carved into quite a while ago.
I believe that the cheese is meant to be a little crumbly, as that is the way it has turned out for me every time I have made it.  It does have a sharp taste, however certainly no iodine smell.  It just smells cheesy!
Hope this helps.