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!



  1. says

    Hi Gavin, after 3 months of mature i also found similar problem with my parmesan, i notice it has started swollen,i took out from wax to check it found too manyy holes inside.. but cheese is still soft as it is only 3 months old.. any suggestion to save it or mature further..?


  2. says

    I'm from Switzerland and have been making cheese on an alpine pasture, before. I think what actually happened to your Parmesan was basically the same that normally happens to Emmental cheese – a propione acid fermentation, in the food scientist's language. Your cheese must have been contaminated with the wrong kind of bacteria during production. The bacteria get active only when the temperature reaches a certain threshold which is induced artificially during Emmental production and by mistake in your case.
    What culture did you use?
    Waxing or oiling is not linked to the problem. By the way we never do that in Switzerland, but in your climate it might be useful as it is impossible to keep the air in the storage room moist enough.
    There are other bacteria that can lead to a sudden gas production in cheese but they usually lead to a spoilt, disgusting-tasting product.


    • says

      Hi Simon, I used a thermophilic culture. I have also made Emmental, in which I used Propioni Shermanii, so I don't think that it was the issue. I personally am now leaning towards poor milk, as it was commercial and not organic or raw.


  3. says

    Thanks for the reply Gavin. Right now my son is home taking care of my cheese. I am in New Jersey( yes where Jersey Shore is filmed if you've ever heard of it) I will get back to my baby(cheese) on Monday, then I will wax it. One question though, what is the difference between a Parmesean cheese and a Romano cheese? All ingredients seem to be the same.

    Thanks again, if you ever need anything from the states just let me know.

  4. says

    Hi Gavin, about a month ago I made a wheel of Parmesan and I have been aging it in a wine refrigerator. I noticed that you said your last parmesan wheel didn't come out well and it was possibly because you oiled it instead of waxing it. Would you recommend that I wax my month old cheese or just keep it oiled. Also when aging the Parma cheese should I continue to keep it refrigerated or store it in the open air. I live in Naples, Florida and the temperatures are about 84 degrees outside and inside it is about 73 degrees.

    Thank you for ALL of your YouTube videos and your cheese blog. If you are ever in Florida,U.S.A. please look me up, id love the visit, I feel like I know you already because of all your posts.
    Thanks again, Frank Daniels
    Ps, I love your outdoor oven, I am going to be building one soon.

    • says

      Hi Frank,

      My advice would be this, Wax the Parmesan, especially if it is only 2lbs (1kg. Even with oiling, it just dries out far too quick. I also recommend that you keep it in the cheese fridge at about 55F (13C) for the all of the maturation period. It will swell if left any hotter, like mine did.

      Also, no drama about the videos. I love sharing and editing them, enjoy writing this blog and The Greening of Gavin. Glad you decided to build a cob oven, as it is so much fun to cook in.

      all the best, and if I am ever in Florida, I will give you a call.


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