Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cream Cheese

Who loves cream cheese?  I like it with served with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce or spread on crackers with some sliced heirloom tomato and a basil leaf.

Well curd nerds, you are going to love this version.  It is so tasty and is easy to make, with very few ingredients unlike processed cream cheese which has a list of ingredients as long as my arm.

Like any great cheese, it just takes a little bit of time.


This is a cheese that I have been meaning to make for a few months, but it has been just too hot here in South Eastern Australia.  Luckily, this weekend has been mild with temperatures in the low 20's (C).

I managed to source a non-homogenised full cream milk at a local supplier in Bacchus Marsh (Jonesy's Milk), which was just a delight to use for cheese making.

So on to the recipe and method.

Cream Cheese

Ingredients;

  • 4 litres (1 gallon) full cream (whole) milk
  • 1/8th teaspoon, (heaped smidgen) Mesophilic direct set culture type MA or MO30
  • 4 drops liquid rennet in 60 ml (1/4 cup) of non-chlorinated water
  • 2 teaspoons cheese salt
  • If using homogenised milk, add 1 ml of calcium chloride in 30 ml of non-chlorinate water.

Method;


Sanitise all equipment by boiling in hot water or a weak bleach (20 ml of bleach to 4 litres of cold water)


In a large pot, pour in the milk and add calcium chloride solution if necessary and stir thoroughly top to bottom for 30 seconds.  Warm the milk to 30°C (86°F).


Add the culture, stir well for one minute top to bottom.

Add 3 teaspoons of the rennet solution (discard remainder), and stir for two minutes.


Cover and allow to rest at room temperature (about 21°C or 70°F) for 18 hours.  After resting, it will have the appearance of a block of soft curd with whey.


Line a colander with cheesecloth (I doubled it over twice to make it four layers thick), or butter muslin.


Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth.


Note the yoghurt like consistency.  It also tastes slightly sour, but not quite like a natural yoghurt.


Then form a bag and allow to drain for 12 hours.  Don't forget to tie a double granny knot by gathering the opposite corners of the cloth, otherwise it may slip and fall.


 After 12 hours, untie the cheesecloth, and remove the cheese from the bag.


 Work in the cheese salt with a clean spoon, a little at a time until all used.


Refrigerate the cream cheese in an airtight container.  When chilled, you can make small logs, roll in finely chopped fresh herbs and slice, or just spread on bread or crackers.


Delicious.  Once you have tried fresh home made cream cheese, you will never eat the processed stuff again.  It is delightfully creamy with a slight tang.  Just perfect!

So, a show of hands please.  Who is going to give this cheese a go?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Parmesan Technique

Cheese making can be daunting and confusing when you first start out.  I know that it was for me, but I found that by taking a basic cheese making course before I made any type of cheese really helped me learn enough to get started in this hobby.

I realise that many people do not have the opportunity to attend a class, so this is the main reason why I offer to answer readers questions as best I can.

Today's question comes from Nadim in the UK, who has lots of questions about starting out on his cheese making journey.

Hi Gavin

I am Nadim from UK, i recently seen you web blog and it is extremely help for home-made cheese maker, I am fan of cheese but when tried at home cheese making, but after looking at you blog, you have now inspired me to make it at home!, I want to try either with parmesan or cheddar, but I am stuck with few question, if you please could help me with this then I shall highly appreciate.

As this shall be my first time so i was thinking if it is possible I make cheese in small wheel, probably 300 g - 500 g..? or it has to be in minimum 1 kg wheel..?

I am currently living in share house, so i wont be able to buy wine fridge, do you think if I can store cheese in wooden box in my balcony for aging ..? or any other recommendation ..? I have read somewhere that normal kitchen fridge would not be suitable due to its lower temperature,bacteria contamination and moisture..

Also could you please tell me what would be minimum best time to try the cheese..? 9 months is bit long time, not sure if I would be patient enough to wait this long after making my first cheese!!

last but important, do I need to rotate and wipe out cheese every week even after waxing.? what if I wax it after removing from brine water and drying out..?

looking forward to hear from you soon. thanks

Nadim
Good questions Nadim.  I will answer your questions in respect to making Parmesan cheese.

The wheel on the left is a 3 week old Parmesan before waxing.  The other is a Caerphilly.
Recipe size - If making parmesan, I would stick to using the full 8 litres of milk that the recipe asks for.  The cheese does shrink quite a bit, so you end up with about a 800 gm wheel of cheese at the end.

Maturation Temperature - It doesn't really matter how you keep your cheese at 13°C as long as you can maintain it over the long aging period of 9 months minimum.  Some people use basements, some use insulated boxes, some just use a cupboard lined with greaseproof paper.  It doesn't matter  how, as long as you keep the cheese at the target temperature.

Aging time - For a 1 kg wheel of Parmesan, the minimum time before trying would be 9 months.  The longer the better really.  In the last week, I tried a two-year-old Parmesan, and it was extremely tasty, much better than one aged for only a year.  If you want to make a cheese that is full of flavour and has a short maturation time, try a Caerphilly.  I highly recommend this semi-hard cheese for beginners, which is very tasty.

Waxing - If you do decide to make Parmesan, then for this sized wheel I highly recommend that you wax the cheese after 3 weeks of aging.  Normal wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano weigh about 38 kg when fully mature and are able to maintain their moisture content.  For a much smaller wheel like the one in my recipe, you need to wax the cheese so that it does not dry out whilst aging.

During the initial 3 weeks without the wax, wipe the surface with a brine solution daily to prevent/inhibit mould growth.  The cheese needs this 3 week period without wax to dry out a little, otherwise if you wax it straight after brining and air drying, it would be far too moist and whey will collect between the cheese and the wax, ruining the flavour of the Parmesan.  After waxing you do not need to do this as the wax coating prevents oxygen from reaching the cheese which does not allow the mould to develop.

Summary - Hopefully this post has been informative to all beginners as they take their first steps towards milk's immortal!

For all readers, let me know via a comment if you would like more of these types of post.  I would love some feedback, good or otherwise.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Camembert

Camembert is one of the more trickier cheeses to attempt to make.  It is not for the faint hearted, even if you have a bit of experience under your belt.

I can honestly say that I have only gotten this cheese to taste right two times out of the four times that I have made it, so you can take this post with a grain of salt if you like.

However with that said, one of the two attempts of making this cheese that I did get right, I lucked-in and recorded this session via a video tutorial of the process, and have some photos of the aging process.

Here is the video to begin with so you understand the cheese making process.  It is quite different to semi-hard cheeses and does not require a press.


So that is how you make it.  

Here is the recipe;

Camembert


Ingredients
  • 7.6 litres (2 US gal) full cream milk
  • ¼  teaspoon Calcium Chloride (if using homogenised milk), dissolved in ¼ cup (60 ml) cool unchlorinated water
  • ¼ teaspoon mesophilic direct set starter culture
  • 1/8th teaspoon Penicillium candidum
  • ¼  teaspoon (2 ml) liquid rennet dissolved in ¼ cup (60 ml) cool unchlorinated water
  • Cheese salt

Utensils

Sterilise all equipment in the large pot with about 3 litres of boiling water for 15 minutes, except cheese hoops.  Use a very weak, diluted bleach solution for the hoops and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
  • Cheese hoops 
  • 4 sushi mats 
  • Stainless steel ladle
  • 8 litre stainless steel pot
  • Small saucepan to use as a double boiler (as per video)
  • Cafe Thermometer
  • Curd knife
  • Stirring spoon
  • Cheese paper/wrap

Method

(If using homogenised milk, add the Calcium Chloride.)

Heat the milk to 32°C (90°F), then stir in the starter culture, and the Penicillium candidum.  Cover and allow to ripen for 90 minutes.

Whilst maintaining the target temperature (32°C), add the rennet and stir for two minutes top to bottom.  Cover and let sit at target temp for 60 minutes or until you have a clean break.

Cut the curds into 1.25cm (½") cubes, and gently stir for 15 minutes at target temp.

Let curds settle for 15 minutes, maintaining temp, then drain off the whey to the level of the curds using the ladle.

Place the all four hoops on two of the sushi mats, and gently ladle the curds into the hoops until you reach the top.  Cover both pairs with the remaining sushi mats.

Let drain for one hour at room temperature.  As in the video, you will notice a fall in the cheese as the whey expels.

Flip over the cheese, using the mats, holding top and bottom to ensure that the curd does not come out of the hoops.  Make sure the curds do not tear.  Flip the cheeses every hour for 5 hours.

Gently pull off the hoops and lightly sprinkle with cheese salt and gently rub all over, and allow to rest for 10 minutes for the salt to absorb.

Place cheeses, which will still be on a mat, into your ripening box, and store at 7°C (45°F) at 85 percent humidity, and into your cheese fridge.  The normal fridge will work at a pinch, but maturation will be slower and will take usually take about 8 days for the mould to form.

After 5 days mould should appear on the surface.  Turn the cheese over, put back in the ripening box and back into the cheese fridge.  Continue to age for another 7 to 10 days.  The cheese should have a good layer of mould on the surface.  

Take the cheese out of the ripening box and wrap it in cheese paper/film/wrap.  Allow the cheese to continue to mature at 7°C (45°F) for another 3 weeks.  Test one cheese to see if it has a mild flavour.  If so, then store the remainder at 4°C until consumed.  If not, wait another week, as the flavour gets stronger with age.  

Camembert aging in ripening box.

Tips and Tricks

One point of difference from the video.  You may have noticed that I kept filling up the hoops with curd as it drained away.  I would not recommend this any more   Fill it up once, and maybe top it up once more after 15 minutes, but no more, because the cheese will be too heavy and will collapse in on itself during aging.  Get extra cheese hoops if necessary.  I was quite lucky that these ones turned out okay.

You must keep the cheese separate from all the other cheeses in your cheese cave.  So to do that, you can use something like this nifty two layer box.  In the bottom layer, I put a sushi mat and a little bowl of water to increase humidity. 

If you can source a fine weave food safe plastic mat, you will find that the cheese will not stick as readily to it, as it may to sushi mats.  I find that the plastic stand that I use in my cheese ripening box helps to avoid sticking.

Camembert in ripening box (top view)
Drain any water that collects at the bottom of the container, making sure that the cheese does not come in contact with it.  The water will inhibit mould growth, which at this stage is a bad thing.


Your cheese should look something like this before you wrap it in cheese film.  A consistent white mould all over the cheese.  There should be no black mould.  If there is, just pick it off with a sterile knife.  Don't wipe with brine or vinegar as this will destroy the white mould layer.  Then make sure you use the cheese wrap.  It helps to slow the mould so that it doesn't ripen too quickly. I made it once without the cheese paper, and the Camembert was far too ripe for my tastes.

If aging in a normal kitchen refrigerator, the cheese will take a little longer to form mould and age.  Make sure that you check it regularly until you get an even mould all over the surface.  Then use cheese wrap as mentioned above.  It may take until week 4 to fully mature, but still check at the 3 week mark.

Also, if this cheese is matured above 7°C, the flavour will be overpowering and stink to high heaven!  Make sure you keep it below the this temperature.

Summary

Hopefully, I have given you enough information to successfully make Camembert.  This cheese is worth the perseverance if you do not get it right the first try.  The taste is amazing once you master the skill of making Camembert.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cheese Temperature During Aging

Is temperature absolutely critical during the aging of your cheese?

Well that is today's question from Albert from Catalunya (Spain).

Albert asks;

Hello Gavin

I'm Albert, from Catalunya (Spain, for the moment...) and I read your cheese blog since one year ago (sorry if my English is not correct).

I'm trying to age my cheeses as correctly as I can, so I bought recently a little wine cooler http://www.carrefouronline.carrefour.es/noalimentacion/TemplateProduct.aspx?itemMarcado=catalog310010&strands=true&itemId=117701082(it works with a compressor, is not a thermoelectic with fan ) and I think there is a problem.

Example: When I put their temp. to 9º C it starts to cool until 9º C, ok, but after it doesn't starts cooling again since the temp. arrives to a 14º or 15º C. In this case I don't have a constant temperature, I only have a temperature going up and down again and again from 9º to 14ºC.

So, the question is: is it a serious problem? Do I need an exactly constant temperature? Do I need an external thermostat who gives me a more accurate range of temps?

It's a shame, the wine cooler was so cheap...

Thanks for your help and congratulations for your e-book
--
Albert Campsolinas
http://foratgatiner.blogspot.com/

Well Albert, I believe that the answer is quite a simple one.  No, your minor temperature range will not matter at all for maturing semi-hard and hard cheeses.

My Cheese Fridge shut down for the Summer
Cheese has been made for many thousands of years without refrigeration, in various temperature conditions, so I don't think it will matter much.  As long as it stays cool, the cheese culture will do its magic and convert the remaining lactose into lactic acid and give the cheese whatever the desired flavour is and get stronger with age.   With that said, if the fridge gets above 14º C and if you do not want to buy a new one, try an external thermostat as you have suggested.

I recently had to move all of my maturing cheese into the normal refrigerator, because my thermoelectric wine fridge could not keep it cool enough due to the extreme heat we are having here in Australia at the moment.  I may need to convert an old kitchen fridge with the aid of an external thermostat as well!

So, if you want a consistent result and want each cheese to taste almost exactly the same, you would have to emulate factory like precision and keep the temperature constant with very little variation +/- 1º C.   But then, what would be the fun in that, as people would just buy store bought cheese and not make their own.  Making cheese at home is all about the excitement, anticipation, and experimentation--within reason--so if it tastes good, then there is no problem.

The only exception regarding temperature range, that can think of and that I could be cautious about, would be mould ripened cheese like Camembert, Brie, Roquefort,  Stilton, and any other type of blue.  From experience, these types of cheese need very specific low temperatures (around 7ºC) or the mould gets out of control and you do not get the desired taste.  I prefer to ripen these in a normal refrigerator at around 4ºC.  Much lower than recommended I know, and it takes a bit longer to age this way, but it does work and I get a much better result.

Remember that this is just my opinion gained from experience, and cheese purists may answer your question differently.

Hope that helps you and other amateur cheese-makers out there trying to make cheese for the first time.

Has anyone else had a similar experience they would like to share and add to the answer?  Feel free to leave a comment as your views will be more than welcome.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Storing Cheese After Aging

How do you store cheese after aging?  Do you need to stop the maturation process?  Can you?

There are some of the questions that I was asked today by a reader, Roger in NZ.  Here is his email (with permission).

"Greetings Gavin,

I hope you had a great Xmas and New Year.

I wonder if you could tell me about what to do once your cheese has matured. I have made your Stilton and Wensleydale and they are maturing nicely so when they are ready do you cut them into wedges and wrap them?

Are they then kept in the refrigerator or are they left in the cheese maturing box?

Do you remove all the cheese wax when you first cut into the Wensleydale?

Sorry to bother you about this but I envy your extensive knowledge on these things.

Thanks and best regards,
Roger, Palmerston North, New Zealand"
Well Roger and dear readers, these are some issues that you will need to deal with as your cheese matures.

Personally, semi-hard cheese like Wensleydale can be treated in two ways.  The first way is to leave it to mature in your cheese fridge/cave until you want to use it, as it will grow stronger in flavour as time passes.  However there will come a time when you want to stop maturation and keep that certain special flavour until the cheese is totally consumed.

When I think a cheese has matured, I removed the wax, give the cheese a clean with a clean cloth and brine solution if it has any blemishes or mould, and then taste a little bit of it.

If the cheese has not reached the desired flavour, I re-wax it as quickly as I can and pop it back in the cheese fridge with a new date attached to it for when I am going to retry it again.

Aged Pepperjack with a re-waxed quarter.
However, if the cheese is just right, then I cut it into quarters, and either vac-pack each quarter separately, or re-wax each quarter, label them and put them in a cheese box that I have in the normal refrigerator.  By dropping the temperature down to around 4C (39F), it slows down the aging process dramatically.  Excluding air by waxing or vac-packing each quarter ensures that there should be no further mould development.

If it is a Stilton or Blue cheese, you could vac-pack, but I find that it is just as easy and safe to wrap in cheese micro-wrap, or wrapping in grease-proof baking paper.  Then store it in the normal refrigerator as per a semi-hard cheese.  

Same goes for a hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano.  I simply wrap these cheeses in baking paper, store them at 4C, and they tend not to dry out any further.

Besides, my finished cheese tends not to be stored too long after maturation, because our family has either eaten it, or I have given it away to friends!

I hope this post has shed some light on what to do with your cheese after maturation.

Do any of you do it differently that may be worth mentioning?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Cheese Making eBook

So, today as I was waiting for Kim to finish editing my outdoor clay oven manuscript, I started thinking about what else I was a subject matter expert on (expert status loosely applied of course).

It took me a few minutes until I came up with the idea of writing a book about Home Cheese Making.  It struck me as bleeding obvious seeing that I also write a cheese making blog here at Little Green Cheese!

I know, I know.  It has all been done before, and I do have own some wonderful cheese books produced by some great authors, however there is always one thing that seams to be missing after you read the recipe.

That missing part is the taste test!  Authors rarely describe what the finished cheese tastes like, or provide tips on how to improve the cheese they have written about.  These will be accompanied by links back to my YouTube cheese making tutorials which are very popular with beginners and seasoned home cheese makers alike.   That is my angle that should make it stand out from the pack.

Of course it will have cheese making methods, all the recipes that I have modified over the years and written down, as well as some wonderful photographs, and explanation of cheese making hygiene.   And of course a section on sourcing local milk.

With the book structure already formatted, and some of the pieces in place for a comprehensive manuscript, I thought about a title.

How does "Keep Calm and Make Cheese - Artisan Cheese Making At Home" strike you as a title for this book?

Copyright © Gavin Webber

I even took the time to produced a book cover which I am pleased with, and which my wife Kim thinks is great.

Anyway, this is what I have being doing all day, as well as keeping the garden and chickens alive, so it is definitely time for a break.  It is 33°C here at 10:17pm, which is the tail end of a two day heat wave with more to follow during the week.  Hot, damn hot.

Time for a well earned home brewed Cerveza!

Update: I finished the eBook and it is now published!

Here is the link to "Keep Calm and Make Cheese" if you are interested in purchasing it.
[cross posted from The Greening of Gavin]