Well, so do a lot of budding curd nerds from the looks of this weeks email. It comes from Dave who lives somewhere in the U.S.
I just wanted to thank you so much for what you’re doing. A friend and I are trying to learn to make cheese and other things from home, but most sites put a high premium on the knowledge. I live in the U.S. and our economy is starting to fall apart. We decided that not only is it better to be natural but, it is also a kind of security to know how to do these things if there ever is an economic crisis – which the signs say there is going to be one. So to repeat, most folks out there are capitalizing on the need but you’re doing a lot of this stuff for free. It means a lot to me and I’m sure to many others. You’re a kind of mother culture for many other aspiring cheese-makers and “greenies.” Thank you.
That being said, I have a question that plagues me and my newbie cheese-making friend: Why do cheese curds need to be cut in a particular size if we are going to break them up in the first place? It seems like an arbitrary step since every batch of cheese is ultimately broken down to the same size. What are we intellectually missing here? Why do they have to be cut uniform if they’re gonna be reduced and broken by stirring. The way it looks to us is like we’re told to cut curds in one inch squares and then throw them into a blender. We’re told that the size of the cubes will determine the moisture and the texture of the cheese. Do you see the confusion? You’re advice is much appreciated and thanks so much for what you’re doing for us. It’s strange to me how you’re having a global impact from your own home!
Thank you Dave. I have never been referred to a mother culture before, but it sounds nice and earthy. A father culture, definitely!
So to answer your question, there is a very good reason why we cut curds size differently or in fact in some cheeses, we don’t cut at all. It all has to do with the moisture content of the finished cheese. The smaller the curd cut, the more whey that is expelled.You will also notice that the flocculation time (time taken to set after adding rennet) is much longer in a cheese like Camembert (60 minutes), than say Parmesan (45 minutes or less). It makes a big difference to the finished product.
A soft cheese usually has a higher flocculation time, and a larger curd cut, keeping more moisture in the cheese.
A hard cheese on the other hand has a lower flocculation time, and a smaller curd cut, releasing more whey for a firmer, drier cheese.
One thing I will recommend is that once the curds are cut, let them ‘heal’ for 5 minutes before stirring again. You will find that the cubes will stay together better, and just shrink during stirring, expelling whey as you cook the curds. Curds should always be stirred gently, so that they are not broken apart forcefully. In fact, everything about cheese making is very Zen like. Slow and methodical makes the best cheese.
Enjoy your new curd knowledge!
Thank you for explaining that Gavin – it's always been a mystery to me too. Does that mean you need a set of cheese harps with the cutting wires at different spaces? If so, I think you can now make your own having got and published the instructions.
Whilst you are in the explaining mode, would you explain 'flocculation' with respect to our cheesemaking. My first cheese book described the old method of floating a small piece of straw on top of the milk after adding the rennet. When the straw first stopped being moveable (by blowing on it) the time was noted, the time for a clean break being 2.5 times the first figure. I have done similar with a tooth pick. I was under the impression that the initial setting point (when the straw won't move when blown) was the flocculation point. Am I wrong in that?
Hi David. You are indeed right. I will expand on flocculation a bit more in a new post.