Salt is an essential ingredient in cheese. It expels whey, slows the conversion of lactose to lactic acid and preserves the cheese. It also adds flavour and helps form a rind. The oft quoted “Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality” would not be so, if it was not for salt. Brine for cheese making is an essential ingredient in many cheese recipes.
There are two ways to add salt to the curds before maturing a cheese. One method is to add salt directly to the curds during milling, and the other method is to soak the pressed cheese in a brine solution. Cheese like Parmesan, Romano, Feta and Edam are soaked in brine so that the salt is absorbed and it preserves the cheese. Others like to brine Caerphilly or Camembert.
So how do you go about making brine for cheese? Well it is pretty simple.
Here are the ingredients;
Brine for Cheese Making
- 1 Raw Egg (for testing density)
- 2 Litres (2 qt) water
- 450 gm (1 lbs) non-iodised Salt
- 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Calcium Chloride solution
This makes an 18% brine solution, which you will know is ready when the raw egg floats in it.
Warm the water to about 25°C (77°F) so that it absorbs the salt more readily. When all the salt is added, stir until it is all dissolved. Check for saturation by floating a whole raw egg in the brine and it should float. If it doesn’t, then add a tablespoon of salt until it does float. Here is a video tutorial that I created so you can see it in action;
I find that this is just enough salt, and the vinegar and calcium chloride stops the cheese from leaching calcium back into the brine. I then reuse the brine as a washing solution on other hard cheeses to help inhibit mould growth.
|Parmesan waiting for the brine to cool.|
Just make sure that you cool to room temperature before adding finished cheese. In fact it is best if both brine and cheese are at the same temperature. 13°C (55°F) is the best temperature at which to brine your cheeses. I just place the container in the cheese fridge for the duration of brining.
How long do you leave it in the brine? Well it depends on the density of the cheese. A nice hard cheese like Parmesan needs at least 24 hours, however a 1.2 kg Gouda only needs 12 hours. Ricki Carol’s cheesemaking.com site recommends the following:
“Cheeses of different densities and shapes will require varying times in the brine. A general rule is 1 hour per lb (450 gm). per each 1 inch (2.5cm) thickness of cheese. A very dense low moisture cheese such as Parma will need more time than a moist open texture cheese.”
If you like you can store the brine for future use in the cheese fridge and you can reuse it over and over again until it gets too cloudy. Just before you brine another cheese, add another tablespoon of salt to replace that which was absorbed by the last cheese.
I hope this answers the well asked question of how to make brine for cheese making.
If you have a cheese question, I am more than happy to see if I can answer it.