Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hard Luck Cheese

I started a hard cheese yesterday but events overtook me and after cutting the curd I was unable to look after it so it cooled in place. Later I dained it through muslin and today I'm pressing it as if it had worked, though without salting the curds. We'll see what happens.

Two cheeses' worth of curds from 10 pints of milk, for what it's worth. Because I only have the one mould (and press) they were alternated for short stints at first and longer later, all with 3kg or so of weight on a 2:1 lever, so ~6kg of pressure.

ETA - the morning after and the cheeses have compressed (a little lopsidedly) to about two inch high. I suspect it's too late to press them square again so I might cut them or perhaps leave them as they are.

Friday, 18 September 2009

First hard cheese results

After six weeks I couldn't wait any longer so we've just tried the first attempt at hard cheese.

First impressions are that it was very successful. Obviously quite young at six months but still quite moist -- I'd expected it to be dry after not waxing it. It's vaguely like a Mahon or Manchego except slightly softer. Very creamy and, unfortunately, very moreish. It would suit making in batches a lot better than camembries which all reach the "Coming, ready or not..." point at roughly the same time. Hard cheeses would mature so you could have one young and then have them successively more ripe.

Of course, actually making several at once could be a challenge because they use a lot of milk and I only have one press, but it's worth some thought.

The photos are of the cheese with the chief taster here, and as served with home grown grapes. Lovely.

Monday, 31 August 2009

More camembries

On Saturday I started off a new batch of camembries using virtually the same procedure as always: 11 pints of milk (the twelfth becoming yoghurt), a tablespoon or so of yoghurt, a tablespoon of bried, 21 drops of rennet, three hours to clabber and then the change: I didn't cut the curd but ladled it in large chunks into the moulds. The first one leaked quite badly after a while perhaps because it got the first of the curd but more likely because it was just loaded too quickly. Perhaps next time I'll half fill them all then wait for them to settle a little before adding more.

After the three camembert moulds were filled the remaining curd was put into a pair of basket moulds and a draining bag. One has been imersed in brine (it's a bit soft but I thought I'd see what happened) and the other was mashed with black pepper and garlic, as was the bag cheese.

The camembries were flipped the next day, twice, and again today, are now almost firm enough for me to remove the moulds.

As an aside, this time the yoghurt was put in a thermos flask instead of a tub on a heater. It seemed to work quite well.

No photos so far because it all looks the same as previous batches.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Hard Cheese Update

After 20 days of drying, turning, and occasionally scraping and dabbing mould with vinegar and salt, I've now oiled the cheese and wrapped it in paper.

It feels heavy and firm but not rock-hard and it's awfully tempting to try it. Really though it needs at least another two weeks and preferably a month or two.

Perhaps next weekend I'll get some soft or brined cheese on the go again to tide us over.

Monday, 3 August 2009

A quick shot this morning of the hard cheese started yesterday. For scale, this is a camembert sort of sized block but about twice as deep, and quite dense. I have to figure out what I'm going to do about sealing it or allowing a rind to form. Wax seems to be the usual option but I haven't got any and I'm also short of equipment for that. I might go for a parmesan style oil coating. We'll see.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Failed camembrie and First Hard Cheese

This is a bit of a mixed post. We tried the latest batch of camembries a while ago and I didn't have the heart to post an update at the time. They were vile. Very sharp and one-dimensional. They looked great but they didn't taste it. I'll pick over my notes and try to figure out why a bit later but to some extent I think that dealing with sensitive micro-organisms on a home scale with only very basic testing and environmental control I'm just likely to have the occasional bad batch. I do remember the curd tasting funny (sharp and almost lemony) when I tried some fresh, but I don't really know what caused it. It does point towards something more fundamental than bad maturation though. Perhaps the milk wasn't right. Perhaps I dropped a lemon in by mistake.

Anyway, on a slightly more positive note a friend bought me a Dutch Press for my birthday and so today I've attempted my first hard cheese. A fascinating process! Quite different to what I've done before and the heating and -- relative to soft cheese -- rough treatment of the curd felt all wrong. Still, the results I've ended up with so far seem perfect according to my recipe and I'm currently pressing what I suppose must be in the region of 1lb of cheese.

From the usual 12 pints of milk I got my pint of yoghurt, the Main Feature hard cheese as mentioned above, a small quantity of ricotta, and some left over hard cheese curds which I mixed with half a clove of garlic and some black pepper to make a boursin-style cheese.

The main different with the hard cheese recipe has been that the curds are cut, stirred, drained and then mixed gently by hand with salt before keeping warm and repeatedly breaking up for an hour or so. Finally this mixture is wrapped in cheese cloth and pressed gradually at first and more firmly later in the press. There is much more separation of curd and whey before the cheese enters the mold and so even under pressure the contents of a normal camembert size mould (10x10x10) has not greatly diminished in the first hour or two. Maybe by 10-20%. Contrast this with camembries which lose half their volume in the space of a few hours and express buckets (literally) of whey.

One other thing that I've been wondering, looking at this recipe and others for soft cheeses, is whether I shouldn't be cutting the curd for soft cheeses and instead scooping large chunks of it out whole. The results have been good but messy as much curd has squeezed through the holes in the moulds. One to investigate next time.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

New Camembrie Batch

Started a new batch of camembries today. Accidentally heated the milk to 100F (distracted) but thought I'd give it a go anyway. 6 litres, Rennetted (14 drops of 520 mg/l) at 100F and inoculated with yoghurt and a piece of a previous camembrie[1].

Four hours later, curds cut, left to rest, then poured into moulds. I note that my curds are very, very delicate and tend to break up into tiny pieces no matter how carefully I ladle them out. I don't know if this is normal or whether something in my method makes it more likely to happen. Must look into that though.

Anyway, they'll now drain over night and in about an hour I'll make up some ricotta with the remaining whey.

[1] And while we're on the subject, here's one of the three camembries from the 27th April batch. This is fresh from the fridge so no doubt it will really melt when it comes to temperature. We had the first of them last weekend, this one now (mainly to inoculate this new batch) and have one left that we may save for another week or may give to friends.

I thought last week's was a bit one dimensional but my wife loved it. I think this one is milder and more creamy, but perhaps that's the effect of it being served much colder.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Tale of Two Cheeses

The camembries from the 27th April batch are doing nicely, with a light dusting of white mould appearing. All very promising.

The hard cheese, unfortunately, got forgotten and was left unchecked in a sealed box for far too long. Wensleyfail, anyone?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Something Old, Something New...

The final two cheeses from "Three Cheese Friday" 13th March:

Firstly the camembrie:

I feared I'd let these dry out too much but actually I quite like the result. The rind is mottled like a ripe brie bit has a little bit more firmness. The centre of the cheese is nicely ripe and the cheese tastes... well... like a Camembert or Brie.

And the intended-to-be-hard-but-ended-up-as-a-semi-hard-washed-rind:

This one suffered a bit from changing directions and whims as I experimented but has ended up as a palatable but not stunning Limburger sort of thing, except perhaps firmer.

And now some shots (one from of the current camembries from the something new range:

Finally, just a note that the last set of brined hard cheese (feta-ish) has been very successful diced in bulghur salads. I must get a photo of that next time I make up the dish.

Monday, 27 April 2009

12 pints of milk...

...on their way to become three camembries, a Similar Sized pressed cheese, 250ml of cream cheese, maybe 150ml of ricotta and 6 pints of whey for the dog.

Photos and results as and when.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Update and More Production

Firstly a quick update on the camemberts: They were quite moist and slow to form a proper bloom so I took them out of the box for a few days. They have moulded up more but also become firmer. I'm hoping they didn't dry out too much but we'll see as I'm hoping to cut the first one in a week or so.

Today I've kicked off two pints of yoghurt, my first pint of buttermilk and another 8 pints of cheese which I'm planning to make into a brined feta-like cheese again. The initial stages look very similar to every other time so I haven't photographed them.

After two hours I suddenly realised I'd put half the quantity of rennet in. Argh. The milk isn't coagulating properly (no surprise). I've tried to rescue things by dropping more in but of course can't stir now. We'll see, but I'm guessing that this'll end up as a very loose curd and not suitable for making feta. Oh well.

Many hours later, I've pressed the curds and am cooking them in brine now. I can't really remember quite how the texture was last time but they still seem a bit soft. Still, they're holding together and I do remember that they firmed up considerably in the refrigerated brine later so perhaps all is not lost.

The ricotta was not all lost either. Our dog enjoyed the disastrous results!

Well I've got a very strange cheese now. It's spongy and open-textured. I'm going to cool it in the fridge overnight and we'll see what we end up with.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Ripe? It almost drowned me...

Well the camembert from the end of Feb has been interesting. One didn't form a proper covering of mould and didn't really ripen. The one from three days later, is so ripe as to be liquid now. A bit too ripe, really, but not with the sometimes present overpowering taste of ammonia, thankfully.

So there we go... the end of another batch of cheese. There are three more on the go, though. No photos but they're nice and firm and starting to show mould. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Camembert Update

Here are two of the camemberts after 36 hours or so of settling, draining and being flipped twice.

I didn't menti0n in the previous post that the remaining curds ended up in a hard cheese mould, though as I don't have a press I could only muster about 3kg of pressure. Still, there's a reasonably firm, 2cm high cheese floating in brine in the fridge now and tomorrow it will be brought out again, drained and tried. Depending on how it goes I'm thinking of trying to dry it out a fair bit into a grating cheese along the lines of romano or parmesan.

Of course, an experimental cheese will always be a wayward thing and so if in a month or so I'm talking about the harvarti or cheshire I made in mid-March, I trust you'll be polite enough not to comment.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Three Cheese Friday

Today I tried making a large batch of cheese. It turned out to be just over three camemberts worth -- the product of 11 pints (6.25 litres) of milk.

There recipe has been the same as the tried and tested one. Heat the milk to 86F (overshoot, cool), add a few tablespoons of yoghurt and some brie rind.

Leave to ripen (and cool back to 86F) for about half an hour. Rennet (22 drops, based on the 3-4 drops per litre stipulation on the packet). Leave at 86F for a couple of hours to set.

Cut the curd and (new step I've been missing) raise the temperature to 100F as the curd settles and sinks.

Ladle out the curds into moulds and leave to drain.

So hopefully I can expect three camemberts sometime early next month.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Camembert Update

A quick photographic update on the two camemberts on the go. The older (but smaller) one looks like this.

Definite signs of white mould growing. I have high hopes.

The later, and large, camembert refused to dry as quickly until I wrapped it in cheese cloth:

And has spontaneous blue mould. Delicious, I'm sure.

In other news (apparent from the above), I've switched to digikam for photo management and despite trying to get the colour management set up correctly for raw imports it's obviously way out somewhere. Some curve is being applied somewhere it shouldn't be. My fault not its, I'm sure. But that's a problem for another day.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Brined cheese

Today I had a first attempt at brined cheese, in the feta or halloumi sort of style. No photos through laziness, but I now have a jar of cubes of cheese that certainly look like feta sitting in brine in the fridge. I also chopped and dry fried some like halloumi. Although it was very young it seemed to cook in the right way and the taste was in the right area, if a little bland.

But back to the beginning. This was four pints (2.2L) of whole fat organic cows' milk, heated to 86F, renneted and left to sit for an hour at which point it hadn't coagulated. Just as well, as it was around now I remembered to add the yoghurt starter culture (in drops, not stirred, to avoid distutbing the early stages of curd formation). After two hours I had a clean break and cut the curd then raised the temperature to 104F over a period of about 45 minutes. I strained the curd in cheesecloth lining a colander, and pressed it under 4kg for an hour or two, turning a couple of times.

I then cut and cooked the semi-firm curd blocks in the whey at 186F or so for another hour. After this I diced them, salted them and let them rest for another hour before dry-frying a little and putting the rest in brine in the fridge.

As a side show I also heated the whey to just short of boiling and stirred in a teaspoon of vinegar and almost instantly ended up with globules of fine curd which I strained to get something like a ricotta.
I'm seriously thinking of scaling things up a bit though, but first I'd need a much bigger stainless steel pan.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

End of January Camembert: The finished article

Last night my impatience and excitement finally got the better of me and we cut the camembert that I started at the end of January (see my other blog).

This was a much milder and more buttery cheese than my first attempt which was more of an Epoisses or Munster type (somewhat by chance). As much as I enjoyed that one, this one turned out exactly as intended and that makes me all the more pleased with it.

This morning my current two projects (both intended to be camemberts) are eight and five days old (or something like that). Checking my notes I shouldn't be disappointed that they haven't got white mould on yet but even so I still don't have enough faith in all this magic to be confident that they'll do what they're supposed to. Ah well... in a week I should know more. In the mean time I'm considering buying a couple more draining moulds so I can make more than one cheese at a time, because it's an awful lot of effort to go to for a single cheese. And perhaps I'll get one suitable for pressing hard cheese in too. And some B. Linens for making proper (rather than by chance) washed rind cheeses. And perhaps some P.Roqueforti too...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Designer Cheese

My cheesemaking activities have expanded enough to make me think a separate blog would make sense, so here we are.

So... "Designer Cheese"?

So far I've read several sites and books, tried some recipes and generally experimented with turning milk into other things, and so far none of them have been disasters. But I'm not really a recipes sort of person. I like to either know the whys and wheres and to do things by instinct.

Currently my "usual" recipe is something like this:
  1. Bring milk to 86F in a makeshift double boiler.
  2. Stir in yoghurt as a thermophilic starter culture and some chopped up camembert rind for P. Candidum and P.Camemberti cultures.
  3. Wait fifteen minutes.
  4. Add liquid rennet.
  5. Keep at 86-88F for three hours.
  6. Cut curds.
  7. Fill brie mould.
  8. Drain overnight, then flip as I remember for a few days.
  9. When dryish, rub salt in, dry some more, and eventually put in the fridge to age.
This seems to have worked so far (early days but we've eaten one cheese and have another looking very promising in the fridge). But what happens if I vary the temperatures or timings? What about cooking the curds (for hard cheeses) and different pressing weights? Some recipes are very specific about details (hold between 86F and 88F for three hours) where others for similar cheeses say, for example, 90F for one hour.

I don't really have the scope for empirical assessment of all the variables but I hope to try a few things and hopefully turn up information from other sources and even, hopefully, get other people contributing knowledge. Ideally what I want to end up with is a list of the stages in cheesemaking and for each one be able to say "if you make it hotter, it's stronger/blander/firmer/softer/greener/ruined." From there you could imagine the cheese you want to make and work out roughly what the recipe to make it is likely to be. Designer Cheese.

In practice I'm sure it's not quite as simple as the picture above makes it out to be, but there's certainly scope for finding a bit more out.