Sunday, December 31, 2017

Two of the Three Cheddars Were a Success!

Instead of repeating my entire post here, I'll be lazy and give you a link to my other blog where I posted about Cheese Night!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cream Cheese Recipe and "Philadelphia" Cream Cheese

When I first made my batch of cream cheese, I was very surprised at the results. It was very tangy and tasted more like a really good sour cream than anything else. I guess being brought up in a city where food comes from the grocery store had me thinking that cream cheese should taste like the Philadelphia brand cream cheese, which is sweet when you compare the two.

After my initial disappointment, I decided to look up the ingredients of the Kraft version, the first three are acceptable:
1. Milk ingredients (should I assume this means milk and cream??)
2. Bacterial culture
3. Salt
But these two had me wondering:
4. Carob Bean Gum
5. Sorbic Acid (A071D)

Carob Bean Gum, also known as Locust Bean Gum, is a gelling agent derived from the Carob tree. It's also sweet, so it acts as a sweetener in the cheese. But that word "derived" bothers exactly is it derived and what is the final product?

Sorbic Acid is a food preservative, thus the long expiry dates on the products. Homemade cream cheese is good for about a week or so only.

I'm not trying to burst anyone's bubble, both Carob Bean Gum and Sorbic Acid aren't known to be toxic to the system. I just want to try to go the natural route as much as possible. Still though, that Philadelphia cream cheese is good stuff and I'll buy it until I can perfect my own!

Firstly, I decided to try to make the cream cheese again, since the first batch was used as a sour cream with our Mexican dishes. As an experiment, I did two batches, the recipe is exactly the same except I used two different bacterial cultures.

The buttermilk culture batch came out much creamier and less tangy than the mesophilic culture batch. Both still tasted more like sour cream, sigh. I still wanted to make some Philadelphia cream cheese though!

So with all of that in mind, I did a search on the internet to see what others do to make their cream cheese a little more like the Kraft brand and came up with a few ideas. This is what I did.

I took one batch of my cream cheese, added a cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 tsp of salt.

Then I drained it for an hour, wrapped it up and put it in the fridge overnight. It was sweeter, but nothing like Philadelphia brand. I still have to work on this to figure out how to perfect it...but it did make some really good flavoured cream cheeses!

Here is the recipe. In total it takes 2-3 days before you get a finished result because you have to let it sit for many hours, but the whole process is simple:

Cream Cheese (makes about 3 1/2 cups)

- 2 liters of whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp Calcium Chloride mixed into 1/4 cup cool, filtered water
- 1/8 tsp mesophilic culture or 1/2 tsp buttermilk culture (the buttermilk one was creamier)
- 2 drops double strength rennet mixed into 1/4 cup cool, filtered water


1. Heat the milk, cream and Calcium Chloride slowly in a large pot to 86F, mixing to make sure it doesn't burn or stick to the pot.

2. Add the culture and let it sit for 3 minutes, then stir well, but slowly.

3. Add the rennet and stir well, but slowly for no more than a minute.

4. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight at room temperature (12-15 hours).

5. The next day, check your cheese. If you see it pulling away from the sides of the pot, it's ready to be drained.

6. Line a colander with cheese cloth and ladle the cream cheese into the colander. Let it sit for an hour, keeping the whey for other uses or for your plants (they love it!).

7. After an hour, make a hanging set up, like the photo above. This needs to hang and drain another 8 hours.

8. After 8 hours, transfer the cheese into a container and refrigerate, this will harden it up some. Remember, this is tangy, more like a sour cream, but to each his/her own! :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Some Lessons Learned...Wasted Cheddar! Baby Swiss Update

Need I say more????

This orange coating is HORRENDOUS. I really cannot believe that anyone actually likes this crap. When we opened our first Cheddar before Halloween, it smelled like nail polish remover. We removed the horrible orange coating, cut a third of the cheese off (the thick rind) and let it "air out" for SIX still smelled and tasted like the coating. My very first Cheddar that I made on July 28th is now in the trash.


I had to make the sad decision to throw away this beauty too. This was the second wheel of Cheddar that I made in August. It was supposed to age for 6 months and be ready for Valentine's Day. I already know what it's going to smell and taste like, so why prolong the agony right? Sigh.

DON'T EVER USE THIS COATING PEOPLE!!! Don't let the cheese making supply shops convince you otherwise unless you like plastic-chemical tasting cheese. I nearly cried when I threw this out.

That is a lesson learned and I'm SO GLAD I didn't coat any of my other cheeses with this foul thing. I'm not giving up on Cheddar, I'm just going to age it more naturally in hopes that it'll turn out without any chemical odours and flavours. On to other lessons...

My Baby Swiss has been drying in the cheese cave, uncovered, for the last month. Every day I flip it and brush off any mould that has formed. You can see some tiny little dots of mould on the cheese. Here is another lesson I learned. It will be challenging to make a pressed cheese without the proper mold and cheese press. 

It took me about half an hour this morning to poke out all the mould from my cheese, and I'm sure I didn't get it all. I'm about to diss a well-loved company so be prepared. The New England Cheese Making company offers so many free recipes on their site; with a list of ingredients to buy. I'm not the first person to claim that their recipes are badly written on the site. I'm also not the first to report that cheeses made from their recipes taste nasty (my Colby). Just check out the and it's full of disappointed cheese makers who have used those recipes. And people who are frustrated by the lack of help and response when you email them.

The company claims that you don't need fancy molds and expensive cheese presses to get great results. Hmmm...not true at all. I didn't have the right mold for the Baby Swiss and it's really too thin. I didn't have an expensive cheese press, I had to use weights and cans and it's full of cracks and holes - ripe areas for mould to just dig in - something I found out this morning. I know that the inside of these cracks are full of mould, but I can't pick apart the entire wheel of cheese, I just have to hope for the best. We shall see. Ideally this should be a smooth texture with the holes on the INSIDE. What can you do? I guess I was mislead. But I'm still learning all about cheese making and I can only go up from here.

I forced a smile to try and change my mood today. It's tough though, failed curd cheese...failed cream cheese...failed Cheddars (because of that awful coating) it looks like I might have a failed Baby Swiss because I didn't have the right equipment. Sigh Sigh Sigh...Alex gave me his John Muir outback hat because the band makes his head itchy. I like it, it gave me a photo op this morning to try to turn my frown upside down lol! Okay, I've done better at smiling, but this is a good start lol! :)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cheddar #1 : Taste Update

Three months ago, I made my first Cheddar might remember all of the trouble it caused me from having to buy so many tools, to figuring out where to age it...then finally dealing with that nuclear "cheese coating". Remember what the box said? Just Add Milk...

The coating came right off but I have to say it stunk like something unnatural...nail polish remover maybe?? Anyway, we were a bit worried about the flavour. I had read that I should let it "air out" for a few days before eating it so that any lingering taste of plastic will dissipate. We couldn't help ourselves though! We tried it and yup, it tasted like that plastic coating.

But...the cheese is DARN GOOD!!! Once that initial taste is gone, the flavour of the cheese comes out. It was nice and mild but slightly tangy! There are some small holes, but that's due to the fact that I don't have a proper cheese press, but that's just fine. :) I would say that if I hadn't used the orange coating, this would have been a total success. We decided to cut the rind off and let it sit for a few days in hopes that it won't taste too plasticky anymore. But...if it does, this will be my first lesson to never use that stuff again. In fact, I've already decided not to. My second Cheddar which is aging 6 months is also coated so I'm going to take the coating off and let it also sit for a few days, then continue to age it.

The Cheddar on the bottom shelf is the 6-month coated one that I have to fix up. The red wine-infused Cheddar will be ready any time we want to try it. We also have a Newcastle-infused Cheddar for Christmas and a Cheddar aging for a year up there on the top shelf. I'm pretty confident that they'll taste great. Ideally I would love to not even have to seal them, but I don't have a real cheese cave yet so they need that protection!

Oh, and we get to try the Camemberts in a few weeks! I'm pretty pleased with the actual Cheddar cheese itself, and I'm very motivated to make more! :) 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Bloomy White Camembert

This week I tried my very first bloomy white cheese, a Camembert! In the photo I added an arrow to show you that as of yesterday, that bloomy white mold is slowly and gradually forming, which makes me very happy!

I love how a pot of milk with some cultures and additives can turn into any kind of cheese imaginable! This cheese smelled SO GOOD as I was making it, likely due to all the different bacteria that was added. You want a nice creamy gooey cheese as your result so as you stir, you have to pretend that you are trying not to break bubbles...that gently! Usually I stir the cheese quite a bit to release the whey, which creates a drier cheese. But in this case, I wanted the whey to stick around for as long as possible to keep the curds nice and saturated.

These are the molds. They are called Camembert/Brie Hoops. They have no tops or bottoms and are perforated on all sides to help the whey gently release over time. I bought some "cheese mats" too. Those are the plastic mats under the hoops. They are very sturdy and act as a colander. You don't need them to start, but I have to say it's a treat to have the proper equipment!

All of the curds and whey are gently ladled into the hoops. It takes a while because you have to wait for some whey to drain to add more. This process took me about a half an hour to fill the two hoops.

After a good full 24 hours of draining and flipping at room temperature, the cheese starts to form pretty well! 

I was able to take them out of the hoops after about 30 hours total and now they are in the ripening box forming more bloomy white. I'll do some updates over the next six to eight weeks as they progress and I'm really hoping that they are nice and creamy inside when it's time to cut them open!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Curd Cheese - New Technique, Same Problem!

Here is my bowl of curd cheese! I made this for poutine night the other day. This little bit of cheese takes a full 8 hours to make! I tried the same recipe I used before but a different technique to dry it up.

It's called "Cheddaring". Basically when the curd is all cooked and drained, you flatten it out and cut it into two pieces. You then layer the pieces and top it with heat for 15 minutes.

In my case, I filled two ziptop bags with hot water and put that on top of the layers. This is to help the curd continue to release whey and dry out. You repeat this process by flipping the curd from top to bottom, draining off any expelled whey, and making sure the heat on top is around 100F - all for a total of two hours. curd still didn't squeak! When the curd cheese squeaks, it means you have the right texture for melting. I guess it's the same idea as the Mozzarella. If the Mozza doesn't stretch, it won't melt. If the curd doesn't squeak, it won't melt.

The flavour is definitely spot on...but the curd didn't melt with the hot gravy poured on top. I have another recipe that calls for buttermilk, and it's (quote) GUARANTEED (unquote) to squeak...we shall see the next time!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cheese Updates

Colby Cheese: As I suspected, the holes are due to the fact that it wasn't pressed enough. When I made this huge cheese, which took 10 liters of milk!!!, I didn't have a big enough cheese mold. I wrapped the cheese in cheesecloth, then put it in a round plastic colander. 

When you make a hard cheese, it needs to be pressed down by weight. Between the cheese and your weight, you have what's called a "follower". It's basically the top part that pushes the cheese flat and holds the weight on top evenly.

I didn't have this piece of equipment for a larger cheese. I have one for my Cheddars, but they can hold a maximum curd from 6 liters of milk. Since my Colby was made from 10 liters of milk, I had to improvise with a cappuccino saucer, which wasn't as flat as I would have wanted!

If it were flat, then I would have no holes because I have the right amount of weight. Now, that's all technicalities because my cheese will still have a nice flavour! Mystery solved! I've ordered a bigger cheese mold with a follower.

I gave into temptation! I opened up the aging Mozzarella! I don't regret it at all, it was so delicious and melted very well on the pizzas we made. As you can see, I did a side-by-side comparison of 2 balls of Mozza that were made in the same batch. The one on the left is the one I aged for a week after it dried. The one on the right went right into the freezer after it was made. The aging process dried out the cheese and gave it a sharper flavour, as well as made it perfect for grating. The non-aged Mozza was very good, but the taste was much milder and the texture softer. A different cheese for a different purpose!

Look at this lovely cheese! I'm so proud that I made this! :) I hope I can always recreate this Pizza Mozzarella now! I just don't want to buy anymore store-bought "cheese food" anymore!!

12-Month Cheddar: The Cheddar that will age for the next year dried nicely. I had to brush off some mould spots a few times, but otherwise, the rind is nice and hard now after a week of drying. The first two Cheddars I made were coated with an orange cheese coating. This was to help keep mould off the cheese - didn't really live up to its claim, so I decided no more coating. Natural rind then sealing is the way to go!

Newcastle Infused Cheddar: I can't wait to cut into this one! I'm aging this until Christmas or New Year's. It smells like the beer and Cheddar mix that I thought it would! It's very exciting! I now have 5 Cheddars in the cheese cave.

I love my vacuum sealer! I do know that vacuum sealing ages the cheese differently from waxing or natural coating. Waxing provides minute air flow which helps in the aging process. Vacuum sealing is what it seals food from air coming in. It will still age as the bacteria develops, but not as well as it would in other conditions. The flavour may not be as rich as it would if I had a real cheese cave too. But honestly? For my needs right now, it's the best choice. Cheesy-snobs would say that only amateurs vacuum-seal (yes I've heard that one...)...and that waxing is the only way to coat a cheese; then there are other so-called home-cheese-experts who will say that natural wrapping (with lard and cheesecloth) is the only true method of aging a cheese. Why must everyone be a critic??? I don't have the luxury of space so I've made my choice and I'm happy with it! :)

One day I'll wax a cheese at the same time as I vacuum-seal one, and test the results side by side. Then I'll probably decide which way I like better. And hopefully one day I'll have a big large REAL cave in the basement that is sealed from critters so that I can naturally age all of my cheeses!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twelve-Month Aged Cheddar and Newcastle Infused Cheddar

Just for the record (since I blogged about this already on my Garden blog), I made two new Cheddars this last week. My favourite beer in the whole world is Newcastle! 

So I pulled out my recipe for Cheddar (on the side bar) and made a Newcastle-Infused Cheddar (the wheel on the right). You can't imagine how amazing it smells...I need smello-rama for Blogger or something lol...I'm going to age this one until Christmas or New Year's. Every Christmas and New Year's Day, I make appetizers, cheese and charcuterie I'm not sure when we'll eat it, but it won't make it into 2018 that's for sure! :)

The cheese on the left is a regular Cheddar that will be aged for one year, ready on Labour Day 2018.

I've accomplished most of my cheese goals for the year in the last two months. I bought supplies to make Camembert, I can't wait to try that out. I'm just waiting to make more Curd cheese for our next poutine night. I have plans for cream cheese too when I need it for a recipe.

And I'm still itching to try a Blue. I just need to find the proper bacteria cultures, but also, I'm not sure I can age that in my little bar fridge/cheese cave. It could infect the other cheeses with it's special lovely mold...we'll see. 

Alex just sent me a list of cheeses he would love for me to make, and I'm up for the challenge:

Camembert Blue
Red Leicester

This is going to be fun!!! :)

The Colby is looking amazingly orange!!! And the Pizza Mozzarella is changing colours - I'm very pleased! I had to brush the Colby for mold dots this morning and as soon as it dries in a few hours, I'll be sealing both cheeses. This hobby has already been so rewarding and I haven't even tried most of them yet!!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mozzarella and Colby Updates

Here is the Mozzarella that I'm aging. It's been 5 days in the cheese cave both drying and aging. The colour is changing nicely! This is a first for me, and a bit of an experiment. I want to see how long I can age it in the cave. Once it feels nice and dry I'll seal it and maybe wait a month or so and see how it tastes.

The Colby cheese is taking a long time to dry. This is most likely due to the fact that I didn't have a proper cheese mold and follower during the pressing stage. It might just be too wet. Mind you, after five days on the counter and in the cheese cave, it's starting to develop a little colour and some rind. I'm hoping it'll dry out soon so I can seal it as well!

I'm making some more Cheddars this week. The one I'm making today is just at the ripening stage so I have a minute or two to blog; and it'll be a 12-month Cheddar, ready next Labour Day 2018. I'll make another one tomorrow that we'll open for Christmas!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cultured Mozza Success!!! And a Colby!

I'm so pleased that I was able to make a Mozzarella that wasn't the quick 30-minute version. You can't understand my pride, because I can't describe it! :)) Most of the recipes out there assume you have access to raw milk - which is perfect for making the pasta-filata cheeses or stretched curd cheeses like Mozzarella and Provolone. Those of us who have no choice but to use pasteurized and homogenized grocery store milk need to keep a good eye on PH levels and use additives to achieve the same results. So I bought my $19.99 PH meter. Here you can see how I used it, I shoved the curd into the sensor to get my reading. With a gentle nudge of a toothpick, the curd fell right now. I read on the Cheese Forum that using contact lens cleaner is a perfect way to sterilize the meter after using and since I do wear them, I luckily had that handy. This was the best purchase I've made in a long time! Though I have another PH meter in mind for the future, it has a probe or spear so you don't have to push all the curd into the meter. But those are in the hundred$$ so it's definitely going to have to wait!

Twenty-two hours after starting the Mozza, I read 5.22 on the PH meter. I called out for Alex and he took pictures for me. I nearly cried when I saw how my Mozza piece passed the stretch test!!! :)))

This is the set up after the stretch test. You chop up your curds and prepare a bin or large container to add the boiling hot whey. You know, every time I failed to get a stretch the last five times...I really took it badly. So this was a huge triumph for me!

You add some Kosher or cheese salt to the bin, then the curds, then the whey that has been heated to 180F. You put in enough whey to cover the curd and get it all melty.

After letting it sit a minute, you work it like bread dough. This was just about 3 pounds of cheese to knead and it's not obvious, but it's heavy work! Plus 180F is dang hot. I made a rookie mistake and didn't buy high quality cheese making gloves and two layers of dishwashing gloves didn't cut the mustard. My hands were BURNING!! I had to wait to lower the whey temperature to 140F to handle it. But, this made the Mozza much less pliable and even though it turned out well, if the temperature had been higher, it would have been that much better. Next time! I ordered the gloves and some Lipase, which I want to try next time to add some sharpness to the flavour!

After achieving a nice stretch, I formed the balls and put them right into an ice bath for 15 minutes to help them keep their form and toughen up a little bit.

Then they went into a salt-water brine for two hours to continue the process of hardening them up.

What a beautiful sight to see! :) I used Gianaclis Caldwell's Traditional Mozzarella for Aging recipe that she has on her blog. On that post called "Stretchy Secrets" she gives lots of info about pasta filata cheeses. She even has her quick Mozza recipe and a Hybrid version. She is the author of cheese making books that have become the standard for learning how to make cheese at home. I have one of her books, but I have all of her others on my wish list for gifts from Alex!

Next up: Colby cheese! I used Ricki Carrol's recipe from her E-book New England Cheese Making Recipe Book Volume 1. If you subscribe to the New England Cheese Making newsletter, they send volumes 1 and 2 to you for free. But you can also find the recipe online. Just a note and this is my experience. If you need help, don't expect it from New England. They are very slow to respond and won't give any advice unless you are asking about one of their products. I asked a question about culture equivalents last Wednesday for the Colby I made on Saturday, I just got a response from their "cheese tech" that said they can't give any advice at all. Nice huh? Not even an effort? 😒 I'll still use them for their products, but I'll rely on books, my own common sense and the Cheese Forum for advice. The Canadian company steered me wrong a bunch of times, but at least the owner WANTED to help and answered questions as honestly as she could!! Okay, small rant over. :))

Back to the Colby! Did you notice the change in colour of my milk?

That's because I added Annatto cheese colouring to the milk as it heated. This is the description: "This water based coloring is naturally derived from the Annatto tree and will impart an appetizing yellow color to your cheese and ice cream". It's all natural which is nice because food colouring gives both Alex and I terrible heartburn. Be forewarned...this stuff stains! Use gloves!!! I had orange finger tips for a few days lol...

The process of cheese making is very similar for all the hard cheeses I've tried so far. Heat the milk, mix in your additives, add your culture, let it ripen, mix in your rennet, let it form the curd, cut the curd, cook the curd then get it ready for molding and drying. I didn't have a big enough mold for the Colby, so I had to make due with a round colander and cheesecloth before I pressed it. The cheese presses under 50 pounds of weight for 8 hours...

It looks pretty good considering! I had to use a cappuccino saucer as my "follower". A follower is a flat round disk that sits on top of your cheese to press it down evenly under the pressure of the weight. So it kind of came out in a flying-saucer shape. Funny smelled a little like that cheese powder used to make boxed macaroni. I hope it doesn't taste like that! It's drying now and I'll seal it in a few days to age for 6 weeks.

I mentioned on my other blog that I treated myself to a vacuum sealer. The Cheddars are covered with an orange coating, that I had a heck of a time with. I hate it! It was touted to be a wax alternative, but doing more research revealed it only keeps the cheese from moulding up for about 6-8 weeks. Since I'm aging my Cheddars up to a year, I would have had to wax them. I did buy wax, but opted for sealing them instead. This way I don't have to worry too much about mould forming. I do have to keep an eye on them though, if I see any moisture, I need to un-seal them, let them dry and seal them again.

The process of sealing slows down the aging a little bit, but people have had great success with the sealing method during aging. Plus it's going to be a wonderful way to preserve food for the freezer. AND...look how it saves room in the cheese cave! Now I can fill it up with many more cheeses! :) I want to become a master cheese maker! My goal is to never have to buy cheese ever again! :)