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! :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cultured Mozza (fail #4!!); Aging Cheeses Update

My curd resting...waiting to be stretched

If at first you don't succeed try-try-try again! My Mozzarella just didn't stretch again. I was chatting with the author of Mastering Basic Cheesemaking and she gave me a few tips which I used this time around, but my curd still wouldn't stretch. She told me that most of the traditional recipes assume you have raw milk...which most people don't have access to. The pasteurization and homogenization of grocery store milk messes up the calcium molecules, making it difficult to form a curd. You simply add Calcium Chloride to try to solve the issues of pasteurization and homogenization to grocery store milks. That helps restore the calcium molecules to help solidify your curd, but that's just one problem solved!

But then there are conflicting suggestions/opinions/advice from other experts saying to NEVER use Calcium Chloride when making Mozzarella because it'll affect the stretch. AAAACK! Who to believe??? By the way, on my first 3 attempts, I DIDN'T use Calcium Chloride, sigh, so neither way worked anyway!

My nice Blogger/Ravelry friend Becki from Field Lilies asked me to explain why Mozzarella needs to be stretched at the end of the process to make it "successful".

Just a note, when I say "failed" I can still eat the cheese. It's not wasted at all, it's just something unexpected!

This is my successful 30-minute Mozzarella
If you are able to achieve a nice stretchy Mozzarella during the cheese making process, it melts nicely when cooked. You get an even coating of cheese and a nice nut-brown colour when it's heated. When you lift it off your pizza for example, you get all the cheesy strand goodness! The texture is pleasing, it's moist and slightly springy which makes it pleasant to eat.

If the curd doesn’t stretch during cheese making, the consistency is very rubbery and too chewy, it takes longer to melt (if it does melt at all), browns too quickly and doesn’t have good stretch when melted on a pizza. Or it could just never form at all, becoming more of a cream cheese or ricotta style cheese. Still edible of course.

What I've learned is that a successful Mozzarella relies not only on calcium molecules being consistent in the milk, it also and more importantly relies on PH levels (which stands for Power of Hydrogen). The ideal PH level for a great Mozza is 5.2. If the acidity (PH) is too low, it will simply pull and tear, but not stretch and become a cream or ricotta type cheese (I think this was my issue). In my photos, this is my curd after 4 hours of ripening and my attempt to see if it was ready during the "stretch test" in boiling water. If the acidity is too high, it will be grainy and fall apart into curds (which was what happened with my attempt number 1).

So what to do? People never used PH meters in the old days!!! But then again, they did have good raw milk...

In the "quick" or 30-minute Mozzarella recipes, you add citric acid at a specific quantity depending on the amount of milk you use. Normally speaking, this is a no fail way to get your acidity to around 5 to 5.2 so that's why the quick recipe works so well. Problem is, it's not "age-able" which is why I wanted to use the traditional method. I want to age it a little so it dries up and I can grate it for pizzas. The traditional method relies on bacterial culture (not citric acid), consistent heat and lots of time to ripen and get the proper acidity levels. This is why it's so tricky because there are so many variables.

Admittedly, I didn't have high hopes this time around. But I am learning a lot. In fact, I ordered a PH meter yesterday so that I could give myself more proper tools and increase my level of success. When I get my PH meter, I'll try a fifth attempt!

But I do have a nice Ricotta now. :) This is my fourth Mozza. Sigh, sigh, sigh. I should be getting the PH meter by the end of the week, so maybe next weekend I'll try another time.

My little angels...:) The 3-month and 6-month Cheddars are doing really well!

The red wine infused Cheddar I made this week is also doing well, but taking a lot longer to dry since it was soaked for 5 hours in the wine. I've moved it to the cheese cave to help it dry up some more before I wax it.

The Dry Jack I made on Tuesday is drying really well. It's developing a nice yellow rind and will sit in the cheese cave for another week or so before I wax it and start the aging process. It smells SO GOOD...

My little cheese cave is getting full! I think my next dilemna will be how to fit more cheese in there...I might need to invest in a full-sized second hand fridge after all!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dry Jack and Red Wine Infused Cheddar; Cheddar News

Second Cheddar Update:

This is my Cheddar that will be aging until Valentine's Day. One thing I must do daily is flip it and check for mold. If there is mold, you gently brush it off (I use a 'mushroom brush' type of scrubber). Well, as I gently brushed off a little dot of mold, look what happened. May I rant??? That cheese coating SUCKS. Anyway, over the last few days I've re-painted that spot and I'm hoping all will be well. 

But this came in the mail today! My first New England Cheese Making Company order. As you see, I ordered cheese wax. So as soon as I have the time, I'm going to wax my first two Cheddars. That way there will be zero chance of mold and I won't have to keep reapplying that darn cheese coating.

Just wanted to mention this. In making my cheese, I've been using a double-boiler method. I decided to follow a different method - the sink method. Oh boy is it easier!! And it's so much more accurate with the temperature. All I have to do is add/remove hot or cold water now and then to/from the sink, to reach my ideal temperature. The milk/curd really holds onto the heat so it's super simple. Plus, the double boiler sometimes raised the temperature too fast and I'd be in a panic trying to move that heavy pot from the stove!

The happy cheese maker lol...Terry I promised a photo of my new hairdo, but this is me at about 8am, so I'm not "red-carpet ready" lol! :) Making the cheese using the sink method allows me to sit too. Each of these cheeses take a good 6-8 hours of work so sitting is welcoming!

Dry Jack

So...Tuesday morning I woke up and looked in the fridge and saw the 24 liters (!!) of milk I'd bought the previous weekend, yeah...6 gallons. That milk took up an entire shelf in the fridge! It was a cool and cloudy I deemed it cheese making day! I started with a Jack Cheese. I'll just include the link because I certainly can't make it look easier than the author of the recipe on her web page! This is a BIG cheese...and I halved the recipe. I didn't have a big enough mold, so I used cheesecloth to drain the cheese, which, after pressing, was very flat. I'll have to add a bigger mold to my next cheese order. It's just for looks though!

I used 10 liters of milk for this cheese and it just all barely fit into my 12 liter pot. My cheese knife could be a little longer! I barely reached the bottom of the pot when I was cutting my curd into cubes! The whole process before pressing took about 6 hours, and now my Jack cheese is drying for the next week or so before I wax it and age it for 8 months! It smells divine...Alex and I are really showing our self-control because we really want to try it!

Any bets that I'll print a label with my Jack on it and stick it on my Jack Cheese? I'll take that bet lol!

More cheese making madness...right after the Dry Jack was pressing, I started on a new Cheddar. I decided I wanted to try a red wine infused cheese. I followed my usual Cheddar recipe, but before pressing, I soaked the curds in 2 cups of red wine. I was making cheese for 13 hours on Tuesday and I was exhausted after but it really was so much fun! This is how it looked after the final pressing on Wednesday morning.

The wheel got soaked in another 2 cups of wine for 5 more hours, then I put it back into the mold to drain a little more. I used an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon for this cheese. I'm actually thinking of buying a vacuum sealer to use instead of the wax would really come in handy for food preservation in general and I've read really good things about it but it would be about another $100 for thought!

How is this for genius? These are dollar-store food protectors for picnics...I saw them the other day and a light bulb lit over my's not the perfect cat barrier, but it works really well!

My new children lol...these are my aging cheeses! The original two Cheddars, my red wine infused Cheddar and my Dry Jack. You can see the size of the Dry Jack compared to the others, twice the size! I haven't quite decided how long I'll age the red wine Cheddar yet, but at least 6 months to maybe a year. I want to read up a little more about how the flavours meld together over time.

So my cheeses so far will be ready to be eaten:
First Cheddar: Halloween
Second Cheddar: Valentine's Day 2018
Wine Infused Cheddar: Valentine's Day 2018 or Labour Day 2018
Dry Jack: May 1st 2018 - May Day

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cultured Mozzarella

This was a week filled with cheese making...failures!!! I guess it has to happen at some point! I mentioned on my Garden Blog that making Mozzarella is falsely labeled an "easy beginner cheese" to start with. WRONG! Depends on the type. My Buffalo-style fresh Mozzarella is a snap to make using the 30-minute recipes.

But Cultured Mozzarella...that's a different story. Cultured just means that you add bacterial culture to it to give it a different flavour and consistency. It's made in a very different way than the 30-minute recipe. It takes a day of dedication! I read that making a cultured cheese would make a drier Mozzarella that I could use for pizza. Well, as you can see, attempt number one turned into a curd. Salvaged, but disappointing. Attempt number two turned into a cauliflower-brain-like glob! I tried two different recipes and followed them word for word, but neither of them stretched. 

This is what Mozzarella should look like at the final stage - stretched out with no breakage. This stage gives the cheese it's nice smooth texture. Mine didn't even come close. I downloaded a few more cheese making books which I'll be reading this week for some answers hopefully. I also emailed the cheese recipe maker for advice. His response was typical of a seasoned cheese maker and I need a "Pro-cheese-maker / Rain cheese-maker" dictionary to figure out what he's talking about!

Each batch was just as time-heavy as the Cheddar, about 8 hours. And this isn't a cheese you can leave alone. I'm really glad I got a new digital thermometer for cheese making! Of course, we can use it for meats too but it's a lifesaver. It has an alarm that goes off if your temperature gets higher than you want. This saved me a few times so I could make sure the cheese didn't overcook.

This was the result of my third attempt at Cultured Mozzarella. I copied the recipe from a book called Making Artisan Cheese by Tim Smith. But like I mentioned above, I followed the recipe and the cheese still didn't stretch. It turned out much better than the first two though, this one stayed together, was smoother and harder. It's in the fridge now and I want to see if I can grate it for pizza, since that was the reason why I tried making it! I feel like if I fail again at the Cultured Mozzarella that I will need a big break...I don't want to get discouraged at all so I'll try an easy Dry Jack cheese first, then see how courageous I am!