Monday, July 29, 2019

Cheese Making Goals and Troubleshooting the Cheese Cave

I've come up with my cheese making goals for 2019! I just have to place an order for some fresh cultures and I'm all set to go. I also have to make a schedule so that all of these aren't ready at the same time! I already have three Cheddars aging and I'll make more once the 3-month Cheddar (ready in October) passes the taste test!

My cheese cave is basically a small bar fridge that I try to keep around 10 degrees Celcius. This is a good temperature to age most cheeses. My challenge is to keep it around 10 without the fridge turning off completely. I check every morning to make sure it's not getting too cold in there. This morning it was just under 9 degrees. 

I know that one degree may not seem like much, but I don't want to take any chances with my precious cheeses! I took all of the soda cans out because they tend to keep things colder in there. I also turned the knob down to the position just before it would turn the fridge off. I also put a tea towel in the tray under the freezer. 

An hour later it hit 11.5 degrees! A wee bit warm so I'm going to be fiddling with the knob all day to hit the sweet spot! Someone once said they thought it was funny how I "babysat" my cheese...I'm very passionate about food and creating so yes, I'm proud to be babysitting my cheese!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two More Cheddars and a Sour Cream

I'm happy to say that I'm really into the cheese making lately! I made a sour cream last week for a Mexican Dip and it turned out really well. The Sour Cream Recipe was one that I found for "cream cheese". Technically yes, it IS creamed cheese...but when you're used to the Philly one, it's hard to get used to a non-sweet version. To us, it tastes much more like a sour cream, so that's what we call it.

Notes: I know a lot of folks who make cheese go to the place in New England for their recipes and cultures. I don't like that company at all, I seems sacrilege since they are the biggest and supposedly the most notable. It's very subjective. I got horrible customer service from them and stopped buying their products. I asked one little question about the Camembert that one of the supposed cheese experts posted and he argued with me until the cows came home before his manager had to step in and give me the simple one phrase answer I was looking for, sheesh...

They sell a generic "mesophilic culture" package for most cheeses. So if you follow their recipes, you need to buy their cultures or you may be lost. I say TRY SOMETHING NEW!  I did! Instead of a generic culture, I now use an MM100 culture from the company Danisco. When Alex and I tried this sour cream made with the new culture - we were BLOWN AWAY. It's THAT good. The last few I made with the leftover New England cultures were very sour and a little bit effervescent, which is kind of disturbing...

I also made two more wheels of Cheddar - for a total of three that are aging now. Again, I veered away from the generic stuff and now use an MA11 Culture from Danisco. Though we won't be tasting the first wheel for another 3 months, I turned a failed Cheddar into a poutine cheese and it tasted just lovely. The old Cheddars I made with the generic cultures tasted way too tangy. Again, try different things, do your own research and be brave in your cheese making!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Sealing and Aging My 3-Month Cheddar

Hi Friends :)

After allowing it to air-dry for 3 days, I was able to seal my Cheddar. I was waiting on a new and wider vacuum sealer, and it arrived the day before I was to seal my cheese. As you can see, the recipe I made (see link above) turned out nearly a 1 kilogram wheel of cheese! My overall cost to make this cheese was about $18. The equivalent of cheese we buy (not Kraft!) is about $30, so it's not only cost-effective, it's homemade!

I'm not promoting any products at all; but wanted to share a quick video of the sealing process. By the way, a wide vacuum sealer is SUCH a good frugal investment. You can seal so many things and it preserves them longer. I even seal my coffee to keep it fresh because I buy it in bulk!

Some people wax their cheese, others will use an old-fashioned method of covering the wheel with lard then cheesecloth - and some lucky folks who have a bonafide cheese cave, may not have to seal anything! Since I don't have a cheese cave, I choose to seal my cheeses this way. It helps to keep the cheese from developing mold and so far, it's been a good option while aging.

The only cheeses I don't seal are the "bloomy whites" like Camembert. That needs 90% humidity and sealing it would crush it. But I'll talk about that when I make my annual autumn Cams! :)

This is MY cheese cave! We have a bar fridge and we have converted it to the cheese cave. Most cheeses need to age between 10 and 12 Celcius, so we adjust the temperature to accommodate the cheese aging process.

I used to worry so much about humidity but once the hard cheeses are sealed, I don't have to worry about humidity levels. I do keep a hygrometer in the cheese cave to make sure I have the right temperature though.

I have a handy schedule to remind me to flip the cheese weekly to ensure proper distribution of fats and flavour!

This weekend I'll be making another Cheddar and some Sour Cream too, so stay tuned for more cheesy posts! :)

If ever I see mold on the cheese, I'll simply open it up and wipe it down with a cloth soaked in salt water, let it dry and re-seal it. But honestly, it's not a big deal.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cheddar Cheese (Recipe and Instructions)

UPDATE:  February 2 2020: We tested the 6-month aged Cheddar and it was inedible. I think (at least in my case) that the culprit is the culture MA11. I also tested a 3-month aged Cheddar that I made with MA4002 culture, but it was also tangy. I'm altering the recipe below and the printed recipe to note that. See the taste test post here.

UPDATE:  October 19 2019: I did a taste test of this Cheddar. It was pretty good but it was quite tangy, it could be the culture I used, more experimentation is needed! Click here to see the video!

Hi Everyone :)

Now that my cheesy mojo is back, I thought I'd make a Cheddar cheese! This cheese will be ready in 3 months and I plan on making a Cheddar often for a little while to age at various lengths of time. It's an easy process but you need the right ingredients and equipment and a lot of time!

The key word in this post and in cheese making is GENTLE. You will see what I mean!! :)

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Here are your ingredients:

Cheddar Cheese
(Recipe courtesy of Gavin Webber)

- 10 liters of whole milk
- 1/8 tsp MA11 Mesophilic Culture **Note This culture really made my Cheddars very tangy so I won't be using it again. At this time (February 2020) I have yet to experiment with a better culture. I did make one using MA4002 but again, it was quite tangy.**
- 1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride 
- 1/4 tsp Double Strength Rennet (Coagulant)
- 1 tbsp Cheese Salt (non-iodized salt)
- Cool filtered water

Here is the equipment that I used:

- A pot big enough to hold over 10 liters of liquid
- A double boiler (I used my canning pot)
- A very good and accurate thermometer - digital is best
- Cheesecloth
- Measuring tools 
- Cheese mould
- Slotted spoon
- Long knife the height of your pot (mine is too short!!)

I've divided the process into 5 stages:

1. Mixing the ingredients
2. Caring for the curds
3. Cheddaring and Milling
4. Moulding and Pressing
5. Drying and Aging

I hope you try to make cheese, it's really fun! :)

Stage 1: Mixing The Ingredients

1. In a double boiler over medium low to low heat, warm your milk slowly to 88F. Turn off the burner at about 86F because the double boiler will continue to heat and you don't want it too hot. Mine went up to 90F at one point, but it didn't seem to affect the process at all.

2. Sprinkle your MA11 culture over the milk; cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

At this point, I move my pot from the double boiler into the sink. I have the sink plugged and use tap water (hot or cold) to help maintain the pot of milk at 88F. It acts as a double boiler and it's a lot easier to maintain the temperature this way. I will still use my big pot when I'm ready to cook my curds, but until then, the sink is perfect! 

3. Stir the milk well but gently for about a minute and let sit for 40 minutes.

4. After the 40 minute mark, add your Calcium Chloride to 1/4 cup of cool filtered water and mix well. Set aside. Add your Double Strength Rennet to 1/8 cup of cool filtered water and mix well. Set aside. 

Some people use a colorant called Annato. It's an orange food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree - all natural. I used to use it, but then figured...why do I need my Cheddar to be orange anyway??? :) If you do use it, prepare it at this stage too.

 5. Stir your milk as you add the Calcium Chloride mix. Count to 60 while gently stirring. Do the same with the Rennet mix, count to 60 (over mixing the rennet will mess up the curd formation). If you use Annato, add it before the Calcium Chloride.

6. Let sit for 40 minutes at 88F.

Stage 2: Caring For The Curds

7. Check to see if your curd has formed. Gently push your knife into the formation and pull it out. If it starts to heal quickly, you're good to go! The texture should be like a soft tofu. 

8. Using your long knife, cut your curds into a 1/2 inch grid formation to make cubes. My knife is not long enough for my big old pot, so my curds ended up all messy, not quite like cubes, but that's okay.

9. Cover and let rest 5 minutes.

10. Put your pot back into the double boiler on the stove and cook your curds. Right now your curds should be still around 88F. You want your curds to reach 102F but EXTREMELY SLOWLY while you GENTLY stir them. We are talking over a 40 minute time frame. This means you need to monitor your heat in the double boiler so that you only increase the temperature by 3 degrees or so every 10 minutes. Going too fast during this process will not allow the curds to release enough whey. You want your curds to slowly release the whey so that they turn into little "baked beans"; otherwise you'll end up with a hell of a lot of Ricotta. If you stir too hard, the whey will release too much and you'll have a cheese that will not "knit" together and will never form because it's too dry. This is a crucial step in the process!

Tip: When I noticed the temperature of the curds rising, I'd turn off the heat for a few minutes, then turn it back on - we're talking very low heat. I found it the best way to stop the curds from heating up too fast. And when I say GENTLY stir...pretend you're trying not to burst bubbles!! :)🎈🎈🎈🎈

11.  When you've reached your 102F after 40 minutes have elapsed while you gently stirred your curds, turn off the heat and let the curds sit for 40 minutes in the double boiler to maintain their heat. The curds will drop to the bottom of the pot and (hopefully!) form a slab. **This photo shows the pot out of the double boiler, but please keep it in there!

Stage 3: Cheddaring and Milling

12. The Cheddaring process begins!! To cheddar your curds, drain most of the whey out of the pot then drain in cheesecloth and put the slab back into your pot. (Side note: keep the whey to make Ricotta or to give to your plants). Keeping the pot in the double boiler, cut the curd slab in half, maintaining 102F during the entire cheddaring process. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

**DON'T drain the whey during the cheddaring process, it will dry out your curds too much and they will not form a wheel in your press. Notice I have left some whey in the bottom of the pot during this process.**

13. Turn each slab over, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

14. Turn each slab over, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. (Seeing double lol?)

15. Turn each slab over, cover and let sit for 15 minutes for a total cheddaring time of 45 minutes.

16. Drain your slabs in a cheesecloth lined colander then transfer them to a cutting board. My two halves kind of fell apart and turned into three, no problem. :)

17. Cut the curd slab into cubes.

18. This next step is called "Milling". You break up each cube of curd in half and dump it back into the pot.

19. Add your salt and mix very well but gently with your hands. Milling is done!

Stage 4: Moulding and Pressing

20. Transfer your curds into a cheesecloth-lined mould. My mould is about 7 inches in diameter by 3.5 inches high. Cover the curds with the cheesecloth and then with your follower.

21. Press your curds at 25 pounds for one hour. This is how I set up my press. During the pressing, a little bit of whey will continue to release so you don't want your cheese mould sitting in a pool of whey. I use a roasting pan, put a plastic cutting board into it; then a bamboo place mat.

I then add a plastic mesh mat and place the mould on top.

There is just enough room for a can of evaporated milk on the top of the follower (this will help to push the follower down onto the curds to help it form during the pressing). Alex made me a Cheese Press (see the link for instructions on how to make it.) Next step: I place the top board onto the press.

I tighten the nuts and place my weight of about 25 pounds on top.

I use a level to ensure that the weight is distributed evenly - works like a charm!!

This is what my cheese looks like after one hour of pressing at about 25 pounds.

22. Next step is to GENTLY GENTLY GENTLY remove the cheese from the cheesecloth, turn it over and re-wrap it. The first time I made Cheddar, I wasn't gentle and the whole thing fell apart!

Tip: Have a second piece of cheesecloth ready. Place it on top of your cheese, then place a breadboard on top and pick up the bottom breadboard to flip it that way. It's so much easier than trying to flip it with your hands back into the same piece of cheesecloth, because it's very delicate at this stage!

23. Place your cheese GENTLY in the cloth back into your mould. Put on the follower and press it overnight for about 12 hours at 50 pounds. My water jug weighs 45 pounds full so I added a few dumbbells to make it about 53 pounds.

Stage 5: Drying and Aging

The next morning this was the result. On one side it was all weird looking and I realized that I didn't STRAIGHTEN OUT my cheesecloth! I just jumbled it all up. See the importance of straightening it out? It's not a big deal, it'll still be okay!

The bottom though, looks perfect.

24. The last step is drying and aging. I will air-dry this cheese for 3 days, flipping it twice daily - again GENTLY. I have it set up on a plate with a bamboo mat to give it enough air. I can leave it on the counter because I have doors to close the kitchen (THREE CATS!!). But, before I had kitchen doors, I would simply leave it in the oven with the oven door ajar a bit and it worked fine.

25. The final step is aging. You can age your cheese many ways but I choose to vacuum seal it and put it in my little bar fridge (a.k.a. the cheese cave) at 10 Celsius. I have a small vacuum sealer but it wasn't big enough for the larger wheels of cheese so I ordered this one (about $50). It's 12 inches wide and came with bags already. It arrived this morning and I'll be sealing my cheese tomorrow. This sealer is useful for EVERYTHING not just cheese so it's a good frugal investment! :)

I'll post an update when the cheese is ready to be aged! :)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Homemade Cheese Press

I woke up one morning last week to this surprise. Alex made me a cheese press! And he printed out my web site's name too! :) One of the reasons I stopped making cheese was because my cheeses kept failing. I figured it was one of two reasons:

1. Bad quality cultures and rennet
2. Bad equipment (moulds and press)

OR BOTH. Alex knew how much I missed making cheese, but I was adamant. Until I had the right equipment and ingredients, I wasn't going to waste my time and money. A store bought cheese press can run a person hundreds of dollars so that wasn't in the budget at all!

We watched a video on You Tube. It was this normal every day guy who makes cheese at home and he made his own press. Little did I know I was going to be on the receiving end of my own press too! 😊 We already had a bread board that we weren't using (the bottom one). It had some cracks in it and we were worried about food safety so we stopped using it. But it was perfect for the base of the press. Alex found a spare piece of wood in the basement and mimicked the bread board for the top piece. He drilled holes on each corner of the boards, sanded everything and used mineral oil to cure the wood pieces. 12-inch bolts hold everything together. Total cost was under $20  for the bolts.

He wanted to make sure that my largest mould fit and it wasn't an issue at all. Because he made the top exactly the same as the base bread board (with a handle hole and everything!!), it's very easy to store and use!

I've mentioned that I used to use bricks and my dumbbells before to weigh down the cheese. Well, Alex came up with a better solution. A water jug! He brought down the bathroom scale and we added water and marked the weight starting at 10 pounds. The entire filled water jug weighs 45 pounds. 

I decided that I would dump all of my old ingredients and moulds that I'd bought from a mediocre store and replace them with better ingredients and moulds. I now buy all of my supplies from Glengarry Cheesemaking in Ontario, Canada. I noticed the better quality immediately!

So I was ready to go!

In the above photo I'm making a Cheddar that requires 50 pounds of weight for 12 hours, so I just added my two 4 pound dumbbells to the top to give it about 53 pounds in total. I have a level handy to make sure the weight is well distributed (Alex's idea again!)

I have to say this works like a charm - and on a budget!!! My first wheel of Cheddar is perfectly pressed with no lips, edges or holes.

Cheese making is possible again! I love my man! :) 💘