Adventures in Cheesmaking

This all started out as a curiosity. Like most stuff we eat there is a rich history behind it. Centuries of experimentation. Cheese is just another example.

From the horse back tribes of the Asian Steppes to the Silk Road camel caravans to Romans Legions to European Monks to today, milk was a great source of nutrition but spoiled quickly and was heavy to transport.

The answer was cheese.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A summer classic - Fresh Cheese coated with Verdant Kitchen Ginger Bits coated

A day by the pool, a cold crisp Prosecco.....and fresh cheese rolled in mild, sweet and warm, young ginger bits. Oh my this is special.

Now it is really easy. You will need:

1 Gallon of Milk (I used whole 365 organic milk from Whole Foods)
20 drops of liquid rennet
20 drops of calcium chloride
1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic starter and if you don't have that 1/4 cup butter milk
Cheese Cloth
1 big pot with a lid
Somewhere to hang it
1 2oz bag of Verdant Kitchen - Beachcomber Ginger Bits

OK so you need to start this Friday evening to enjoy it around the pool on Sunday afternoon.

Add one gallon of whole milk to a pot and stir in 20 drops calcium chloride mixed in 1/4 water
Stir in mesophilic starter
Let it sit on the counter for one hour and then add 20 drops of liquid rennet mixed in 1/4 cup water and mix in well.
Let sit for 12 hours, overnight, at room temp (75 F)

After 12 hours it will have formed a solid curd. Cut the curd in both directions with a knife that reaches the bottom of the pot and then again at 45 degrees. Once you are done it should look like this
These are about 1/2 inch pieces

Ladle it into a collander lined with cheese cloth - I used two pieces of cheese cloth to make roughly 2* 3/4 lb of fresh cheese.

I split it into two

You want to hang it for 12 hours to drain and culture at room temp. Then unwrap it, invert the ball of fresh cheese and rehang it for another 12 hours.

When you are done you have a soft, creamy fresh cheese.

All drained


I then take some plastic food wrap, divide it into four and put them in the refrigerator to firm up

OK now for some fun. Take one out of the refrigerator and roll it in your favorite coating. Given that it is a summer day by the pool I went for  dried fruits and ginger.

I did two variations both with Beachcomber Ginger Bits, it gives a mild, sweet and warm background. Just a magic complement to the sweet fresh cheese. The first had some dried papaya and pineapple diced.

Dice and add the ginger

Coat all sides

The second one had just ginger

OK Yes I ate the end from this...

Put them back in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

They both went well with some crackers and fruit. The ginger only one has an amazing and subtly taste. We also had it with some wildflower honey from our friends at Atlanta Honey - this was really special. The mild floral honey complemented the ginger.

Great by itself

and even better with Honey

Oh and as you can see this one didn't make it to the afternoon and wine, a cappuccino made on the excellent Savannah Blend from our friends at Savannah Coffee Roasters 

                                                                 Live Well - Eat Well

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I have a new favorite - Neufchâtel - old world new world

I have previously made Neufchatel and loved the fresh version. This time I plan to make once master batch then split in two; east once fresh and age the other for a few weeks and see if I can reproduce the classic french style with a bloomy crust and creamy center.

1 gallon whole organic milk
Heat to 75 f
Add 20 drops calcium chloride in 1/2 cup water
Add 1/8 tsp mesophilic starter
Ad 1/8 tsp Penicillium candidum

Hold for one hour

Add 20 drops double strength renet in 1/2 cup water

Leave 12 hours at 70f

Cut curd into 1/2 inch cubes

Rest for 30 minutes

Split into two

Ladle into cheesecloth and hang to drain for 12 hours then invert
For additional 12 hours

Use one fresh. Press into a shape  mold and cover with
pepper and/or paprika

Ready for Thanksgiving

Store one as 2 molds at 50 f for 2 weeks on bamboo
Until a rind forms.

Firm at 2 weeks - I am guessing another week or two and it would
be even better. Mild and buttery, the rind is just blooming. This is a
great cheese!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gorgonzola - great plans but a sad ending

So I was really looking forward to this one. I ordered my Penicillium roqueforti, got my biggest pot ready...ahhh I could taste it.

I based this on Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking book which has never disapointed so I am going to assume that I did something wrong with the salt. The end product did not develop mold and was way toooo salty, not edible...

I followed the recipe or so I thought

2 gallons of whole milk
Pinch of Penicillium roqueforti
Mesophilic starter 1/8 teaspoon
0.5 teaspoon double strengt liquid rennett
2 tablespoons cheese salt


Batch 1
Heat 1 gallon of milk to 86 F and add mesophilic and blue mold - hold for 30 minutes
Dilute rennet and add with stiring
Let sit for 45 minutes at 86 F
Cut curds and place in cheese cloth and drain overnight

Batch 2
The next day repeat the steps above to make a second batch but drain for only one hour.

Cut Batch 1 into 1 inch cubes and in a second bowl do the same to the second batch

Add 2 tablespoons of salt to each batch (next time I will only add one to each)

The method is to fill a 2 pond mold with the dry material from Batch 1 in the center and the wetter Batch 2 on the outside. PLace the mold on a cheese mat and hold at 55-60F and flip every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Flip several times over 3 days.

Remove from the mold and rub with salt daily for 4 days and hold at 55F and 85% humidity.

Using a pin or knitting needle pierce top and sides

Hold at 55F for 30 days and then for 30 days at 50F. Scrape the surface free of excess mold 

Age for 3 months longer and it is ready to eat.

The cheese had some blue mold start to form during aging but by two months nothing. Perhaps it was the Penicillium roqueforti, but I don't think so. It was just so salty, it was also a bit too dry and crumbly which might indicate low humidity on stroage. I think I will contact Ricki and see what she thinks.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fetta - all dressed and ready to eat

I have been experimenting with storage and use of the Fetta produced following the method earlier on the blog. Fetta is best know in the US as a crumbles on a salad, but it can be a lot more than this. Allowed to age for a month or more in brine and then transferred to a good olive oil and infused with herbs and spices it become a wonderful table cheese.

Mozzarella - update on microwave method

I made another batch of Mozzarella based on the fast microwave method that I have outlined earlier on this blog. A few extra suggestions:

- Don't use any calcium chloride during production. It is not needed for the acid precipitation and can inhibit the stretching process
- After you start to heat it in the microwave make sure you keep pressing out and removing the whey
- Persist with the heating and kneading. The more you work it the better it gets.
- You will need to wear gloves. The temperature that is needed to get the cheese glossy and stretchy is over 140 F
- I have had a range of problems with the product going slimy on storage. This often happens to Mozzarella and Feta. A few things I have tried include storing in whey, adding a 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid and a few drops of calcium chloride. Mostly this seems to be the result of loss of calcium from the cheese. In fact it is pretty hard to stop and much harder with this fast production method. One solution is to make it as a log and not the traditional balls and vac seal or wrap tightly in cling wrap or store in olive oil.

Neufchâtel - a US take on a classic

One of the soft fresh cheeses, Neufchatel traces it's history back to the Normandy in France. The French product is classically old in a heart shaped mold  with a rind similar to a Camembert and a salty sharp taste.
Neufchatel 1.jpg
French Neufchatel - note the bloomy rind similar to Camembert 

 The US version is a very different product.

Various references suggest that in 1872, while marking Neufchatel with lower fat milk a William Lawrence of Chester, New York produced a cream cheese alternative - what every the exact history the US product is most defiantly not Neufchatel but is most defiantly delicious.

Eaten fresh (0-2 weeks) this is a mildly fermented soft and creamy cheese that is ideal for use as a spread or as a replacement for cream cheese. What I like about it is that it has a lower fat level and a slightly fuller taste that cream cheese. This one was based on whole milk at 3.5% butterfat rather than cream at 12-18% butterfat.

The process is interesting in that the milk is fermented at a low temperature  (room temp) for up to 24 hours and then drained for a similar time - the result is a soft and creamy cheese with a mild flavor that continues to develop and firm across time.

1/2 gallon whole organic milk
1/16 tsp mesophilic direct set starter
10 drops calcium chloride
10 drops double strength liquid rennet
cheese cloth
1 tablespoon cheese salt

pH strips
cheese mat
yogurt maker



Warm milk to 75 F

Dilute and add rennet and calcium chloride, add mesophilic starter and stir for  3 minutes

Transfer to a yogurt maker or a container that will allow the milk to ferment at 70 F

Ferment for 24 hours, a soft curd  had formed , similar to a firm set yogurt

The pH of the curd was 4.5-5.0

Line a colander with cheese cloth and add curds

AT 24 hours the curds had drained

Unwrap curds, place ion a bowel and add a tablespoon of cheese salt, mix well

Add herbs and form into logs or balls.  The cheese is very creamy. I found that forming it  in cling wrap into logs , with the use of a draining mat or into balls helped. 

It was all good but I think my favorite was the  when I mixed capers into the cheese and then rolled it in fresh cracked pepper - yum. The vote from the cheese tasters went to the fresh chives that were incorporated into the cheese and then rolled in chives.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Kefir Grains
When I first became interested in cheese it was from reading about the Mongols. They milked their mares and sheep and carried the milk in leather pouches often made from the stomachs of animals. No doubt the rennet caused it to coagulate along with the natural flora in the milk decreasing the pH.

Something else happened in the Caucasus Mountains. Here milk that was being fermented also had strains of yeasts and these yeasts and bacteria produced a  stable casein conglomerate that has become know as "Milk Kefir Grains"

These grains are added to fresh milk and allowed to ferment for 12-24 hours. The result is a complex blend of probiotics with a pH of around 4.5-5 so it is tangy and thick. It has a slight alcohol and acetyl smell and taste. If fermented closed it will be slightly effervescent.

Kefir can be purchased at most supermarkets and fresh food places but is often a cultured product and not one fermented from the casein grains.

The grains grow in volume across time so every 10 days or so you can split the culture and eat it, flush it or give it to a Kefir friend.

I ordered my Milk Kefir from Marilyn Kefirlady - you can order some your self. Marilyn delivered exactly what she promised and has a unique payment system that I really appreciated.

Just as suggested I added 2 cups of milk and fermented for 12 hours - pH was less than 5 and a slight separation of curds and a slight alcohol odor and taste.  I am not sure I liked it but I am going to persist and try some different times and ratios of grains and milk and see what happens...stay tuned