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.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Whey too much Whey

Stabilized with gelatin 

I have been experimenting with my yogurt method.. When making yogurt you have a balance to make. To get a solid texture your need to let the pH fall to 4.5. This denatures the proteins and forms a gell and also gives you the tart taste. The very low pH needed to give a solid set also gives an excessive tart for my taset. It also is the point where if the curd is cut the whey will be expelled.

The answer to this commercially if to fill it with stabilizers such as corn starch and to stop the fermentation early. You end up with a tasteless, chalky paste.

You can make either a direct set method where you refrigerate without mixing after fermentation, or after fermentation blend it and then store and refrigerate. The first makes a solid set yogurt but when you cut it it releases a lot of whey and in the second you get a creamy product but it also releases some whey, normally at the bottom of the container.

My solution so far has been to use some gelatin as a stabilizer.

Follow the basic method on my Yogurt page.

Once you have held at 190 F for 10 minutes start to cool.  While cooling swell a satchel of gelatin in 1/2 cup of water. Mix the gelatin into the milk and mix well and cool to 120F.
Add one container of yogurt from the last batch
Incubate for 4.5 hours
Place in the refrigerator over night.

The next morning spoon into individual portions. I find that with the gelatin added there is little whey separation and a solid set. You can reduce the fermentation time and pH to around 5 which gives a milder flavor.

Fruit placed in the bottom will soak up any whey released and make a great snack or breakfast

Fretting about Fetta

Fetta ready for aging 

Fetta is a unique Greek cheese eaten either as a table cheese or crumbled on a salad. It is unique in that it is aged in brine.

Traditionally Fetta is made with goats milk and that was my intent for this batch.

There are various ways to treat commercial milk. Milk is Pasteurized - that is heated to kill the bacteria in the milk and aid in in it shelf life and food safety. One of these methods is called Ultra Pasteurized or UP or UHT. If the milk has had this treatment it will be listed on the package. The process of UP or UHT  is meant to extend the life of the milk, up to 60 days, and is carried out by heating the milk under high pressure and temperature ( 280F for 2 seconds) vs 167F for 15 seconds for standard pasteurization.

While this UP method does do what it was designed to do it also irreparably damages the protein and calcium structure of the milk that  is required for curd formation. To some degree pasteurized milk curd formation can be enhanced with the addition of calcium chloride but for UP/UHT this is normally not enough.

Now I knew all of this but wanted to make a good Goats Milk table Fetta ready for Thanksgiving. The only goat cheese I could find was at Whole Foods and yes it was UP and yes I bought it and no it would not make a curd.

Lesson - Do Not Use UP or UHT Milk - It will not work
So with that lesson confirmed I decided to make a cow milk Fetta. Thanks to Fias Co Farm for the recipe suggestions. The addition of Lipase is an attempt to get that "goat milk taste"


1 gallon of Whole Organic Cows Milk
1/8 tsp Mesophilic Culture
1/8 tsp Lipase
20 drops Calcium Chloride
20 drops Double Strength Rennet


Heat Milk to 88F
Add Lipase, Calcium Chloride in 1/4 cup water and Mesophilic Starter
Hold and mature for 1 hour
Add Rennet in 1/4 cup water, stir for three minutes and rest for 1 hour
Once a clean break is obtained cut the curds into 1/2 inch pieces
Let curds heal for 10 minutes
Stir gently while maintaining at 88F for 45 minutes
Cut and allow to heal for 10 minutes

After 45 minutes at 88F
Transfer Curds to a colander lined with cheese cloth and then hang curds at room temperature for 3 hours

Hang to drain for 3 hours

Unwrap and invest and rehang for 24 hours at room temperature

Invert so that you will get a better shape

Rehang for 24 hours

Unwrap and ready to be cut

Cut curds into roughly 1 inch pieces. Salt all sides and place in a air tight container at room temp for three days. Curds will continue to loose whey and toughen up. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar or use whey to ensure that the pH is <5. This will ensure that the surface of the cheese does not go soft and slimy.

Salt all sides

Add vinegar or whey to keep pH <5

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gouda with Sage

Gouda with Sage

Waxed and ready for aging

Gouda is one of the best "washed curd" cheeses. The concept of these semi hard and mild cheeses is that during the curd cooking, whey is removed and replaced with hot water. Thne water both contributes the gentle increases in temperature that is idea for progress whey release from the curds and lactose and lactic acid is washed from the curds. The result is a mild cheese that gradually increases in taste with age.

Various versions have fat levels that range from 2.5% fate in the initial milk (half way between 2% and full cream). For this one I am using full cream organic pasteurized milk.

I want the minty and peppery tast of sage but not the over the top green veins of a Sage Darby. To achieve this I am going to use dried and powdered sage mixed into a slurry and drizzled through the curd - we will see.......

1 gallon milk
20 drops Calcium Chloride solution in 1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon of Mesophilic Culture
20 drops double strength Rennet in 1/4 cup water
6 cups water at 130F


Heat milk to 90 F
Add calcium Chloride
Add Mesophilic Starter and mature for 45 minutes
Add Rennet mix for 3 minutes and mature for 45 minutes
Cut curds to 1/2 inch
Heal Curds for 5 minutes
Gently mix for 5 minutes
Drain 2 cups of whey and replace with 2 cups of 130F water and stir for 5 minutes
Drain 2 cups of whey and replace with 2 cups of 130 F water and stir for 10 minutes
Drain 2 cups of whey and replace with 2 cups of 130 F water and stir for 30 minutes
Settle for 5 minutes and drain whey into cloth
Crack and vein with sage
Hand and drain at room temperature for 60 minutes
Place in cloth lined form and press for 10 minutes 1 lbs
Unwrap flip and replace and press for 10 minutes at 2 lbs
Unwrap and flip and replace and press for 3 hours at 5 lbs
Unwrap and place in 20% brine for 3 hours
Dry and rub surface with salt
Dry at 55F for 3 days
Wax and age at 50-55 F for 2-6 months

Cut the curds then let then "heal" for 5 minutes

Remove 1/3 of the Whey and replace with 130 F hot water  to wash the curds - repeat three times

Drain the curds, add sage and hang to drain


Flip and repeat

My home made press - remember water is 8 lbs per gallon so you can calculate the weight

After pressing and 3 hours in a salt brine - all surfaces rubbed with salt and read for 3-5 days at 55F to dry

After one week of drying, prep for wax. Melt wax

Dip in the wax

Rotate 1/4 turn and redip and continue until coated

Completed and ready for aging at 50 F for 60 days min

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Farmhouse Cheddar with pink peppercorns and paprika

Waxed and ready for the Christmas table in a few months

The classical farmhouse cheddar was made in a kettle oven an open fire - that will be a project for another day. Today its all about getting ready for Christmas. I want to make several cheeses that will look good together on a platter and be ready at the same time and easy and interesting for the Christmas group to enjoy.
You can see the veins of paprika - more inside 

The first will be this colorful (I hope) Farmhouse Cheddar with Pink Peppercorns and Paprika Swirls all coated in red wax - should look great as a wedge on the cheese plate and will go well with a peppery Pinot.


1 gallon full cream organic milk
20 drop calcium chloride solution
1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic Starter
20 drops double strength vegetable rennet


Prepare all ingredients and materials and give it all a spray with vinegar to disinfect
Place 1 tablespoon of Pink Pepper corns in 1 cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes, drain and keep both water and pepper corns separately.

Heat milk to 90 F
Add cooled water from pepper corns
Add calcium chloride dissolved in 1/4 cup water
Add Mesophilic Starter and mature for 45 minutes
Add rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup water
Mix well top to bottom for 3 minutes
Hold at 90 with lid on for 45 minutes until a clean break is obtained
Cut the curds in to 1/2 inch cubes
Mix gently and place in a water bath and raise the temperature 1-2 degrees every 5 minutes with gentle stirring
Allow to settle for 5 minutes
Drain whey and curds into a cheese cloth
Hand for 60 minutes at room temperature to drain
Unwrap and mill to 1/2 pieces
Mix is 1/2 tablespoon flake salt and pink pepprcorns
Crack the curd cake into several large pieces
Add streaks of paprika
Place in cheesecloth and into press form

Press for 10 minutes at 10 lbs
Remove unwrap, flip, re wrap and place back in press for 10 minutes at 20 lbs
Remove unwrap, flip, re wrap and place back in press for 12 hours at 50 lbs
Unwrap and surface dry at 55 F for one week turning each day until a light dry rind has formed
Wax and age at 55 for 60 days minimum, 6 months for a sharper cheese.

Prep and disinfect all ingredients

Add pepper corns 


Cut the curds

Slowly increase temp to 100 in a water bath

Drain for 60 mins

Remove and add to peppercorns and salt

Add paprika

After 12 hours in the press and ready for a week of drying

After a week the cheese is dry and ready to wax

Choose a saucepan where the wax can be dipped 1/2 the cheese height

Use a natural bristle brush to make sure all surfaces are covered

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sage Darby

We have a great crop of sage in the herb garden - in the next couple of weeks I will use it to make a great pepper and sage Darby

Base recipe
Derby Cheese
This cheese, pronounced "Darby" originated in the country of Derbyshire, England. It is similar to cheddar but has higher moisture content and ages more quickly.

I made this cheese last winter and we enjoyed it but it wasn't spectacular. In fact, most of my cheese was good, but not spectacular. This year, I started using my clabber/buttermilk in place of mesophilic starter culture. This cheese went from mediocre to great. In fact, since I am terrible at letting cheese age, I tested it at two weeks and it was really good. I can't wait to see what it tastes like with a little age on it. Well, that's assuming I can actually get some age on wheel before eating it all! 


  • Preparation time: 4 Hours
  • Pressing Time: 26 Hours
  • Aging Time: 1-2 Months
  • Makes 4 pounds

  • 4 gallons of whole milk
  • 2 cubes or 1/4 c mesophilic starter culture (I use buttermilk/clabber)
  • 1/2 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1/4 cup salt

  • Heat milk to 84 degrees F. Add starter culture, mixing well. Cover and let ripen 30 minutes.
  • Add dissolved rennet, stirring well. cover and let sit 45 minutes.
  • Cut the curd into 1/2" cubes.
  • Heat slowly to 94 degrees, stirring the curds by hand. This should take 30 minutes.
  • Let the curds settle for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the whey and allow curds to sit in colander for 30 minutes.
  • Cut into four slabs. Stack slabs on top of each other, reversing their order every 20 minutes for one hour.
  • Tear slabs into pea sized pieces. Sprinkle 1/4 cup salt over curds. Mix well.
  • Pack curds into a cheesecloth lined mold.
  • Apply 10 pounds pressure for one hour. Flip and repack. Apply 10 pounds pressure for one hour. Flip and repack. Apply 50 pounds pressure for 24 hours.
  • Air dry cheese on a mat for several days until dry to the touch. Turn twice a day.
  • Wax cheese and age it for 1-2 months at 50-55 degrees turning it twice a week.