Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

Heating the milk.
OK, it's not actually one of the Beatitudes, it's from Monty Python, but I am sure there have been blessings bestowed on the most patient people in the food service business... the cheesemaker.  Last week I began my journey to actually become a Cheesemaker.  I attempted to make Chevre, a fresh cheese made from goat's milk.  I had acquired some fresh goat's milk and took a leap.  OK, it didn't turn out quite as expected, I didn't give up and took a different route and finally the cheese developed.  I have to admit it was a bit grainy and crumbly, but had a nice flavor to it.

Last night I inoculated another gallon of goat's milk for another go at it, only this time I made some Feta cheese.  I have always loved Feta (a Greek or Mediterranean white, somewhat salty, cheese that's used more in cooking and salads than eaten alone) I could never get enough of it at Greek restaurants.  They always act like it's their personal lunch they brought to work, serving tiny microscopic granules when you order extra.

Culturing the milk.
Cheesemaking is less like cooking and more like a science experiment, to me at least.  To get the right outcome you need to follow the procedure.  I guess you can experiment but you can waste some valuable milk.  My first batch of Chevre I used a powdered culture that had the rennet included.  This batch of Feta I used buttermilk to set it and liquid rennet to separate it.  What does that mean?  Let look at the process of making nearly any cheese.

1. Heat the milk...
This prepares the milk to accept the culture and allows the culture to go to work.  Different temperatures depending on the cheese and the type culture used.

2. Add a culture...
A culture is live bacteria that is making changes to the milk's PH, allowing the lactic sugars to convert to lactic acid.  It also turns the milk to create different tastes and flavors.  There are several types of cultures, for different types of cheeses.


Set into curds and whey.
3. Wait a bit...
After inoculating the milk, you need to let it sit for a bit.  Sometimes a temperature needs to be maintained.

4. Add the rennet...
Rennet is an enzyme used to cause the milk to separate into curds and whey, just like Miss Muffet dined on.  Rennet comes in several different types, the most popular are animal and vegetable rennet.  They basically do the same thing.  The milk turns into a yogurt-like consistency with a layer of yellow water-like liquid floating on top, that's the whey.

5. Wait a bit more...
The rennet needs time to coagulate the milk.


Cutting the curds.
6. Cut the curds...
The resulting mass of curds are cut into small cubes using a knife or what's known as a cheese harp. This allows the curd to expel more water and densify.  Some cheeses aren't cut, but just scooped out in lumps into the molds.

7. Drain the curds...
The curds are scooped or poured into a mold, sieve, or cloth to let the whey drain off.  Every kind of cheese does this differently.  Some cheeses like Emmentaler or Parmesan use a wooden hoop with a muslin cloth to bind the cheese.  Some cheeses are pressed into a mold using weights to squeeze out any whey and compress the cheese.

8. Drying the cheese...
Some cheeses are dried on the outside to form the rind or to solidify.  Some are then dipped in wax or bound with cloth.  The cheeses are usually turned regularly for a few days.

9. Ripening the cheese...
This is when the cheese is put into the "Cave" to age.  A cave can be a cool, moist room, a wine cooler that can be adjusted in temperature, or a real cave.  The real cave option is where it get's it's name.  It is pronounced calve, as in "the cow is ready to calve"  Some cheeses are ready in a month or so and some go for years.  Longer aging intensifies the flavor.

Some cheeses are eaten fresh, these are the cheeses that are better to learn to make than buy.  Some cheeses are brined as they age, where some are brushed or smeared with brandies and porters to affect the flavor and bouquet.  The varieties are endless.  The key to making good cheeses are great quality milk and sanitary utensils and conditions.  Patience is always a virtue when making cheese.  So how can you make cheese?  Well I will pass along this recipe, you can find it easily online from many sources.

Feta Cheese Ingredients

1 gallon goat's milk (fresh is better, do not use ultra-pasteurized)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp rennet (obtained online)
1/4 cup unchlorinated water
1 - 2 tbs sea salt (non iodized)
Cheese cloth or light muslin
Stainless steel stock pot to hold milk
Slotted spoon
Colander or sieve
Stainless steel bowl
Meat thermometer (not candymaker's thermometer)
Large knife
Measuring spoons

The girls.  They're so sweet.
Set milk out on counter for about an hour before you start.  Put all metal utensils in stock-pot and fill with water. Bring water to a rolling boil to sterilize the utensils.  Plug the drain on the sink.  Remove utensils from pot and let dry on a piece of clean parchment paper, pour water into sink and set pot down into water.  Pour milk into the pot while it's still warm.  Stir using the slotted spoon until the temperature reaches 86 degs.  Add the buttermilk and stir well.  Remove pot from sink and set on stove (off) or counter and let rest for 1 hour.

After an hour, add 1/4 tsp of rennet to the 1/4 cup of cold water.  Mix well and add only 2 tbs of this water with rennet to the milk.  Stir with slotted spoon in an up and down motion for about 30 seconds to mix the milk well.  Don't stir hard or fast just thoroughly.  Let milk rest for another hour.  When an hour has passed, remove the lid and see what has happened.  The milk will look like yogurt with a layer of yellowish liquid on it.

Congratulations, you have made curds and whey.  Now take a knife and cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern, once cut, take your slotted spoon and slowly stir the curds for 15 mins. For an illustration of how curds should be cut, click HERE!

Set your colander or sieve on the bowl, drape the cloth over top of the colander.  If using cheese cloth, be sure to use about 3 layers.  Dip, scoop, spoon or pour the curds and whey into the cloth-lined colander.  Next, pull up the four corners of the cloth and tie them in a knot.  Use a piece of string to hang this onto a kitchen cabinet handle over the sink.  Let the cheese drain for 6-8 hours.  remove from cloth and you have a big ball of cheese of around a pound.  Slice this into 4 equal pieces and sprinkle the salt evenly on the pieces, then place in a Tupperware type container.

Let the cheese sit in the container for about 24 hrs. and drain off the resulting liquid every 3 or 4 hrs. and resalt pieces.  After the 24 hours, place the container in the fridge for as long as you can last without eating it.  A day or two should be fine.  You might want to adjust your salt up or down.  Please use salt either way, it is a preservative plus helps the cheese expel whey.  I found a video that is similar to our method, you can see it by clicking HERE!

I know this post got a little long but I had a lot to say.  I want to thanks a friend from my high school days Lisa Melvin Moreno of  Blaine TN for teaching me this method of making this delicious cheese.  She invited me up to their farm and we had cheese, I got my goat milk, had a sip of moonshine or two, and got to meet her animals including her sweet 2-3 month old baby goats.  Her little doggie, Gordo, conducted the tour of the compound.  Lisa has a wonderful family and nice healthy, happy animals.

If I have left something out feel free to ask me at RouxBDoo@gmail.com.  Have fun chesemaking!

RouxBDooooooooo!!!

3 comments:

  1. I admire you. I've been wanting to do it but am too chicken.

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