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Cheese making 101

Cooking with Bacteria

Giles fitz Alan
Cheese is a result of the action of acid, either produced by bacteria or externally introduced, and sometimes rennet, causing the milk fats and other solids to separate from the liquid, then called whey. The whey is drained away leaving what became known as cheese. This process took place naturally before the days of pasteurization. Since then, unless you are using milk straight from the source, the desired bacteria must be added back into the milk.

Cheeses, especially the soft varieties, have been made for thousands of years. Some of the oldest are a European cheese known as quark, and a Middle Eastern cheese known as labneh. Both are made from milk soured to a curd by bacterial action. Rennet set cheese has been known since the Roman civilization. The Romans knew of Swiss type cheese in the first century. Gorgonzola, an Italian blue mold ripened cheese, is documented to 876. King Charles of France legislated in 1070 that the only blue mold ripened cheese that could legally be sold as Roquefort, was that made in the Roquefort region of France. Cheddar cheeses have been made in England since the early 16th century. Both Muenster and Parmesan are mentioned in a 16th century German cookbook. Ricotta is documented in 1550 by the painting The Ricotta Eaters. In period soft cheeses like those known today as cream cheese or Neufchatel were eaten on a daily basis. Hard aged cheeses were considered unhealthy, so were eaten less frequently, and then usually at the end of a meal to seal the stomach so that digestion could take place more easily.

Types of Cheese
Cheese comes in three basic varieties: soft, fresh, and aged or ripened. All soft cheeses are fresh, and most are produced using little or no rennet. These cheeses are usually produced by bacterial action that raises the acid levels high enough that the milk solids coagulate into a solid mass called curd. The liquid, or whey, is drained away leaving the curd, which is now called cheese. Salt is usually added; often other spices and herbs are added. Soft cheeses readily assume flavor from added herbs and spices. Most fresh cheeses are produced by a combination of acid produced by bacteria and rennet. This produces a firmer curd that is usually pressed into a mold to form a cheese. This type of cheese is normally eaten immediately, or aged only a few days. Aged and ripened cheeses are produced in the same manner as fresh hard cheeses. In many cases these cheeses contain additional bacteria or molds to add flavor as the cheese ages. As the cheese ages, bacterial action converts the remaining lactose into lactic acid, making the cheese sharper, and allows any additional bacteria or mold to grow, adding flavor to the end product.

Making Cheese the Basic Ingredients

Milk This is the basic ingredient in cheese. It can be pasteurized milk from the local market or milk straight from the cow. It can be skim, 2%, whole, or even non-fat dry milk. It should not be ultra-pasteurized! This super heating process nearly destroys the milk by bonding the fats and proteins to the liquid to inhibit spoilage, a process on which cheese making is highly dependant. Bear in mind that the fat content of your milk will affect the yield of cheese from the milk. Mesophilic Culture This is a bacteria culture that is used to ripen the milk before addition of rennet. It normally contains streptococcus (lactococcus) lactis and streptococcus (lactococcus) cremoris. These bacteria thrive at temperatures below 105F. Thermophilic Culture This is another bacteria culture that is used to ripen milk prior to the addition of rennet. This culture normally contains streptococcus thermophilis; sometimes streptococcus helveticus is added. These bacteria do best at temperatures above 110F. Rennet This is an enzyme solutions usually containing either rennin or chymosin. It is derived from a calfs stomach, certain plants, or a type of mushroom. Acids Normally additional acids are citric or tartaric acid. Often these will come from citric fruit juices, vinegars, or wine, but refined acids in powder form are available today.

Additional Ingredients
Lipase Powders These can be added for additional flavor. Lipase and italase will add a certain sharp flavor to cheeses. Other Bacteria Other forms of bacteria such as brevibacteria linens, added to muenster, brick, and limburger, or propionic shermanii, added to swiss, are used for flavor and effect. Molds Penicillium camemberti, candidum, and roqufortii are added to certain cheeses for their flavor and effect on the consistency of the final product. Calcium Chloride This is frequently added to homogenized milk to aid in the production of curd.

The Process
There are 10 basic steps involved in making cheese. Depending on the type of cheese being made some of these may be omitted.

Ripening the Milk This is the process of building acid in the milk to help the rennet create a curd. The milk is raised to a particular temperature according to the recipe for the desired cheese. This temperature is usually between 80F and 95F. The bacteria culture is added and the milk is allowed to stand until the required acid level is reached. This too depends on the type of cheese being produced. Setting the Curd Rennet is added to the acidified milk, and mixed very well. The mixture is allowed to stand until a condition known as clean break is reached. After the curd is formed the mixture will resemble yogurt or thick sour cream. Inserting a clean finger or large diameter glass thermometer into the curd at a 45 angle, then removing it straight up through the curd can determine whether a clean break has been reached. The curd should break around the object cleanly leaving little or no curdled milk on the test object. Cutting the Curd The mass of curd is cut into to cubes. This is done with a long sharp knife. The curd should be cut uniformly in one direction. The pot is then turned 90 and the curd is cut again. You should now have a checkerboard pattern of cuts in the curd. The curd knife is now inserted at a 45 angle to the original cuts and drawn along the original cut lines, cutting the curd into, more or less, uniform cubes. This is important for uniform drainage of the whey, and uniform cooking of the curd. It is important you avoid crushing the curd. This will cause excess loss of milk proteins, reducing the yield and moisture content of the cheese. Cooking the Curd This is the point when the curd is raised to a particular temperature, according to the cheese recipe, and possibly maintained at that temperature. The temperature and time depend on the type of cheese desired. It is important that the temperature is not raised to quickly; this will case harden the curd, trapping excess whey and resulting in a wet or weeping cheese. During the initial cooking the temperature of the curd is usually raised no more the 2F every 5 minutes. Cheese that contains excess moisture may rot during ageing. Just 2 or 3 degrees difference in cooking temperature or 5 or 10 minutes difference in cooking time will make a noticeable difference in the moisture content and consistency of the cheese. Draining / Washing the Curd The whey is drained from the curd through cheesecloth. For some cheeses finer cheesecloth, known as butter muslin, is used to avoid loss of fine curd. In many cases the whey is simple poured off the settled curd. For some milder cheeses the curd is washed to remove even more of the whey. Save the whey for other recipes, or for making whey cheeses, such as ricotta. Salting the Curd Salt should be mixed uniformly into the drained curd. Salt is important for both flavor and for preservation during the ageing process. The salt will inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria and mold, and will help mellow the acid produced during ageing. What may seem to be a lot of salt will not necessarily result in salty cheese. Some cheese calls for brining rather than salting the curd.

Pressing the Cheese The curd is packed into a cheesecloth lined mold and pressed under varying amount of pressure, for varying amounts of time, depending on the cheese. The cheese is usually removed from the mold, redressed, returned to the mold, and pressing is continued under increasing amounts of pressure until the process is complete for that particular cheese. Brining the Cheese Some cheese recipes call for soaking the cheese in brine rather than sating. This is usually a saturated salt solution made from 2 cups (1 lb.) of salt dissolved in 1 gallon of water. The cheese may be soaked in the brine for 6 to 24 hours depending on the recipe. Do not throw away your brine after removing the cheese. It can be boiled, strained, and used for brining other cheese. Waxing / Bandaging the Cheese Applying a coat of wax, or wrapping the cheese in a layer of cheesecloth will inhibit the growth of undesirable mold and prevent excess moisture loss during the ageing of the cheese. Cheese wax can be applied by either painting the cheese with a natural bristle brush dipped in the molten wax, or by dipping the cheese into the molten wax. Refrigerating the cheese first will encourage the wax to harden more readily. When bandaging, three pieces of cheesecloth are cut, two circles about 1 in diameter larger than the wheel of cheese, and one as wide as the cheese is tall, and about 1/3 longer than the circumference of the cheese. The circles are applied to the ends of the cheese wheel and coated with lard or other grease, and the strip is applied around the cheese and sealed with grease. Ageing the Cheese Finally the cheese is aged. The temperature and humidity of the ageing cellar depend on the cheese, as does the time. The cheese should be turned daily during the first few weeks of ageing, and two or three times a week after that. Ageing temperatures range from 45F to 65F, and ageing times run from 6 weeks to several years.

Cleanliness is very important in cheese making; remember, bacteria and mold do most of the work. When making fresh cheeses this is a little less important because there is less time for undesirable bacteria to grow. Try to make cheese under near laboratory conditions. Sterilize all of your equipment using steam or boiling water, or with an effective sanitizer. If you use a sanitizer be sure to rinse the equipment thoroughly. Any trace of sanitizer or detergent will affect the action of both the bacteria and rennet.

Soft, Acid Set Cheese

This is the type of cheese made in class. This is the simplest type of cheese to make. It requires only milk, heat, and an acid source. In general to make this type of cheese, heat the milk to between 175F and 200F, add the acid, and wait about 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer lined with butter muslin to recover the curd. Hang the cheesecloth and drain until the cheese reaches the desired consistency. Salt and/or herbs

and spices can be added either before or after the cheese is hung to drain. Lemon juice, vinegar, or wine can be used as an acid source. The acid in cup of lemon juice or cup of vinegar is sufficient to curdle 1 gallon of milk. A gallon of milk will yield about a pound of cheese. About 1 teaspoon of salt can be added per pound of cheese for flavor. Higher temperature will cause the curd to be a little harder. Temperatures above 195F will cause the cheese to resemble ricotta; those on the lower end yield a softer, more spreadable cheese. When this cheese is made slightly hard it can be cut into cubes and used very much like bean curd (tofu). This cheese very readily assumes the flavor of herb and spices, whether soft or hard.

Soft, Lactic (Acid Set) Cheese

This category of cheese also includes cultured buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt as well as cream cheese and other soft cheeses such as quark and labneh. To make these cheeses the base, either milk or cream, is raised to a temperature between 80F and 120F, and a bacterial starter culture is added. This temperature is usually maintained for up to 24 hours, producing a curd that ranges from a thick liquid to custard like curd. Depending on the desired product, the whey may or may not be drained from the curd.

Soft Rennet Cheese

This type of cheese includes many types of cream cheese, and the neufchatel family of cheese. This type of cheese is made by heating the base to a temperature between 80F and 100F, then adding the bacteria culture(s) and diluted rennet. The mixture is held at the proper temperature for up to 18 hours. The whey is drained, and sometimes forced under low pressure, usually in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 pounds.

Semi-soft Rennet Cheese

This is a fair amount of the aged cheese that is available, such as blue, muenster, or feta, and many fresh cheeses like farmers cheese. For this type of cheese one heats milk to between 80F and 100F; the bacteria culture is added and the milk is usually allowed to ripen for 10 minutes to 2 hours before adding the rennet. During this period the bacteria in the culture are converting the lactose in the milk into lactic acid. After sufficient acid is present in the milk the rennet is added, and the milk is allowed to stand until the curd forms. Normally this will take between 30 minutes and an hour. The curd is cut into uniform pieces, cooked at between 95F and 105F for thirty minutes to an hour, and either allowed to drain under its own weight or pressed at between 10 to 30 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes to several hours. The temperature of the curd must be raised slowly, 2F or 3F every five minutes or so, to avoid case hardening. These cheeses may be eaten fresh or aged for up to several months, rarely longer than 9. Many of these types of cheese have additional bacteria or molds added for flavor.

Hard Lactic Set Cheese

This type of cheese includes much cottage cheese, some farmers cheeses, and, ever popular, curds and whey. To make these types of cheese, milk is raised to a temperature between 80F and 100F and a starter bacteria culture is added, and the milk is held at the proper temperature. The production of lactic acids by the bacteria will cause a curd to form in 4 to 12 hours. After the curd has set it is cut into uniform sized cubes, usually between and . This will cause the curd to start expelling whey. The curd is then cooked by raising the temperature about 2F every 5 minutes until a temperature between 95F and 108F is reached. The curd may be held at the required temperature up to an hour. Now the curd is drained. At this point the process varies depending on the cheese desired. If curds and whey is the goal, leave sufficient whey to just float the curd. Cool the mixture quickly and serve within a few hours. If it sets too long the whey will begin to sour. For cottage cheese drain the whey and wash the curd gently in cold (icy) water. This will stop the cooking process and remove the whey. Salt and heavy cream are usually added to the cheese just before serving. To make farmers cheese pack the curd into a mold and apply medium pressure for 4 to 12 hours. There may be several pressings ranging from 10 to 40 pounds of pressure, usually from 15 to 30 minutes up to 12 hours.

Hard Rennet Cheese

This is most of the aged cheese that is available. This includes cottage, cheddar, Swiss, and hard Italian cheeses. They are made in a manner very similar to the semi-soft varieties. Heat milk to between 80F and 100F; the bacteria culture is added and the milk is allowed to ripen for 10 minutes to 2 hours. After sufficient acid is present in the milk the rennet is added, and the milk is allowed to stand until the curd forms, usually 30 minutes to an hour. The curd is cut into uniform pieces, and cooked at between 100F and 125F for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Again the temperature of the curd must be raised slowly to avoid case hardening. The cheese is pressed several times at increasing pressure for increasing time usually ending near 50 pounds of pressure for 12 to 24 hours. Many of these cheeses will have an additional bacteria added for flavor or another desired effect. Some will call for the addition of a form of lipase enzyme of a sharper flavor.

Whey Cheese
This is the cheese made from the whey left from making most of the above cheese. A popular example is ricotta. This type of cheese is made by heating whey to 190F to 205F. This causes the albuminous proteins to precipitate out of the solution in the form of tiny flakes of curd. This sometimes required the addition of more acid, usually in the form of vinegar. The curd is collected and drained well or pressed.

Lemon Curd
Gal. Milk c. Lemon Juice tsp. Salt

Heat the milk over medium heat to 175F to 190F, stirring frequently. Do not allow the milk to scorch or boil; it will change the flavor of the cheese. Add the juice, mix well, and allow to stand for about 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into a colander lined with butter muslin to collect the curd. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth to form a bag, and hang the cheese until the desired consistency is reached (1 to 12 hours). Mix in the salt. Yields about lb. Notes: This cheese can be made with a variety of citrus juices or vinegars. The temperature of the milk when the acid is added will determine the temper of the curd; warmer milk harder cheese. This cheese assumes flavors very readily, and as such can be flavored readily with herbs and spices. When made at higher temperatures these can be cut into cubes and used much like bean curd. This recipe is widely known but can also be found in Home Cheese Making.

Neufchatel (soft white cheese)

1 Gal. Milk 1 Qt. & (not ULTRA pasteurized) tsp, 1 pk. or 4 oz. Mesophilic culture 2 drops Liquid Rennet 1 Tbsp. Chlorine-free water 2 tsp. Salt

Combine the milk and & and set the container in a pot of warm water until the temperature of the milk reaches 80F. Add the starter culture to the warmed milk. Stir well, gently! Dilute the rennet in the water, and add the mixture to the inoculated milk. Stir for about one minute, mixing from bottom to top. Allow the mixture to stand in a warm place (80F to 90F) for 12 to 18 hours, or until a curd has formed. The stuff should look like yogurt. Pour the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin, tie the corners together, and hang the bag to drain at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours, depending on the desired sharpness and consistency, Press the cheese under refrigeration for 12-15 hours, depending on desired consistency. Add the salt and knead into a smooth paste. Yields about 2 lbs.

Notes: I think this is very close to what was made as a daily curd in period. I believe it would be closer if it were made without the rennet altogether. This cheese can be used in any recipe calling for cream cheese. This recipe was adapted from the Neufchatel recipe in Home Cheese Making.

Queso Fresco (Fresh Cheese)

2 Gal. Milk tsp. Mesophilic Culture tsp. Liquid Rennet c. Cool De-chlorinated Water 2 Tbsp. Salt

Heat the milk to 90F in a hot water bath. Add the starter culture and stir well. Dilute the rennet in the water, and add to the milk. Stir well in an up-down motion to evenly distribute the rennet. Allow the mixture to sit at 90F for 30 to 45 minutes or until the curd reaches clean break. Cut the curd into cubes, and raise the temperature of the curd to 95 over the next 20 minutes stirring frequently to keep the curd from matting. Let the curd set for 5 minutes. Drain as much of the whey a possible from the curd without letting it cool too much. Return the curd to the pot, add the salt, and maintain the curd at 95F for 30 minutes. Stir the curd frequently to keep it from matting. Quickly ladle the curd into a 2 lb. mold lined with cheesecloth and press at 35 pounds for 6 hours. Yields about 2 lbs. Note: This comes straight from the pages of Home Cheese Making. I havent had a chance to tinker with the recipe yet. The cheese changes drastically over the first few days, so its not only good food its a good study piece to observe what happens to cheese as it ages.

2 Gal. Milk tsp. Mesophilic Culture 1/8 tsp. Thermophilic Culture tsp. Lipase Powder tsp. Liquid Rennet c. Cool Un-chlorinated Water 2 lb. Salt 1 Gal. Water

Heat the milk to 86F in hot water. Add the starters, mix well and allow to ripen for 45 minutes.

Add the lipase powder and the rennet diluted in un-chlorinated water. Mix well. Allow to set at 86F for 30 minutes or until the curd gives a clean break. Cut the curd into cubes and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir the curd slowly with a whisk for 30 minutes to cut it into rice sized pieces. Over the next 45 minutes heat the curds to 104F. The temperature should rise about 2F every 5 minutes. Stir gently to keep the curd from matting. Let the mixture set for 5 minutes. Pour off the whey. Ladle the curd into a 2-pound mold lined with cheesecloth and press at 15 pounds for 15 minutes. Remove the cheese from the press, turn over, redress, and return to the press for 15 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure. Remove the cheese from the press, turn over, redress, and return to the press for 15 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure, again. Remove the cheese from the press, turn over, redress, and return to the press for 6 hours at 30 pounds of pressure. Remove the cheese from the press and soak in a brine made from the remaining water and salt at 55F for 6 hours. Remove from the brine and age as desired. Coat with olive oil the keep the cheese from drying out during lengthy ageing. Remove unwanted mold with a cheesecloth dampened in salt water. Ageing: Manchego Fresco is aged for 5 days or less; curado for 3-12 weeks; Viejo for 312 months; aceite for more than a year in olive oil. Yields about 2 lbs. Notes: This cheese is adapted from the Manchego recipe in Home Cheese Making.

Whey from 2 gal. Milk c. white vinegar 1 Qt. Whole Milk (optional for added yield)

Heat the combined whey and milk over direct flame to 195F. Turn off the heat, add the vinegar and mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes. Pour through a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang for several hours to drain. Add salt if desired. Yields 8 12 oz.

Note: This recipe may be in Home Cheese Making, I dont know; its what I do to my whey to get ricotta.

Sour Cream
1 Qt. & (not ultra pasteurized) tsp. Flora Danica Culture Heat the cream to 86F. Add the culture and mix well. Allow to stand in a warm (80F 90F) for 12 to 18 hours. Its ready for immediate use. Yields 1 qt. Note: This one is mine. Most recipes for sour cream call for a sour cream starter, which contains the same bacteria as Flora Danica, however quite possibly in the same proportions. This seems to work well for me.

1 Qt. milk tsp Flora Danica Warm the milk to 86F. Add the starter; let the milk to set undisturbed at room temperature, 68-72, for 12-18 hours, or until coagulated. Store in refrigerator. This makes really great pancakes and waffles.

Most beer and wine making supply houses carry some of the equipment and ingredients user for cheese making. Most if it is pretty specialized. Check in your local area for suppliers, or check out one of these. Leeners, 9293 Olde Eight Rd, Northfield, OH; 800-543-3697 Grape and Granary, 910 Home Ave., Akron, OH; 800-695-8970 New England Cheesemaking Supply Co., P.O. Box 85, Ashfield, MA; 413-628-3808