The Artisan Cheesemaker. Acidity Control (5)

I think the best way to continue is for us to run through a simple recipe.

I must first assume that the milk is of good quality and that you are using good (realistic) hygiene practice.

Without good hygiene you will not make good cheese. We will discuss hygiene elsewhere but for the moment we must assume that you already have an understanding of the subject. 

Ready ?.... O.K.

We will take 100 litres of milk. Let's make it sheep's milk as we can then include some discussion of the differences you will encounter with milk from other species.

(Sheep's milk contains almost twice the total solids of cow's milk. Goat's milk will generally contain a little less total solids than will cow's milk. As acidity is read as a percentage in moisture the differences in solid content will affect the reading of fresh milk, not the actual Ph. though.).

We will take this milk to 28 degrees centigrade.
If we were using cow's milk this temperature would probably need to be around 30c, you may have worked out why already.

We want the milk temperature to stabilize at 28c, and to achieve this we will need to cut off the heat supply a few degrees before that.
Just when you cut the heat will depend on your heating system.
You will generally find that you need to cut it at 2 to 3 degrees below the desired temperature and then wait for it to stabilize. The faster you heat the sooner you will need to shut it off.

Starter addition is next. We are going to use a medium to slow mesophilic D.V.I (Direct Vat Inoculation) starter. We will use 8 ml. per 100 litres of milk.
We need 8 ml. today then.
Do this right. If you change it you make a different cheese: maybe something nice or maybe not. Either way, your cheese will change because you tell it too.

I find that the easiest way to measure D.V.I starter is to use a set of small kitchen spoons. (Buy a set for a few pence from any kitchenware shop). These will measure in millilitres but, the object is to find a way to add a measurable amount of starter, and this is an easy method when using small amounts

The reaction from a starter is never going to be precisely the same in each make but your cheesemaking will fix this.

Sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and stir well in for a few minutes. There must be no sign of any grains when you are done.

Cover the vat, bucket, pan and leave it for 1 hour. Give it a stir occasionally when you are passing.

Providing you have the room at around 20c there will be little or no heat loss.

You now need to take a T.a. (reading of titratable acidity). You should have a fairly high reading of around 0.26 as it is ewes milk (the acid/whey concentration is higher because of the higher solids). If you do not then you have a problem: either your milk is contaminated, you have mishandled the starter or, you did not attain the desired temperature.

Rennet addition: We will use 20 ml. per 100 litres. This is around average for a British style cheese. The rennet needs to be mixed in about six to ten times it's own volume of sterile cold/tepid water. This will help to distribute it evenly throughout the milk.

Stir it thoroughly into the milk for about 2 minutes (with cows or goat's milk you may stir for a little longer, though if you are working with small quantities 2 minutes is sufficient). Do not stir for to long but make sure that you stir upwards from the bottom to ensure a good distribution. If you continue to stir once the rennet takes it's first bite you will ruin your cheese irretrievably.

Cover the vat again and leave for around 27 minutes. You must not disturb the forming curd in any way during this period. If you uncover the vat do so very gently as any vibration will shatter the curd and cause it to release moisture which will result in a slower acid production, and you will then have a different curd to deal with throughout the rest of the make.

(If you were using cows milk it would take at least another 30 minutes before the curd was ready to cut. Not that a cows milk cheese can't be made using the same style of cheesemaking).

What we now have is a nicely acidifying curd that presents an environment that is unsuitable for the growth of pathogens. It will have lost some calcium and the minute particles will have become absorbent and will retain moisture throughout the making and maturing.

If you were to use more starter the acid production would be faster and the particles would retain too much moisture. This will lead to a cheese that will leak moisture at the beginning of the maturing period. It will then gradually become hard and grainy as it ages. A very similar end result can result from the use of too little starter also, as we will see.

You now need to check if the curd is ready for cutting. To do this you should push your dairy thermometer; finger or a small rod a few inches down into the curd and lift it gently up and away from you. When the curd is ready for cutting it should break evenly across the rod. If it breaks unevenly and sticks to the rod it is too soon to cut and you must try again in a few minutes. Do not leave it longer than is necessary or the resulting curd mass (not the particles) will retain too much moisture and the cheese will be sour.

The smaller you cut the less will be the acid production in the later stages. The type of knives you use are usually an important consideration, but in this case we are going to cut very small so almost any style of knife will be ok.

You must be very gentle with the curd from now on. Cut as gently and as evenly as possible. Ideally you want a series of vertical cuts followed by horizontal cuts and keep repeating this procedure.
This will depend entirely on what type of knife is available to you but aim gently towards a uniformity of curd piece size..

Take your time and get the curd pieces down to about 3/8 of an inch cubes (1 cm) in 20/25 minutes. Now take 5 to 10 minutes and clean and sanitize your knives, and your hands and  arms. Now stir the curd, preferably by hand. Start gently from the top and gradually work your way down to the vat bottom without crushing the curd, then stir for a few minutes until the pieces are all separated and floating freely.

Now apply just a little heat (you are looking to raise the temperature to just 30c in 20 minutes) continue a cutting and stirring motion with your vertical knife.
The curd should still be quite tender an easy to cut. You must keep an eye on the temperature during this period and, soon after it starts to rise turn off the heat. You do not want it to continue rising and go above 30c. or you will make a chalky cheese.
Keep up a gentle cutting and stirring action until the pieces resemble peas and rice (perhaps another 20 minutes). Stir to float the curd and then allow it to settle. (Apart from the cutting, the curd pieces will be reduced in size by the shrinking effect of heat).

Now, leave it to rest (pitch) until 2 hrs and 35 minutes have elapsed since you put in the starter. {start time}.

Then stir for a few minutes to float the curd again. Now take another T.a. It should be around 0.17. This appears to be lower than when renneted. (Don't worry about that for the moment, as I shall explain it later in the pages). Record it though.

Cover the vat again and leave (pitch) until it is 3 hours from start time. Take a T.A. This should now be at 0.22 to 0.25.

You have almost finished the actual make now. Give it a good stir to separate the curd pieces.
It should still be easy to crush the curd pieces at this stage.

You now need to remove most of the whey from the vat. {Not all, as you would in cheddar making.}

An easy way to do this is to put a sanitized basket of some sort into the vat (perhaps a plastic colander) and scoop the whey off, from within the basket, with a small bowl.
From 1 hundred litres of ewes milk you get very little whey and it takes maybe five minutes to take off the desired amount.

Stop when you have the level of whey just below the settled curd level.

 It is now time to fill the molds.

There is a picture on the previous page of the type of mold that I use (plenty of drainage holes) so try to get hold of something similar. If you can get some that are just slightly tapered all the better as you can stack them 2 to 4 high rather than use weights.
You don't have to use cloths in the molds since these are virtually "basket mold" cheese, but if it suits you to use cloths it is better not to do so until after the first turn. (I simply place a cloth under the follower when the weight is applied).

After the first turn you will need to place a follower on the cheese unless you are using tapered molds.

Fill the molds to the top as quickly as possible without rushing, and as soon as you have them all filled start with the first one and invert it onto a table.
The cheese will drop out in one piece (if it tends to break up at all you probably took the temperature up too high in the vat and dried the curd out too much). Pick up the cheese gently, holding only the sides and drop it back into the mold.

When you have them all turned place your follower on the cheese and then an 8 to 10 Kilo weight
(a clean plastic bottle filled with water? 1 litre weighs 1 kilo).
Repeat this procedure after about 20 minutes, then 15 mins, then after 30 mins and again at gradually longer intervals for about 5 hours. The trick is to get both ends uniformly smooth.

You should watch the rate of whey expulsion from the molded cheese and when it is barely perceptible take an acidity reading from it (take lots of them at different stages at first, watch them increase and record them. This will teach you how to recognize the rate of increase). This should be done at the same time, from start, on each make. Be sure to use fresh whey. (I use the first molded cheese on a separate draining tray, to catch the whey from for reading).
These reading are important clues to the consistency of the quality of your cheesemaking and will assist you in making variations to the recipe in future.

Remove the weight as late as possible and leave the cheese in the mold overnight with the least smooth side down.

Room temperature should not drop below 18/21c during this time.

Turn in the molds as early as possible next morning.

At around 22 to 30 hours from starter (this will have to simply be juggled to fit in your day) place the cheese in a 20% brine solution.
You need to sprinkle the top of the floating cheese liberally with salt or the upper surface will retain too much moisture, which will cause this side of the cheese to soften during maturing due to excess enzyme action.

The 2 kilo cheese will need to stay in the brine for about 19 to 24 hours. A larger or more dense cheese would need relatively longer, and vice versa. A small, fresh goat cheese style would brine-salt in 1 minute.

On removal from the brine bath the cheese should be placed on a clean wood board, which is set at a slight angle to assist drainage, and turned onto a fresh, dry board, every few hours for the next two days, The humidity of the room should be in the region of 75% Rh (relative humidity) this may call for the use of a fan or dehumidifier at times.

Once the cheese surface is fairly dry to the touch then the cheese should be taken to the maturing room (at a Rh of around 86%) and turned daily for the first ten days. After this it should be turned regularly to ensure an even moisture balance throughout the cheese for the rest of the maturing period (10 to 20 weeks at 15c/58f).

This will be your interpretation of the cheese below.
But what you make will be your cheese and in subsequent makes you will refine your making and stamp your soul on it.
This is where your understanding will come into play, you know you can communicate with your milk and with the curd. Think about what your hands are doing, store every feeling, record as much as possible, and ask yourself .......WHY ?.

The answers are in your log.
When the cheese is different next time, and you are keeping an honest log, it will show in the entries.
Just try a rise of 2c in your heating and see the difference (you will need a good deal more weight when pressing though). Try reducing the milk ripening time and you will have a different cheese again. Stir for longer and pitch for less time, and you will have another cheese. Cut the curd larger... another cheese.

 Every time you move your finger you are affecting it as only you will ever be able to. It's your cheese...Only total dedication will make it consistently good.

In fact I filched the recipe style from a Westmoreland farmer and it is very much a "Northern" cheese.

100 litres of ewes milk, will make up to 22 kilo / 48 LB of mature cheese.

Well cared for, the cheese should be best at about four months +, but is also nice as a young fresh cheese.

Matured, it should have a thin sturdy rind and a very slightly open texture barely tending towards flakiness.
The body should be firm yet smooth and light after the onset of homogenization, or enzymatic breakdown, at about three months.
It should not show any signs of distinct breakdown under the rind.

After a month or so in the maturing room the cheese will have formed a fairly firm mould-covered rind.
If this mould growth is allowed to proliferate uncontrolled it will cause the rind to soften.
(The mould will reduce the acidity of the rind and this will then lead to excessive enzyme action).
To prevent this you must at first rub the rind vigorously by hand now and then to restrict the moulds and, as the cheese ages, gradually progress towards an occasional vigorous brushing with a stiff bristled brush.

 Matured Cheese:

Although it will be a good keeping cheese it should always be light and quite moist nonetheless.
It is just a simple cheese, yet the making embodies the basis of all cheese- making.

This recipe, with very little variation, also makes an excellent Blue cheese.
You will simply need to include a little "penicillium roqueforti" with the starter, do not cut so small in the later stages, press very lightly, pierce the cheese at around 3 weeks and do not allow the humidity to drop below 90% in the maturing room until the cheese is at least 8 weeks old.
You may need to run a hot knife over the cheese on the second or third day in order to smooth the surface.
You are aiming for a Stilton-like rind finish eventually or, if you film-wrap it, pierce it at around 4 weeks, still in the film, and store it at 4c for 4 months you will have a very different but equally nice cheese.

Notes:  This recipe is kept simple for those of you who have no mechanical press.
If you do have pressing facilities then applying a few basic changes will give you a smoother, lower acid, cheese.........(does not apply to Blue cheese)
 Do not cut the curd quite as small: reduce the pitching time and increase the stirring times: and increase the scald temperature by 2 to 3 degrees (ideally at a rate of about 1c per 10 mins). You will need to apply just a little pressure initially and use cloths in the mold after the first turn, when you can then increase the pressure progressively.
Your log will, of course, look quite different and you should by now be able to work out how these actions affect the acidity readings and the body and texture of the cheese.

Remember:  personal attention to detail (smell, feel, taste and look of the curd) in each make is vital if you are going to make a consistently good cheese. Your readings are just a powerful tool in learning how to talk to your cheese.


If you use the fresh whey from this make (it will become too acidic if left for long), and you have the facilities, you may like to take the whey temperature up to around 90c (just below boiling), turn off the heat and then leave for about 40 mins. You will see that the remaining protein will flocculate and float to the surface. Scoop this off into a basket with a fine strainer and allow it to cool and set. You now have the finest ricotta. You need to use a Bain-Marie style of heating... not direct heat. When I make for the family I use a stainless bucket inside a larger one part filled with water, and heat on a gas ring.

You are welcome to copy all or any of these papers. 

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