Friday, March 12, 2010

My Cellar Might Need Some Mold

Not like your old house, Carlos. The kind that just makes everyone sick.
I'm talking more on the kind that makes that lovely rind on Brie, yes, that's right, penicillin.

And maybe I need some brining solutions. Not just some 10% brine that you would use for feta, but something a little less briney that I would dunk some cheese into every day or two. stinky it might become.

So get that milk out. Maybe cow's milk for now. No UHT. Not so good for cheese making. Even the normal pasteurized you have to treat to make it work for you.
1 ml of CaCl (Calcium Chloride) per 4 liters of pasteurized milk. Say we're working with a gallon (4l or so).

(Edit: Very true! I don't think you can get Calcium Chloride everywhere, like at Safeway or a gas station or 7-11 so let me post a couple links to someone who actually can sell it)

Mix that stuff up.

Then in a double water bath, start slowly bringing the milk up in temperature. To 70 degrees Fahrenheit (wow, is that even a cooking temperature? well no, we're not cooking the milk, we're making the milk all happy for the bacteria).

Oh yeah, at that point you had better have some bacteria on hand. You can use 3% volume of the milk with Cultured Buttermilk, make sure it says live culture. OR you can get some starter (1/8tsp per gallon) from a fancy cheese making place, or maybe Sur la Table, or a few good websites:

For the temperatures in this recipe, use a mesophilic starter. For some harder cheeses, you'd use something like a thermophilic starter which likes a bit more heat.

Add the starter gingerly. If you're using dried starter, take the milk off heat for 5 minutes. Stir very, very gently at that point. If using that liquid starter, just stir a bit - gingerly please.

Next, continue to heat the milkies up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly. Slowly. So slowly. Do not blink. Do not turn away. Make sure you do it right and have a simple meat thermometer around to put into the mixture to check the temperature.

MAKE SURE ANYTHING YOU PUT IN THE MILK MIXTURE IS CLEAN. MIGHTLY CLEAN. If we're putting just 1/8 of a tsp of starter into something to cause the entire vat to do something extraordinary, well, that crap in your mouth or on your hand will cause that 1/8 tsp of do-gooder bacteria to really mess things up. Please do yourself a favor and make sure your utensils are clean. Use hot water. Use a light bleach solution in water (1oz bleach : 2 gallons water). Don't poop in your milk.

At 90 degrees, take the milk off heat and add some rennet: 4 drops per liter, 16 drops per gallon. Rennet is something to further help the cheese transformation. Rennet is found in the stomach lining of baby cows, also called tasty veal. There is also rennet in the stomach of baby goats, called tasty kids. Supposedly, you can get rennet-like substances from plants that don't remotely have stomachs. In Portugal, they wrap their cheese in cardoons. They must be a funny people. In any case, most cheese makers use the veal-based rennet. This rennet is extracted during the cow rending process -- it's not just something the cow gives off like milk. It's more like something the cow has, like leather. Cows are not killed for rennet alone, though. Since you don't use much rennet, you don't need to have rennet-specific herds available at the market.

In some other manners of cheese making, you don't use rennet at all. But in this recipe, I think it's best if you do. You can get rennet online as well:

So at this 90 degree Fahrenheit moment, the rennet is added. Then you let the milk sit for 30 minutes. Don't move the milk around much (if any). Think of this time as a milk meditation period. Aaaauuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. praṇava. ॐ. ओंकार. Om.

Focus on the milk. Foooccccuuuussss. Shhh.

After 30 minutes, you need to test the surface. Take a CLEAN utensil like a knife or something with a decent edge and insert it into the curd. Pull back slightly and see how quickly the rest of the milky curd fills in. If it's more whey than curd, then you are probably ready. The separation of curd & whey as well as the slight firmness of the curd is what you are looking for. If it doesn't pull back, more meditation. Ommmmmmmm.

In a not so meditative way, you can also do a pH test on the milk. There should be a slight bit of whey upon the milk. The pH of this whey should be somewhere between 4 and 5, hopefully close to the middle of that range. There are some litmus papers that focus on the range from 4 to 7 and you can get them and some other neato stuff, like salt hydrometers, at nice online geeky stores like:

When this moment of perfect texture occurs, take a long knife and start gingerly cutting the curd in 1" slices. First from top to bottom of pot. Then afterwards angle the knife at 45 degrees and slowly cut across and turn the pot - again in 1" slices. If you feel the bottom hasn't been cut appropriately throughout, slowly spoon some of the cheese from the botttom to the top and cut some more.

After a good slicing of the pot's curd, gently e'er so gently stir the pot with a spoon bringing the curd from bottom to top for TEN (10) minutes.

Then stir another TEN (10) minutes with less ginger and more spice.

Next is the drying time. You need a dish rack or a metal platter capable of holding the pack of molds.


The molds.

yeah need those.

You need some molds - they vary in appearance but generally they look like a salad spinner insert which is about 4" in diameter and perhaps 3" high. For 1 gallon of milk you will need 8 of these puppers.

The molds can be purchased from a few different online sources:

Another thing you may want is one of those plastic grids for needlepoint. Not to take up a hobby while waiting for your cheese to age. CLEAN IT. It does make a nice grid for cheese to sit upon and permit whey to drain off without gathering at the base.

So you have these molds...these mini salad spinners. Take a spoon and fill them with curd gently, letting the whey pour out of the spinners and drain off. The spinners/molds should absolutely NOT be sitting in whey. Drain it. Provide a slope. Or move the molds between sitting areas.

You can top off the molds with curds because the curds will depress (letting the whey out). When the curds do depress, put some more curds on top until the curds in the pot are mostly gone.

So. When the curds have pretty much been topped off, it's time to start the sitting stage. This sitting stage lasts 24 hours at room (70F) temperature. 6 times in the next 24 hours, please turn the molds over. The process is take a full mold, flip it upside down and put it back in the mold and let it sit a few hours.

After the 24 hours of flipping, take some kosher or sea (NON-IODIZED) salt and merrily cover the cheese. Don't leave piles of salt on the cheese, but don't be scared of the salt either.

Then, let the salty cheese sit at room temperature ANOTHER 24 hours.

Now you're ready for the choice. Will it be feta or stinky cheese?