Third Cheese Making Class Feb 2013 with Steve from Hampshire

Steve cutting the curd

Steve cutting the curd (complete with hat over his sexy blue hair net!)

Our third cheese making class of the month was with Steve who was a lot of fun!  Steve has to be the person who travelled the farthest, for he lives in Hampshire, but knew that he was going to be on business in Leeds, so craftily booked a day off and came to see us to make some Wensleydale.

Despite having made cheese the previous day, our little dairy was still incredibly cold, so we cheated, and very gently heated up 15 litres of

Steve gebtly storring the large curd cubes with is hand straight after our first cut

Steve gently stirring the large curd cubes with is hand straight after our first cut

milk and poured it in to our pre-heated crate system.  We took the temperature up to around 33 oC as the dairy was so cold, we wanted to ensure that the acidity had a good chance to get going and also for the rennet to work efficiently.  In our experience, our rennet works best at around 33 o C and we did not want the temperature of our milk to fall so that we could achieve a good set.

We got a good set and then, in between discussions about psychopaths – I learned that 4% of the population have psychopathic tendencies – we set to cutting.  I explained to Steve how important it is not to over cut the curd at this stage as this is quite a critical part of cheese making: you can use the same starter but make different types of cheese according to the temperature you take the curd to and size of cut.  We cut the curd into approximately 2″ cubes and only cut the larger chunks that remained after some time, so that we had a uniform cut to allow equal whey expellation.  It is amazing just how small 2″ cubes become as the acidity picks up.

One very handsome block of curd after taking the whey off

One very handsome block of curd after taking the whey off

The smaller the cut, the harder the cheese will be as it will be less moist as the curd particles are smaller.  The higher the temperature, the more whey will be driven out and again, you will have a harder cheese.  Cheeses that are made to mature are, generally speaking, cut smaller and

Milled cheese prior to potting up

Milled cheese prior to potting up

scalded higher than say a Wensleydale designed to be eaten within 14-28 days.  The larger the cut, the moister the cheese.  If you accidentally cut your curd too small at this stage, take the temperature up to about 36 oC and make it into a cheddar instead.

Given the cold ambient temperature in our little dairy, I ensured that we had achieved a good acidity before we took the whey off as the curd would cool down rapidly and we did not want the acidity development to slow down.

The rest of the make went fast, mainly because we had achieved a high acidity before we took the whey off.  Steve made a block, then cut it into cubes, then we salted and milled to make a very fine Wensleydale.  We pressed the cheese for Steve as he was slowly wending his way home via various parts of the country, so we will send it to him this coming week.

Steve, it was a real pleasure having you with us, I really enjoyed our random discussions and scenario planning and I look forward to hearing more about your cheesey exploits!



Filed under Ribblesdale Cheese

9 responses to “Third Cheese Making Class Feb 2013 with Steve from Hampshire

  1. Steve

    So it’s taken a little while to get all the equipment together. Even though my wife speaks French, the emails by return from the French supplier of the acidity testing equipment were hard to understand, and that was the last thing to turn up today – too late to book the milk from my local farm for this weekend as the person who bottles their milk is not in until Monday.

    I plan to use pasteurised supermarket bought milk for this first batch. Last night I practiced holding 36 litres of water at 32C (the recommended temperature for the culture I’m planning to use), which seems to mean a jacket temperature of about 40C, and I was able to keep it at 32C for 5 hours, which seemed long enough to satisfy my need for reproducibility. It seems that there is a huge difference between making 15L in a grey box and 36L in a grey box simply in terms of the time it takes to change temperature, but once it’s at 32C it seems to stay at that temperature very nicely.

    With only the internet and books, I’m very sure I would not have the confidence to actually take the step of making my own cheese – the training day with Iona has been an essential step in me learning this craft. I’ll let you know how my make goes.

  2. Hello Steve
    Thank you for your kind comment, but it sounds like you are making great progress on the equipment front. I agree with you that a) it takes a much longer time to get 36 litres up to temperature and b) that the grey crates do hold their temp quite well. Oh, and c) that the Alliance Pastorale website is quite incomprehensible. Hooray you got a delivery!
    Am looking forward to hearing about your first cheeses… sure you will do a sterling effort!
    Speak soon

  3. Steve

    Late yesterday I took a call from Meadow Cottage Farm to say that if I wanted to collect 36l of milk I could, so I did, and I spent the day today making a grey box full of cheese. I’ve just finished potting two full moulds of cheese and they are under gentle pressing. Given that the milk is different and the culture is different, and I followed the instructions on all the materials closely, it took overall an hour longer to make this batch than it did with Iona. I don’t know whether this is within an expected tolerance, but I seem to have made a product which looks very like the thing I made in Hawes, and I had a little bit left over which I had for lunch and it tasted like Wensleydale cheese, so there is hope 🙂

    I have made myself a thermostatically controlled water bath, so I’m not carrying kettles of water about. The system consists of a rigid hose to a centrifugal, self-priming pump, then a hose connection to a 3kw immersion heater in a separate container, then back to the waterbath. I’ve used a PID to control the water temperature, so when it is too low it switches the pump and heater on and brings the temperature back.

  4. Hello Steve

    Thanks for your update – you have been busy! I like the thermostatically controlled water bath – can we see a picture of it please?

    Good to hear that your cheese tasted like a Wensleydale, but I wonder why it took an hour longer to achieve the right acidity? was it cold where you were making it?

    Speak soon


  5. Steve

    Last Sunday I had a go at Cheddar with 10L of milk. It seemed to go well, in that I cut the curds to 1cm cubes, stirred the curds within a couple of minutes, got them to 39C in 60 minutes, drained the whey and cheddared at 39C, and got that ‘plastic melt’ that other websites told me to look for. However, some strange things occurred which mean that I am anxious to give it another go tomorrow. When I pressed the curds I do not believe I had let them cool down properly as they leaked both whey and oil. I’m unconvinced that I have enough pressure in the press I made as the resulting cheese had a marbling like the curds had not matted. The cheese was not salted enough, and it was tremendously crumbly. I think I got too much whey out of the curds and was heading for a very dry cheese. Instead of attempting to mature it I just dried it for 4 days and I’m now using it in the kitchen – it’s as bland as a very mild cheese, but tastes OK.
    For tomorrow I got the last 12L from Meadow Farm and plan to cut the curds slightly bigger, cook for a slightly shorter time, add more salt, leave to really cool down and sort out my press to do a better job.

  6. Steve

    My 12L of raw milk seem to have been a success. When I cut the curds to 2cm I noticed that they were not as firm as I had seen on previous makes, and yet the conditions were as close to the same and the timing was within a couple of minutes of last week’s make. I got a clean break but it seemed less firm. I and changed the cooking algorithm completely. When it was time to raise the temperature from 33C to 39C I set my PID to 60C and raised the water temperature in one application of 3KW over about 12 minutes, and over the period of the following 60 minutes the water jacket cooled to 44C and the curds and whey stabilised at 37.6C. I waited until the TA was 2.5 before drawing the whey, and then made a block of curd in the hot box, waited for it to firm up and then cut and stacked the slices. I salted and milled at a TA of 6.5, 1tbsp to 4L which is much more than I had added before. Then I properly handled the potting up, and rotated the stacking of the moulds for an hour and so on like I’ve seen you do with your big cheese moulds. I used 500G Clover spread containers, so I have 6 little oval cheeses. No oil was expressed in the pressing, and the resulting little ovals have a smooth outside texture and smell right. I have confidence that the learning I took from my first cheddar seems to have made a difference. I plan to dry for a couple of days and wax them. I feel confident enough about this to make a large quantity of cheddar when I next have time for a make and can get the milk.

  7. Steve

    Easter Friday was a free day, and I knew it in advance so I was able to order 34L of raw milk from Meadow Farm. I began at 6am, and made two Ribblesdale provided moulds of cheddar. Everything I had learned in the two weeks before came together, the timing was right, the heating of the curds to 38.6C worked in one continuous building of heat, and the TA readings were as expected. I let the curds cool, played the top and top game with the curds in the moulds to get a good shape, pressed at increasing pressures and turned the cheeses in the mould for the final pressing. I experimented with dipping the cheeses in water at 60C for a few seconds to help with the smoothing of the outside coating, but I’m a bit unconvinced of this. The final cheeses look ‘proper’ and smell delicious. They are drying now, and I just turned them. I still do not yet have a cave to experiment with rinding the cheeses, so they will be waxed during the week.

  8. Steve

    While I’m definitely more comfortable with being around the curd, and I seem to have good control of the cheesemaking process itself, the pressing and affinage is definitely somewhere where I’m on a steep and possibly costly learning curve.

    The 34L of raw milk that I made into the two big rounds of cheddar were dried and waxed with clear wax. I chose clear wax so that I could see what was going on under the wax. Both cheddar rounds have developed a black mould under the wax. On looking around the internet it seems likely that I did not press the cheddar with sufficient force and left some spaces for the mould to develop. Of the six little cheddars that I made as a test batch the previous week, five are still good and one had a pinprick hole in the waxing and developed a little area of black mould, so I’ve eaten it and it was completely fine – a mild flavour but if I didn’t know I’d made it I would only have commented that it was creamier than other cheeses I’ve tried. So I may be looking at a cheesemaking failure with the large cheddars if the black mould has penetrated to the centre, and I’ll find out on Friday evening.

    Last Saturday I chose to make 34L of Wensleydale with Tesco Whole MIlk and since their big bottles are 3.4L that made the sum easy. The make at home was pretty much to the minute exactly the same timings and temperature as on my training day, which is also good, and while the set curds were weaker than with Iona, they seemed to make good curds. I also have invested in some blue cheesemaking disposable plastic ‘fabric’ which has completely changed the pressing process – I can now get the cheese out of the moulds without tugging and tugging, and the cheese is a much better shape without stress fractures being induced from the forces needed to get cotton wrapped cheeses out of the moulds. I have bandaged the wensleydale cheeses, and hope to mature them with a natural rind.

    I have also bought a cheap and quite new (and very cleanable) domestic fridge from ebay, and assembled a PID to keep the fridge at 10C to mature my cheese in. This is going to be a better environment than the wine cooler as there’s no fan to aggressively and inappropriately dry the cheese.

    So what I’ve learned is that there’s three steps to cheesemaking – good raw ingredients, a good manufacturing process, and good maturing environments are required, and it’s the pressing and maturation process which I’m having to work on now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s