Washing Cheese Cloths

I plan on doing a more in-depth look at cheese cloths (types, where to buy, etc.) in the future, but since I often get asked “how do I clean them” in my classes, I thought I’d post on the topic now.

I only buy hemmed flour sacking. If your cloths are not hemmed, the flowing method may destroy them. However, it is THE BEST way to get them truly clean and also the least labor intensive. Which, long story short is why I recommend flour sacking.

  1. In cold water rinse all the cheese bits and gunk off (or at least as much as you possibly can.)
  2. If you are not washing them immediately, store them in a pot with a generous squirt of dish soap, a generous splash of bleach and top with water until cloths are covered. If you do not wash them with in 3-ish days they will get funky!
  3. Wash them in your washing machine. That’s right! Strictly speaking a metal drum is better, but for the home cheese maker plastic is fine.
    1. Put the size setting on 1 larger than your load. Usually cloths only equal a small load but to wash them set it on medium so there’s plenty of water and agitation to thoroughly clean them.
    2. Use the hottest water setting.
    3. Add a small amount of dye and perfume free detergent.
    4. Add 1 cup of bleach.
    5. If your machine has an extra rinse cycle it’s good to use, or, particularity  if your clothes were fairly dirty, manually run the rinse+spin cycle again. This helps ensure your cloths and machine are totally clean. Depending on the load I don’t always do this as it’s no very eco-friendly.
  4. Dry the cloths in the dryer, without fabric softener, on the highest setting until dry.
  5. Fold and store clean cloths in a clean covered container.

Some Times The Vat Makes the Man – My DIY Cheese Vat

This is pretty brilliant! Perfect if you’re doing larger batches (more than 2 gallons) and extended ripening (particularly if keep your thermostat set low like me). I love that it frees up your stove top and your sink!

Much To Do About Cheese

I have been asked by many readers both here and on the Facebook Page, about my Roaster Vat that I use for my cheese making.  I have to say that it was one of the best things I have ever DIY’d.  I have finally taken some pictures of how to set it up and now it is time to share how I use it.

DISCLAIMER TIME:  THESE OPINIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS ARE THOSE OF MUCH TO DO ABOUT CHEESE AND IAN TREUER, WHAT I AM ABOUT TO DESCRIBE IS NOT WHAT THE MANUFACTURER HAD INTENDED FOR THIS PRODUCT.  THIS WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY AND COULD IN SOME CASES CAUSE HARM TO THE USER.  MUCH TO DO ABOUT CHEESE AND IAN TREUER DO NOT ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY HARM, PERSONAL INJURY OR DAMAGE TO PROPERTY CAUSED BY FOLLOWING THESE DIRECTIONS.   DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK.

That being said are you ready…

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Making Your Own Cheese Molds

Do you want to make one gallon batches when the recipe calls for two? Want to try making Brie but don’t want to buy an expensive mold yet? Try making your own molds out of recycled food containers!

Making cheese molds is an easy and economical way to diversify your mold selection. By making your molds, you can cater to your cheese making preferences and experiment with new styles without the commitment. This is also a great way for beginner cheese makers to test the waters of molded cheese making without a large initial investment. All you need is a clean empty container and a nail. Homemade molds are particularly good for drained curd cheeses like chevre, and semi-firm cheese like feta or ricotta salata.

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Your molds will probably not be compatible with a press. However, you can make semi-firm cheeses that require light pressing by creating your own weights. Water bottles, vases, really anything you can accurately weigh and sterilize will work! If you keep the container lid, you can even fashion a serviceable follower by cutting away the extra plastic. You can also create Brie style molds by cutting off the bottom of the container.

Choose your container based on what recipe you plan on making. It may be helpful to look at pictures online of the mold you wish to emulate to get a better idea of the dimensions and hole pattern. Or, just make what you think will work best for your project. Remember, as your curds release whey they shrink, so choose you container/mold appropriately. You don’t want to end with a very wide but pancake thin cheese – it will dry out too quickly and be difficult to get out in one piece. Chinese takeout containers are a great choice. The plastic is a little more durable and they come in standard sizes. Remember thicker/stronger plastic will be harder to pierce. I have a weakness for the local olive bar so I keep my leftover containers, and since they are identical I can create identical molds.

For some recipes you will need more than one mold. When making multiple molds, make sure to use containers with similar or equal volumes and similar shapes (e.g. there are can be many height diameter combinations for the same volume).  If they are slightly different, try to compensate by pouring equal amounts into each. If the curd volumes are different they will not progress at the same speed.

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In addition to the container you will need a new  clean nail. Choose the nail diameter based on what size hole you wish to create. Length is up to you. Using a shorter nail can be a little harder to control, but I feel it’s safer for my fingers. You may want to experiment with a few sizes to find what feels best. I use a salvaged wine bottle cork to drive the nail into. This allows you to apply a more concentrated pressure on the nail and it absorbs the pointy end instead. If you like you can wear work gloves to prevent the nail from catching you and giving you a better grip. I wrap the head of the nail in a dishcloth to keep it from digging into my skin.

To make the holes hold the cork by its bottom in your non-dominant hand. It’s important you don’t hold the top of the cork – the nail will sometimes come out the side! Place it firmly against the bottom of the container where you’d like to make a hole. Line the nail up with the center of the cork, and slowly but firmly force it through the plastic. Try to push the nail all the way through so the hole isn’t jagged or at least so the extra plastic points out. Repeat until you have a decent number of holes.  Don’t make the holes too close together or you might crack the plastic. The smaller the whole size the more you’ll need to make. If you experiment with making your own molds you will probably find a hole size and configuration that works best for your favorite recipes.

I’m a firm believer in buying quality supplies. If you’re going to be doing a lot a pressed cheese few quality molds in versatile sizes and shapes is a good investment!

Let me know what molds you make in the comments section.

Curd Knives

When purchasing a curd knife you have two basic options – a roasting or carving style knife or a large frosting knife. The names are pretty self-explanatory, but to give you a better image: if you’ve ever been to a restaurant or buffet with a carving table, you’ve seen the exact kind of knife I’m talking about. I haven’t personally frosted a wedding cake, but I imagine an industrial size frosting knife is what most bakers use (see below).

A frosting style curd knife.

I prefer the roasting knife  because it’s sharpened. The edge makes it easier to cut your curds and it can be called into service to cut roasts if needed (I know I cut meat more often than I frost behemoth cakes). Just be careful – they’re sharp! You may want to purchase a paper sleeve to protect you and your knife. Just make sure you get one with a straight, not serrated, edge. If you opt for the frosting knife, make sure to buy one that has a straight handle (some, though usually only home kitchen sized ones, have an offset handle for ease of use).

A craving style curd knife

With either option I recommend purchasing one that is a at least 10 inches long. As with most cheese making supplies, bigger is better! To make cheese in 2 gallon or more increments you nee a large and deep pot, and the curd knife needs to reach the bottom of the pot without dragging your knuckles through the milk. For reference, I have a 12 quart pot and a 12 inch knife works nicely with it.

The best place to get either of these is a specialty shop or a restaurant supply store. If you’re placing an order for cultures or other cheese making supplies you can probably just add a curd knife to you’re order. However, for the best deal, and a chance to test the feel of the knife, a drive to your local restaurant supply can be worth your time. There are a number of other useful cheese making items you can pick up while you’re there! Of course there are plenty of online restaurant suppliers, or if you’re lucky you may have a local store that stocks quality cheese supplies.

Happy Shopping!

That’s a Wrap

That’s a Wrap

I recently bought some clearance cheese papers at Target, and in the process of my cheese research found this great article from Culture magazine (an awesome cheese publication) about the best ways of wrapping your cheese for storage. Your cheese is alive – let it breath!

http://www.culturecheesemag.com/winter_2010_wrap

Getting started in home cheese making.

The cheesemaking supply and equipment lists in instructional books can be overwhelming – in sheer number of items and prospective cost. While all are useful items, these lists tend to be exhaustive about you potential needs. Until you become a committed cheese maker and/or want to make the financial investment, you can comfortably make cheese with a surprisingly few number of items. Many you may already have in your kitchen.

All items should be easy to clean and sanitize. Avoid equipment that has too many seams or rivets. Matter can get trapped in those crevices and be a breeding ground for bacteria. Metal and glass is preferable, but most non-porous materials are acceptable. All metal items should be made of a non-reactive metal like stainless steel (don’t use aluminum). Bigger is better. From experience I can tell you, extra room in a pot is far preferable to spending hours of stirring intently focused on not splashing the milk. For oversized items, check out your restaurant supply store. They have great items for reasonable prices. Specialty items like cultures and rennet can be purchased from cheese making supply companies and sites like Hoegger.

Buying things as you need them or as you progress in your skills is an effective way to manage you costs. For example, I only buy different molds as I make cheeses that require them. Or, if your handy you might be able to recycle or fabricate your own supplies. As you progress it may easier to have a “cheese making only” set of equipment. Then, you’ll be able to make cheese regardless of your dinner plans while improving your sanitation practices.

Curd Knife: A straight frosting knife or a roast/carving knife (like the kind you see at restaurant carving stations) works well. Ten inch length is a good size for larger pots. They can be purchased at restaurant supply stores or some cheese making sites.

Curd Ladle: This is basically a perforated ladle used to transfer curds. One that can hold a fair amount of curds and had a sturdy handle will serve you best.

Pots: If you are using a gallon of milk or less you can get by with a 6 quart pot (fairly common stock pot size). If you plan on doing larger volumes you will be a 10 plus quart pot. Make sure you have a lid that fits well (preferably clear)

Colander: The maximum size that will fit in your pot is best. The colander size usually limits the amount of curd you can fit in your cloth. More holes will improve your draining.

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Thermometer: Most food safe thermometers will work fine. Just make sure it reads to at least 220 and check its accuracy. I like one I can stir with to get a more accurate reading.

Timer: Any household timer will do. I like one with a clip on so I don’t walk away and leave it somewhere.

Hygrometer/Thermometer: This measuring the temperature and humidity in your house. Very useful when you hanging cheese or other processes that affected by humidity and temperature.

Cheese Cloth: Most cheese supplies will carry one of several types of cheese cloths. I’ve found they can be of varying quality and usefulness. Floor sacking is an affordable and durable alternative (you can even run it through you washing machine). You can also cut up an old pillow case for cheese cloth.

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Measuring Spoons: The most important spoons for the home cheese maker are the 1/8 and ¼ teaspoons, although, the whole set does get used. Make sure whatever set you buy includes the 1/8 teaspoon.

Measuring Cups: A glass cup with different measurements written on the side will be the most useful. I keep 1 and 2 cups ones.

Spatula

Culture: The isolated “good” bacteria of cheese making that acidify the milk and develop flavor. There are many cultures out there but you can’t go wrong with mixed strain mesophillic – the workhorse of home cheese maker. Today most cultures are sold as direct set – freeze dried and ready to add directly to milk. Sore these in the freezer unless otherwise noted.

Renet: Milk coagulant. Can be animal derived or microbial (vegetarian safe). Store in fridge.

Lipase: Animal derived enzyme added to some cheeses to add “picante” flavor. Most commonly used in Greek feta. Comes in calf (mild), sheep (medium), and goat (strong). Also stored in freezer.

Calcium Chloride: added when using pasteurized milk to bump up the calcium for chemical reactions. Stored in fridge.

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Vinegar: Many basic fresh cheese use vinegar. Apple cider or white will work.

Salt: Cheese salt can purchased from specialty supplies, but kosher or sea salt work equally well.

Bleach or Other Sanitizer: Remember, sanitization of equipment is a very important part of cheese making. Follow label on bottle for proper dilutions. A spray bottle with diluted

sanitizer is handy for work spaces.

Molds: A few very basic molds are good to have until you move up to press. Twoor more ricotta or fresh cheese molds work well for most semi-firm/low pressure cheeses. You can make weights yourself with household items like water bottles or brinks wrapped in foil. You can also make molds by punching holes in the bottom of left over plastic containers.

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