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.

Home Cheese Making

Private classes & parties available.

For tips, recipes, and class updates visit http://www.fermenton.wordpress.com

Goggle Works: Reading, PA                                   www.goggleworks.org

Greek Yogurt & Cheese           2 Days: Tuesdays, April 29 & May 6, 6-9pm

All About Chevre                                   1 Day: Monday, May 5, 6-9pm

The Cheese Maker’s Pantry: Cultured Sour Cream   June 11, 6-9pm

Cheeses of Italy                            2 Days:  Tuesdays May 20 & 27, 6-9pm

More details and registration with their spring/summer catalog.

Cooking Spotlight: Phoenixville, PA                   www.cookingspotlight.com

Art of Cheese Making — Italian Style         February 25– 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Learn to make two simple and delicious Italian cheeses in your own kitchen using mostly supplies you already own! We will cover how to make a heavenly ricotta and a decadent mascarpone, then show you how to use them in two different dishes. Register early as space is limited. (Online enrolment on their site.)

Using Whey in the Garden

Like, most home cheese makers I’m always in the pursuit of productive ways to use up that plentiful cheese byproduct – whey. After making a hard cheese you have roughly 2 gallons of whey – that’s a substantial amount to try an use! A great solution is to put your whey to work in your yard or garden as either a plant enhancer or killer.

As many of you probably already know, whey is acidic. In the garden this can be helpful or harmful depending on what kind of plants you have. Acid loving plants can benefit greatly from a whey amendment (i.e. pour whey around the base of the plant.) Essentially your acidifying the soil. In fact, some plants require acidic soil to thrive. If you’ve ever planted or tried to grow a blueberry bush, you probably acidified the soil in the desired location before you planted it. If plants that require acid do not have the proper soil ph they can fail to thrive or  become sickly. In addition to blueberries, pine trees, azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas all prefer acidic soil and can benefit from whey. Hydrangeas are the most noticeably affected by whey as the blooms become a bright beautiful blue with sufficient acid. To do this, pour the whey on the soil around your plant where the roots would be. Don’t get it on, or to close to, the plant itself, as this may damage delicate plants. Don’t go overboard, and do it too often, as  too much acid can be just as bad as too little. If you’re in doubt about a specific plant or overloading on the acid, I’d advise doing some research and ph testing your soil.

Whey can also be a great organic plant killer. For neutral or alkaline soil dwellers, whey can sufficiently affect the soil ph to make it inhospitable to the point of death (there’s more chemistry, microorganisms, etc. to it, but I’m not a horticulturalist.) All you do is pour the whey directly on and around the plants you want to kill. The effect might not be be immediately noticeable (after all, we’re talking about whey, not Roundup), but with enough applications you can kill a lot plants. First plants will change to a yellow color – that means it’s working. They will continue to look more sickly and weak if you keep adding whey. Hardy weeds might not be killed completely but they will be greatly weakened and stop spreadingI have a spot in my backyard between my fence and the neighbor’s that is very weed prone but difficult to get at, so I’ve  been whey bombing it. I grow veggies near by so non-organic solutions are out of the question and I have a lot leftover whey, so it’s win-win (albeit a little slow.) Be careful as you pour the whey or you will become sticky where it splashes. Keep in mind you’re not just killing the plant itself, you’re also changing the ph of the soil which will affect what can and will grow there in the future.

Hard Cider Clearing

hard cider color

All fall and winter I’ve been busy making hard cider. The photo above is my last batch for the season – 2 gallons of Honey Crisp and 2 of Granny Smith using Belgian and Bavarian yeasts, no sugar added. Three days after I added the yeast the fermentation absolutely exploded – first time I’ve had it overflow through the blow-off tube! What’s interesting, though, is the extent 3 of the 4 gallons cleared. Previously all my batches have turned out like the middle gallon. I do not rack to a secondary fermenter or  add any fining agents. Because of the extremely active fermentation I left the blow-off tubes on the three clearer gallons rather than put an airlock on. On the hazy one, I switched it to an airlock once the fermentation calmed down. Truthfully, I noticed they were clearing faster without the airlock so I left the tubes in place to see what would happen. I really like a hazy cider, but this was too interesting to pass up. I’m not exactly sure why they are so different. I  assume it has something to do with amount of oxygen/air or possibly some of the sanitizer gassing off into the tube (?). I plan on doing some investigating, but if anyone knows why this happened I’d love to hear it! I have taste tested (and bottled) all four gallons and there seems to be no noticeable difference in taste aside from the variation of yeast and apple strains. Fermentation never ceases to amaze me!

cider color 2

Here is a raw milk Gruyere I made at 1.5 months old. I’m posting the picture because it has developed an orange/yellow color. This is from b. linens bacteria. I did not inoculate the milk with b. linens, but it is a naturally occurring bacteria found in (raw) milk. If you use pasteurized milk you generally don’t encounter it unless you add b. linens. In addition to the characteristic color, b. linens creates a sticky texture on the exterior. I’m rubbing the cheese with a brine solution every few days to prevent other mold growth, but I’m excited for this good bacteria.

Spinach Cream Cheese Pie

I recently made a batch of “real” cream cheese for a demo and had a fair amount left over. It’s good on bagels and there’s many many deserts that use cream cheese, but I wanted to create main dish that featured it. I love the synergy of spinach and cheese (as my posted recipes suggest) so I combined them in a savory pie along with garlic and dill. Feel free to adjust the seasoning (or any of it) to your taste. For as few ingredients as this has, it comes out surprisingly hearty yet very refined.

Real cream cheese is about 1000x better than then the store bought variety and very simple to make, so you should use it for this recipe if possible. Store bought cream cheese will obviously work, but it’s won’t be nearly as luscious and decadent. I did use store bought pie crust though (only so much time in the day). I also opted for frozen spinach, but fresh spinach will work if you chop and steam/saute/etc it.

I’m not vegetarian in the slightest,  but the richness of the cheese and the mineral/irony quality of the spinach makes for a filling and very satisfying meatless dish. Originally I planned on adding canned salmon but changed my mind, and I’m glad I did. I think any animal protein will make the dish overwhelming/just too rich. If you do want to add meat any fish, lamb or beef could work, but make sure to cut back the cream cheese.

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dry dill
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and thoroughly drained)
  • 2 pie crusts brought to room temp.
  • 8 oz (ish) fresh homemade cream cheese (room temp is better)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. Mix all ingredients together. Make sure the cream cheese is thoroughly blended.
  3. Line glass pie plate with first pie crust. Pour in filling. Place top crust on and seal by pinching the the edges together and trim off excess. Make a few punctures on top for steam to escape.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling in the center. You may want to wrap foil around the edges partially through cooking to prevent them from getting too dark.
  5. Enjoy!

Ricotta Salata – Hoegger Article

Ricotta Salata – Hoegger Article

This month for the Hoegger cheese blog I wrote about making ricotta salata. It’s a simple pressed cheese made from ricotta that can be used fresh or aged to make a grating cheese (sort of a poor man’s parmigiano). It’s a great intro to pressed cheeses since it requires no cultures or rennet, has minimal aging requirements and can be pressed in a homemade mold. Check out my previous ricotta post for the base and my guide to homemade cheese molds to finish it.

http://hoeggerfarmyard.com/how-to-make-ricotta-salata-a-simple-pressed-cheese/

Draining the Curds

Draining the Curds

Cheese Making Outside of Philly Feb 25

If there’s anyone in the greater Philly area interested in cheese making I have a class on Feb 25 at the wonderful cooking spotlight in Phoenixville PA. In class we will cover basic cheese making principles by covering two Italian cheeses – ricotta & mascarpone. Students will leave being able to confidently make a variety of soft cheeses at home using mostly supplies you already own. For a full description and to sign up follow their link:

http://www.cookingspotlight.com/ai1ec_event/art-of-cheese-making-italian-style/?instance_id=1513

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…

View original post 201 more words

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.

IMG_7293

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.

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