October 18, 2011

Cheese Making Update

Some of my homemade goat milk cheeses

I haven't mentioned cheesemaking in awhile. Not that there isn't anything to tell, I just haven't gotten around to writing about it.

My 1st hard cheese. Still in wax but waiting to be cut.
I made my first hard cheeses last June. We waited, while they, encased in wax, cured for the required 60 days. After making about five, I turned my attentions to learning to make mozzarella. It was one named cheese I definitely could use, but also, I figured I'd better see if I needed to adjust my cheesemaking process before making more than several hard cheeses. That meant we needed to taste test. While we waited I made and froze enough mozzarella for winter pizzas.

In August, it was time to sample our first hard cheese.

My first goat milk hard cheese

I was curious as to what it would look like when we cut it. It was speckled with small eyes and was very white. This color is typical of goat cheeses, because their milk does not contain beta carotene like cow milk. A small patch of mold had developed under the wax, but not being adventuresome, I cut that off, and fed it to the chickens (who loved it).

The thing that struck me was how hard it was. Everything I had read suggested that goat milk only makes soft cheeses, which is why calcium chloride is recommended as an additive. I'm not sure how I managed such a hard goat cheese, perhaps a fluke, perhaps it's repeatable. I'll have to see how my other cheeses turn out to compare with my notes.

Time to taste. I was not impressed. It had a sharp taste (but not overly so), and a dry texture. Dan thought it was akin to colby, but also objected that it was "goaty." I didn't really notice this, which according to Ricki Carroll is because of the naturally occurring lipase enzymes and fatty acids in goats milk. While I didn't care for it for table use, it was an acceptable cooking cheese, and we used it up that way. I think it could have been improved quite a bit with more salt, about which recipes are fairly vague. I only added a teaspoon for 3 half-gallons of milks-worth of cheese. I've subsequently increased the salt.

Newest cheese, air drying to develop the rind before waxing

Even though it wasn't a huge success, I was not disappointed. I figure it's like learning to make bread and will take awhile to get an acceptable product. And of course having to wait two months to judge my results only slows down the perfecting process. However, I find that life is so much easier when I permit myself time to learn, and give myself room to make mistakes. In this case my "mistakes" are edible, so all is not lost. Experience truly is a wonderful teacher and I've made my start.

I have done some recipe modifications in subsequent cheeses, though we won't know the taste results for awhile yet. I've experimented mostly with my starter, which is whey based, rather than a boughten culture. I did purchase some thermophilic starter culture to try my hand at Parmesan (a favorite of Dan's), but the jar of milk exploded when I sterilized it, so I have set that project aside for the time being.

"Cooking" the curds in their whey, heating
 actually, until they are squeaky to chew.

One thing I don't have at present, is a proper "cheese cave." Cheese caves age the cheeses at the recommended temperature of between 45 to 60 F, and humidity of 75 to 90 percent. I'm using my 2nd refrigerator in the pantry, which is also used to keep the whey and store other items, and so is cooler than a cheese cave. Consequently it's environment isn't ideal for aging cheese.

I continue to study the cheesemaking process, and have made minor adjustments to temperatures and technique. I also started using whole milk, instead of skimming the cream off with a spoon first. I have already noted that these cheeses are heavier when they come out of the press. Each time I use 3, half-gallon jars of milk, but my first, skimmed milk cheeses were a pound, pound and a half. My whole milk cheeses have averaged 2 pounds out of the press. I'm hoping this will help the texture as well, and that the resulting cheeses won't be so dry.

I'm still getting milk, so I'm still making cheese. I'm not sure what we'd need for a winter's supply; I'll have a better idea of that next year. Once I figure out a recipe we like, I imagine we'll eat quite a bit.

We're eating the cheeses in chronological order, one at a time, so I won't know for awhile how well my tweeks and experiments work out. All things considered, I'll let you know in about two months.


Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I dont know, I love a good sharp cheese. My mouth was watering a little reading the description. Maybe your over critical ;) It is hard to wait the appropriate amount of time to taste test. Especially with something as good as cheese.

Renee Nefe said...

I know that you're keeping good notes as to what went in, so when you get to taste the final result you'll know how to do it again...it's just the waiting would be so hard for me.
Good thing that even the mistakes are edible.
When we went to the goat dairy (for a field trip) we really liked the "Parmesan" type cheese.

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

I will be reading this post again and again, so enjoyable and knowledgeable..

Leigh said...

Jane, I think it was the blandness that was the put-off. And the texture as in dry in the mouth, not a cheese your teeth can sink in to. It's amazing what a huge difference the salt makes. Cheese doesn't necessarily taste salty, but if it isn't there, blah.

Renee, I'm definitely going to give it a try one of these days! And you're right, I think the notes will definitely help, especially when I start to get some results we really like.

Ginny, I started out at zero! This is what experience does for ya. :)

Susan said...

I appreciate your journaling your cheesemaking efforts. I am working my way through a few, and want to start making some aged cheeses this winter. I got a little wine fridge at a yard sale that I can use for a cheese cave. I am with Jane, though. That cheese sounded GOOD!

Laura said...

I have an acquaintance whose daughter had a Grade A goat dairy and made cheese. She specialized in hard cheeses, and they were awesome. She made cheddar, parmesan, pepper jack, etc. She made some chevre, but her focus was the hard cheese.

She got married and stopped makeing cheese :(

(the word verification I got was reneti - is that Italian for Rennet??)

Nina said...

Cheese making sounds like a fun adventure. One doesn't normally think of goat cheeses as bland and not very sharp. I guess there are so many variables, you'll need to experiment to get it right. Still it's cool that you're making hard cheeses too. I've several friends who make cheese. One seems to do mainly softer cheeses, but the other does harder cheeses like goat cheddar, with good success.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

My daughter, along with my FFA/4H granddaughter, now have a herd of four dairy goats (prize-winning I might add). Her goal is to get into making cheese. However, with her schedule of home-schooling, carpooling, and football mom—it's just hard to find the time. I'll let her know about your blog hoping it will inspire her to find the time!

Carolyn said...

You're more brave than I am. We tried hard cheese twice, and twice failed. Once before it was even waxed, and once after sitting in the fridge (it was dry, crumbly & icky). Next year I promised myself it would be the Year of the Cheese. Good luck on the rest of yours & of course, keep us all posted!

Florida Farm Girl said...

Cheese making sounds like something I'd enjoy doing, but with only me to eat most of it, what's the point? I do love goat cheeses, though. Hubby has cut his cheese intake down to next to nothing due to health issues. I've been following the cheese episodes at Chickens in the Road too and she makes all kinds of stuff. Good luck. I've make cheese vicariously through you two.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I love reading about your cheesemaking efforts! Maybe one day I can step into that arena.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, why can't I just take the plunge and get into hard cheese making? Your post was so encouraging. We don't have a dairy animal(s) right now, but I do have a ready access to wonderful raw milk. Somebody give me a kick in the butt, please?

Jody said...

Leigh you said cheese making is akin to making bread. I'm sure it is. You'll get better with time. It also sounds akin to making wine. We use calcium chloride to bring the acid level of our grapes down to make the wine palatable. I wouldn't know about cheese, but if my wine tasted kind of bland (like you told Jane your cheese seemed) or flat I would think I might have used too much calcium chloride.

We sure hope we can get goats like you someday. The fact that we're still relying on grocery stores for all our dairy products really bugs us.

Rosamargarita said...

Me encanta el queso!
Te admiro por hacer tantas cosas, conservas, queso, criar animales, reformar tu casa y además haces fibras
Un abarzo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your learning experiences with this Leigh. It's something I haven't attempted yet, but will some day:)

Farmer Jen said...

I have Rikki Carroll's cheesemaking book and I have tried making mozzarella a few times. The amount of salt really does make a big difference in taste. I am envious of your hard cheese making. Your knowledge, time and special cheese press equipment are things that I don't have yet. Someday, I would like to try making the hard cheeses though. Your blog posts are inspiring!

Leigh said...

Susan, I hadn't thought about getting a little fridge 2nd hand. What a great idea!

Laura, I've heard from others that goat cheeses can be deliciously fantastic. Can't wait until mine are that way too! Of course, I'm not using traditional cultures for specific cheeses, so it may take me a little longer (?)

Nina, it's those variables that are the challenge! I do think it has a lot to do with the salt. I admit I've liked my fresh cheeses better (I sample), but I do need cheese in my food storage for all that milk.

CaliforniaGrammy, they could do cheesemaking as a 4-H presentation! :)

Carolyn, not braver, just currently more determined. :) My first cheese was exactly the same way. And my first loaf of bread was a brick! I knew it would take awhile. There are not only a lot of different techniques, but also a lot of different ways to flavor. Eventually I'll make a cheese we really love.

FFG, I'll have to check her out! Thanks. Now that I've got a basic procedure down, it's fun to compare details. I learn the best stuff that way.

Candace, I'm guessing you'll find it just as fun and intriguing as I do!

Mama Pea, consider yourself kicked, LOL. How about checking out some cheesemaking books from the library? Look them over, admire the pictures, let your mouth water, and pick an easy one just to get your feet wet. :)

Jody, it's that yeast! So unpredictable, LOL. I've never tried my hand at winemaking but I can see how it would be a challenge too.

Very interesting about the calcium chloride, thanks! It never occurred to me how it effected pH. But you've got me thinking. The starter culture is added to lower the milk's pH, or so I thought. The CaCl2 would seem to be counterproductive (???) I need to research this more

Also, sounds like I could get it at a winemaking supply store, which I'm sure there is locally. There is no cheesemaking supply store around and it would be nice not to have to pay shipping and handling. Thanks!

Rosamargarita, thanks! It's all a new adventure for us, and when the cheese is a success, it's a lot of fun. :0

Stephanie, thanks! There are so many things to try out there. I don't think I could learn them all in a lifetime!

Jen, thank you! That's the same book I have, but my cheese press leaves much to be desired. It's actually my tincture press, which was sold as a wine press.

You're right about the salt; I'm amazed at how big a difference. The knowledge comes through experience, and with that, we all start out at the same place. :)

Anonymous said...

We have some store-bought skim milk goat cheese for salads, and I can say it tastes just about the way you describe yours. So, yes to whole milk and to salt. --Sue in MA

Andrew said...

That is interesting. So, how was the mozzarella? The stuff I've made from a kit + 1gal whole milk at the store has been awfully bland. I did the same thing and tried to turn up the salt added just before the stretching phase. That didn't help me a whole lot. I even threw in some diced jalapenos which didn't want to stay IN the cheese ball at all. I posted a picture of that over on facebook. I didn't hate it but I wouldn't do jalapeno mozzarella again. Easier to apply pepper during pizza bake. And buying whole milk from the store is surprisingly and disappointingly un-cost-effective compared to buying a pound of cheese already made up. Now if I had plenty of milk on hand, oh YES!

Oh by the way, what did your chickens think of the whey? Did you do rennet from it as well? I don't think my chickens really noticed the whey to begin with but I walked up a different day and the whole quart jar waterer was practically drained and I can't account for that much on the floor near it. So I'm guessing some hen spread the word that there was some sweet tasing stuff in there.

Leslie said...

I don't know anything about making cheese but I have always thought of cheese making as a skill that is perfected with trial and error. I would have been surprised if you had said that the first time you did it, it was perfect. I look forward to hearing about the process and what you figure out. (It is beautiful looking cheese by the way)

Leigh said...

Sue, thank you for that. Both cream and salt should really add a lot. I'm looking forward to these cheeses!

Andrew, my first couple batches of mozzarella didn't turn out very well. Then a reader gave me a lot of good tips that made an amazing difference in the outcome. I didn't have much luck salting the curds either, but the trick is to brine if for a couple of hours after stretching. What a difference! I have all the notes on another post, Cheese Making Update - Goat's Milk Mozzarella. Hopefully my hard cheeses will improve as much soon.

I agree cheesemaking isn't cost effective if one has to buy the milk. But with dairy goats, it becomes overly abundant quickly! I feed both the whey and skimmed milk to my chickens (I save the cream for me!) They love both, but like milk best. I figure it's an excellent source of both protein as well as calcium for them.

Leslie, LOL, I would have been surprised too. Like bread and wine making, there is both an art and science to it. The science is following the recipe, the art is knowing how to make it delicious. :) I'll have plenty of milk from now on though, so I plan to perfect my cheesemaking!

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

"I find that life is so much easier when I permit myself time to learn"
I think I might put this quote on my fridge, so I won't get discouraged when I realize I am not the master of a craft that I am just trying!
Love your blog.