September 25, 2012

My 1st Repeatable Cheese

I didn't make any hard cheeses this summer. One reason is because we don't have a lot of surplus milk. Almost all of it has gone for yogurt and mozzarella. That doesn't mean we've been without cheese. I made 20 hard cheeses last summer and we're just over halfway through all that.

Some of the goat milk cheeses I made last year

Why so slow? Well, these were my first attempts at cheese making and to be honest, the first nine weren't all that great. Sad, but not a complete disappointment, because I knew I would have to develop the knack for making cheese, much like I did when I learned to make bread or bake with sourdough. I know to give myself some room to learn and make mistakes. Even so, I've figured out several reasons why these first cheeses could not be categorized as successes. One, I made the first eight with hand skimmed milk. The cream really makes a difference in flavor and texture. I didn't realize this until I had dutifully eaten my way through those cheeses (Dan didn't help me but the chickens did), Then I got to the first cheese made with whole milk. What a difference.

The second reason is the amount of salt. I was skimpy on the salt at first. Recipes give quite a range for how much to add, and I wasn't sure where to start. So I started on the conservative side. Although cheese is said to be a high sodium food, it doesn't really taste salty the same way that potato chips do. But the salt is there and makes a huge difference in taste. Once we got to the cheeses that had more salt, the taste improved as well.

Now, cheese number 10 was promising. I blogged about that one ("I Think She's Got It!"). It gave me hope that the next few would be even better. Still, we were slow to finish it. Then I cut into cheese number 11.

Cheese #11

Sharp (it was aged almost a year after all), but really good. Good enough that it was quickly eaten, and good enough to want to try to make again.

Fortunately I kept a cheese diary and made good notes. I recorded ingredients, times, amounts, and temperatures. I followed the same basic recipe for all my cheeses last summer, using the hard cheese directions from The Little House Cookbook. I have Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making, but I want to try to develop recipes without using purchased mesophilic and thermophilic cultures. I wanted to see if I could make a good cheese from what I have available: whey or buttermilk, for example.

Like almost all my cheeses, this one was made with a gallon and a half of whole raw goat milk, and 2 cups of whey from the previous cheese as the culture. There are several differences however. For cheese #11, I added a tablespoon of whole milk goat yogurt to the whey. I also made a note that I forgot to cook the curds until "squeaky," i.e. they literally squeak on your teeth when you bite them. This is a standard cheese making step, so it isn't something I would have thought to omit as an experiment. I also brined it, like I do my mozzarella. That was in addition to a teaspoon and a half of salt added to the curds before putting it in the press.

The question is, can I duplicate it? Well, I'm certainly going to try. I have all the times, temperatures, and steps in my notebook. Trouble is, hard cheeses have to age so it will take awhile to find out if the repeat is a success (slow living at it's finest). Still, I'll stick with this recipe for awhile, and make several by it, to see how these turn out. If I can duplicate it, we'll have our first homestead cheese worthy of a name. I'm not necessarily looking to have a huge repertoire of cheeses, just a few that we really like.

I have plenty of cream in the freezer for butter, so I'm going to save up whole milk to try this recipe again. Wish me good providence!

[UPDATE: Oct. 2012 - I did indeed try this cheese again. For the recipe and a photo tutorial, click here: Cheese #11 - The Recipe.]


The Cranky said...

Cheese number 11 sounds heavenly; I love a sharp tang to my cheese!

Carolyn said...

I would LOVE to make a good, sharp cheese....but never got over the first couple of total disasters several year ago. So the cheese press just sits sadly in the cabinet. Maybe I'll try again in the spring when we're flush with goat milk again.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

Good luck! You're an inspiration.

DFW said...

Those look lovely. Congratuations on #11! What kind of press do you use?

Bernadine said...

All that hard cheese looks amazing. We've made our own mozzarella twice and we were impressed with ourselves then. Making all the products you do from your own goats is just incredible. You've got to have a sense of extreme accomplishment! Congratulations. And I hope your next batches turn out perfect for you.

Sherri B. said...

Congratulations, it looks like you have it figured out! You always impress me at how you press on with determination, even if it doesn't turn out right away.

I do wish you good providence! xo

Renee Nefe said...

I think with all the variances in the flavor of the goats' milk that getting the same cheese twice is going to be very tricky, but it seems like a yummy experiment. :D

I sure wish I lived closer to help you eat up all that cheese. ;o)

Renee Nefe said...

we had some goat milk cheese called chev (I think that's how you spell it) that tasted very similar to Parmesan. But I think the dairy is no longer in business as I saw that many other smaller dairies now have their goats.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on such a productive last year in cheese making. It is such a try and learn science, but it is so much fun!

Leigh said...

Jacqueline, each one is a surprise! But they've all been aged awhile, so I'm sure they'll all be somewhat sharp. :)

Carolyn, those flops are tough to get past. Very discouraging. But then, when one has a lot of milk, what else is there to do!

Candice, thanks!

DFW, my press is the rigged kind. I have a tincture press that I thought I could use, so I bought the mold and follower. It didn't work, so now I just rig it up with weights. :)

Bernadine, when you've got your own milk factory(s), you make cheese!

Sherri, thanks! It's the old "try, try, again."

Renee, that's a good point. Commercial cheeses are made from a huge pool of milk, so the flavors will be more consistent. Still, if I can come close, I'll be a happy camper.

Sad those cheese makers had to sell their goats. It would be quite a task to make that much cheese.

Michele, thanks! I've learned that if I just stick with something long enough, I eventually get the hang of it.

Laura said...

I'm getting 3 goats - 2 wethers for cabrito, one doeling for milk. I have always wanted to make cheese, and have the cultures to do it (kept in the freezer for 3 years!!). The doeling is Saanen/Boer cross, so should be good for making more cabrito and milk! I haven't decided if she's going to have a goat friend, or keep Tang company. I'll have more on my blog in a couple of days, including pictures! I'm stealing your cheese recipe - I have to make some the "normal" way first, though, to have whey. Do you freeze your whey to use again?

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Good providence indeed my friend. Your cheese journey seems to be more successful at each attempt. Looks delicious to me!

badgerpendous said...

Cheese #11 - I love it! Sounds like your usual, measured approach is paying dividends again. Can't wait to hear more about the cheeses. And I love the picture of the cheeses. Made me hungry instantly.

Michelle said...

Good Providence, indeed! I'm glad to have you to look to for information! I was planning to start making cheese this summer (I even bought eveything I needed.), but my kids didn't wean in time. I plan to have my goats kid in late February or early March so that the kids will be ready to wean about the time I get out of school, and I can have all that lovely milk for cheesemaking! :-D

Leigh said...

Laura, it would be great to have someone else to try the recipe so we could give one another feedback. I love the idea of a dairy/meat cross. That's why we hoped for Kinders, and I'm giving my Nubian doe one more chance with our Pygmy buck. Dan really likes Kikos, so I'm thinking maybe - Kikobians? Boers are more common, but they do give rich milk, or so I'm told.

Yes, I do freeze whey, but will likely use whey from my mozzarella when I try to replicate cheese #11. I did use the frozen whey for brine for the mozzarella, but I have plenty now, for more hard cheeses.

Janice, I hope so!

Badgerpendous, there is just something about cheese, isn't there? Photos of it always make my mouth water!

Michelle, you definitely have something to look forward to! Even the "disasters" are edible. :)

Michelle said...

P.S. I don't have a press. A friend gave me one her husband built out of a coffee can and plywood, but it had mold on it. I'm not sure if I want to risk it, since one has to wait such a long time before learning if the potentially contaminating press did any harm. :-/

Michelle said...

Can we expect a tutorial on the making of repeat: Cheest #11? (pretty, pretty please!)

Leigh said...

I agree. A coffee can has seams that could harbor unwanteds that could contaminate the cheese. A lot of folks make presses out of PVC pipe pieces they find at Lowes or Home Depot. Mine isn't the greatest contraption, but it works.

I'll definitely take photos when I make it and give you a blow by blow. The only problem is, we won't know whether or not it's a success until after a long aging!

Michelle said...

Well, I was more worried about the mold in the wood, but yeah, the seams in a coffee can could be bad, too.

I hope you'll show us your press, too. The more ideas to avoid spending exhorbitant amounts of money on a single use gadged we can get, the better!

I can't wait to see your step by step photos! Your experienced experiment is much better than my inexperienced bumblings!

Unknown said...

Little House Cookbook, great idea!

Farmer Barb said...

WooHA! Those are the kind of details that inspire! I am looking forward to the results--next year!

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

I am in absolute awe! That cheese sounds and looks amazing.

luckybunny said...

Sounds and looks amazing! Great job. Great post.

Leigh said...

Nancy, I love those old type cookbooks. I figure they're so much closer to what we're trying to do here, so why not!

Farmer Barb, I truly hope they inspire. I'm going to have a tough time on this one though. Technically cheese only has to wait 60 days to age, but I know it wouldn't be the same!

Norma, thanks!

Donna, thanks!

Doug Pitcher said...

Cheese number 11 sounds like a science experiment. How about "Non Squeaky goat cheese" or "Dang that's hard and smelly goat cheese".

I'm an accountant but I think my real calling in life should have been in marketing. ha.

Better make a lot as I'm sure your following would love to purchase some of your successes.

Michelle said...

...makes me think of Channel #5.

Leigh said...

Doug, LOL. Actually, the smelly goat cheeses are the soft ones. The hard ones just smell like cheese. I've toyed with the idea of a cheese business, but would have to jump through a lot of hoops to get certification. We just don't have that kind of set-up. I suspect it's something there would be a market for though.