This Wiki Article discusses temporarily bathing or soaking formed and pressed cheeses. This is normally done after pressing with a high salt content brine. Once in the brine, the cheese begins to absorb the salt and the proteins on the surface of the cheese harden and form the start of the rind. Other Wiki articles on brine are Wiki: Making Brine, Wiki: Maintaining Brine, and Wiki: Brine For Ripening Cheese. Wiki articles on salt are: Wiki: Salt Types, and Wiki: Salt’s Function.
Ideally cheese should be evenly exposed to the same concentration brine on all sides to ensure even brining. In practice there are two obstacles to this:
- As cheese is less dense than brine, it is buoyant and will float (similar to an iceberg with 10% above and 90% below the ocean). The result is non-even brining of the cheese and air drying of the surface of the cheese above the brine. If unaddressed this will result in the surface above the brine retaining higher moisture and thus forming a softer poorer rind. To minimize this:
- After placing cheese in brine, sprinkle exposed area of cheese above brine with salt.
- Turn cheese once during brining time and sprinkle again with salt on the newly exposed surface.
- Note, if re-using and thus maintaining brine this extra salt will partially make up for the salt that is absorbed by the cheese.
- Cheese that is touching another surface, either the brine tank wall or another cheese, will not evenly absorb salt as i) poor contact with brine and ii) the brine between the cheese and wall/another cheese will become reduced in salt saturation. Thus ensure enough surface-areal room for cheese(s) to float freely away from the brine tank walls and from each other.
As brining cheese withdraws the salt from the brine, to maintain a reasonably stable % salt, amount of brine should be roughly 5 times the amount of cheese being brined.
Brining temperature should be kept constant and around 50-60°F/10-15°C as:
- Higher temperatures enable a wider range of spoilage and pathogen type microorganisms to flourish and will also increase salt uptake and moisture loss in the cheese.
- Lower temperatures will 1) restrict or kill many of the flavour producing organisms in your cheese, and 2) result in less salt uptake and higher moisture contents in the cheese, making it difficult to develop a rind.
- If not constant, salt uptake will be inconsistent and thus cheese making results vary due to a wide range of salt content and moisture levels. Note, in addition to a stable brine temperature, allow fresh cheese(s) to reach this temperature before bathing.
- Note, pasta filata (pulled) type cheeses like mozzarella need cold brining to quickly cool the cheese and minimize moisture loss.
Normally cheese making procedure dependant and increases with cheese weight/volume, thickness, and density. For example a very hard Parmagiano will require longer than a semi-hard Havarti.
As cheese is young, it is fragile, place cheese in brine and remove from brine by lifting from bottom, not by holding/pinching cheese from top as this can result in stress on the cheese above it’s strength and fracturing of the cheese, see Wiki: Turning Cheeses for more information.
Brining Best Practices
To ensure consistent results and tailor your next cheese making batch, record:
- Brine volume, density, temperature, and pH before and after brining cheese.
- Weight and temperature of cheese before brining.
- Duration cheese was in brine bath and amount the cheese was turned to avoid dry areas and promote even brining.
- Cheese’s weight after brining.