This Wirk Article discusses cheesecloth and butter muslin’s which are sheets of woven material commonly used in making cheese either for gravity draining cheese or lining hoops or for wraping during aging such as on certain fashions of cheddar. This article provides a description of cheese cloth, discusses their material’s, thread count, and thread size, guidlines for uses in cheese making, and lists some common sources.
How to use cheesecloth is not covered in this article.
Cheesecloth or cheese cloth is the descriptive generic name for a loosely woven gauze that was originally used to wrap cheeses, as it is descriptive it has no standards, thus the term is used generically, without specification. A term that is also often used in Cheese Making is Butter Muslin which in cheese making generally refers to a cheesecloth that has a tighter weave, again with no standard.
Cheesecloth can be quantified through five parameters: material, thread count, thread size, sheet size, sheet seaming which determine their pros and cons for use in different cheese making methods.
- Cotton, either bleached or unbleached (“natural” cotton) is the traditional and most common, but more difficult to get hygienically clean as in addition to the threads being woven together to make a sheet, the indivdual threads are also woven and thus can easily harbour unwanted bacteria. Lastly, requires seaming to prevent loose threads at edges of sheet.
- Nylon can be easily cleaned as the individual threads are non-woven and as the “threads” are heat sealed together, it doesn’t need to be seamed to stop lose threads at the edge of the sheet.
- Polyester can be easily cleaned as the individual threads are non-woven, however, as the threads are woven to make a sheet, unless seamed, it is very prone to loose threads.
Sometimes called grade, varies from very open to extra-fine weave and are defined by the number of threads per inch or cm in each direction, however many providers or sellers of cheesecloth do not list them.
Thread size is the measurement of the thickness or diameter of the individual threads. Thread size determines the cloth’s thickness and is the key determinant of the cloth’s strength. Weight per yard or square meter is often an indicator of thread size, but like thread count, many providers or sellers of cheesecloth do not list it.
The following are rough guidelines for cheese making cheesecloths:
- Purchase several types and styles to see what works best for you in your application.
- For draining whey from curds in a colander (to support the cheesecloth), use course weave.
- For hanging curds to gravity drain whey use a medium weave to allow whey to escape, yet heavier thread size-weight as you will need a stronger cloth to hold the weight.
- For lining hoops or molds, use a thinner material as strength is not required and it will leave less fold lines up the sides of your pressed cheese.
- For wrapping cheeses for aging, use a very thin material.
- Generally sheets of cheesecloth cut into squares work best, but sewn bags can be useful for gravity draining cheese and for lining cylindrical hoops and molds.
- Initially you can make do with old sheets such as bed sheets or clothes.
Cheesecloth is available at fabric supply stores or departments of large stores or via web stores. It is recommended to visit a large fabric store where you can inspect the different cloths available and choose smallish amounts of several types and trial them with your cheesemaking.