This article discusses the five main factors that control the dry salting of curds method of salting cheese, curd size and temperature, and salt type, amount, and application method. Many cheese making recipes or procedures call for dry salting cut curds after cooking or washing and draining whey and before forming the cheese by placing the cut curds in molds to drain or in hoops for pressing.
As reviewed in the Wiki: Salt’s Function article the salt % content in the type of cheese being made is critical, thus it is important to understand the factors that control dry salting curds.
For salt to be absorbed by the curd it must first dissolve and form a brine at the cut curd surface after which it then diffuses into the curd.
Ideally you want all the curd pieces, whether cut or milled, to have the same size so that the same amount of salt is absorbed and the same amount of whey expelled, resulting in a uniform cheese.
Large curd pieces are of special concern as they will result in high moisture and low salt content which can result in sour and fermented defects.
Curd temperature during direct dry salting should be between 87-92°F/31-33°C.
Higher temperatures result in a higher flush of whey which will:
- Carry away salt before it can be absorbed resulting in the cheese having sub-optimal salt % content.
- Carry away excess fat resulting in a greasy/seamy texture.
Temperatures below this range can result in a limited flush of whey and thus a limited brine forming around the curd pieces resulting in lower, sub-optimal uptake of salt.
Salt types are discussed in the article Salt Type’s, A To Z. For dry salting curds, standard dry crystalline non-iodized no anticaking additive sodium chloride salt is used.
It should be coarse granular sized (not rock or kosher grain size salt) rather than very fine to slow down the speed of dissolving into brine and absorption into the curds. As with high temperatures, fine gained salt can result in a rapid flush of whey and fat which can wash away other salt before being absorbed resulting in incorrect salt % content of the cheese type being made.
As reviewed in the Salt’s Function, A to Z article, final salt content of the cheese type being made is critical. Thus follow the cheese making procedure accurately on amount/weight of salt being applied versus weight of final cheese(s).
Salt Application Method
Generally, rather than in one large application, dry salt should be sprinkled onto cut or milled curds in several equal increments with gentle stirring or mixing in between. This is for the same reason as correct temperatures and coarse grained salt are optimal, to slow down the rate of salt absorption into the curds.
The gentle stirring or mixing helps to distribute the salty whey fully around the curd pieces rather than just where the salt is applied. Note, excessive or rough stirring is not recommended as it will result in smaller pieces of curds and a larger unwanted size distribution of the curds.
Two to three such increments spaced ~10 minutes apart are common. After the last salting, the curds should be allowed to rest for ~10 minutes to stabilize before proceeding to the next step in the cheese making procedure, normally forming the cheese.