Author Topic: So What's in the Wash?  (Read 1626 times)

Offline Alpkäserei

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So What's in the Wash?
« on: October 24, 2012, 12:03:13 AM »
Washed rind cheeses are fascinating. There are so many possibilities when developing the rind of a cheese to add a unique flavor, texture, or note that truly makes it a work of art and skill.

I learned how to make cheese well in the Swiss Alps of the Canton of Bern. The cheeses here are all washed rinds -no mold allowed. I told them about some French style cheeses that intentionally mold the rind, and they thought this was bizarre, and couldn't understand why anyone would do such a thing.

The wash I learned was simple. A little water, a little salt, and a little white wine (no b. linen cultures or anything like that). This makes a nice golden brown rind which really has a pleasant, simple flavor. The wine also does a quick job of making the surface uninviting to any molds. I found that even in my blue mold infested cellar in damp humid Indiana, this wash keeps my cheeses spotless.

After my weeks on the Alp, I traveled around and sampled other cheeses from the country. Quickly I learned that across the country, the recipe of the wash varies tremendously. Even in the Berner Oberland, producers of the same cheese (Berner Alpkäse, the most wonderful thing on earth, well maybe the second most wonderful thing) vary their wash. Some might use a different wine, some might use no wine, some add a little spice to their wash. This of course is most evident in the famous Appenzeller Cheese (a very fine cheese, if you are fortunate enough to ever actually get top quality, mature cheese) where the specific herbs and spices of the wash are a very closely guarded secret (a secret that is the center of an entertaining Swiss advertising campaign).

The German-speaking Swiss seem to prefer a washed rind exclusively, and I must say I tend to agree with them (ok, so I admit it, I am German Swiss). Some of the washes, however, can get quite spectacular. Some cheeses, such as Appenzeller, typically use a brewed herbal wash to add flavor to the cheese. Others, such as Amsoldinger, use a rubbing of herbs and spices on the outside of the cheese which build up a hard film over time.

Some washers use salt water, other rub the cheese by hand with a handful of dry salt. Some do the same with other spices. Some brew the spices into a kind of tea and use that, together with white wine, to wash and flavor the cheese.

I used to use a simple salt wash, but found it was very difficult to keep mold at bay with that. Now I use wine in everything (which is nice, because the alcohol preserves the wash, letting me keep it on the shelf with my cheese for a very long time.) I've begun to experiment with some herbs and spices in liquid form, maybe someday when I have a few wheels of Mutschli on the shelf, I'll try a salt and spice rub and see how that goes.

So what tricks do you all have up your sleeves?
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Offline Tiarella

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2012, 11:03:16 PM »
I liked reading about using some white wine in the salty water wash.  I think I'll try that.  I have been curious about honey as a coating for cheese and am trying a Caerphilly with honey and leaves on it.  (photo attached)  I'm also curious after reading your post......I wonder whether I could use some essential oils of spices in my washes.  Or perhaps I'd have to add the oil to a salt scrub to be followed by a wash.  I don't know enough about different alcohol options that might offer a warm, spicy flavor addition.  Any ideas?  I'm also curious about what I could use as a wash for small cheeses that would then be wrapped in leaves.  The wash would need to prevent unwanted molds while perhaps adding some interesting flavors.   Hmmmmm.  I'm glad you started this thread.  I hope lots of folks who know more than I will post some of their experiences with washes.

Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2012, 11:34:41 PM »
honey by itself to me seems like you will probably have mold problems. So you might need to watch that.

Don't know about using oils. I suppose you could, but why not just boil herbs and make a tea to use with the wash?
Sometimes Appenzell cheesemakers use a spiced hard apple cider to wash the cheese, or so they say (you never no what those funny little Appenzellers are up to) This I think would give a warm spiciness. Beyond that, my knowledge of alcohol is not big enough to say any more. But I would think that apple cider would work well with leaf wraps.

One more thing, I imagine wrapping with leaves can be done in much the same way as applying a paper label to a cheese. When you wash the rind, it creates a sticky paste of cheese parts and bacteria. You can rub an established rind with a little wash to make it sticky, and whatever you want to stick will go right on it and stay there, stuck by the glue you just made (it's really a protein glue)

You use this to your advantage also when rubbing the cheese with herbs. After the cheese is washed and all gooey, you just take your mixture of dried herbs and generously massage them into the surface of the cheese all over. If you've got good rind development, the paste should be able to hold a good deal of herbs on. I have seen some nice cheeses in Switzerland with an attractive herb rub all over. You can get it so that the entire cheese is coated with the herbs so that you can no longer see the actual rind any more. These herbs will slowly release their flavor into the cheese during the aging period.

If you do this though, you need to first wash the cheese for a few days to get your b.linens (or whatever else you might use) established so that mold will not grow under your herbs/leaves and so that there is a strong enough paste to hold whatever you put on it. Also, if the rind is still wet then your herbs will penetrate their flavor into the cheese more easily.

Regarding those leaves, unless the cheese is to be cut open very soon, do realize that they will leach flavor and color into the cheese.
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Offline Tiarella

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2012, 09:07:27 PM »
Thank you, Alp.  Yes, I know the leaves may/will leach flavor into the cheese but they are lightly scented only and do not have much flavor.  I will see what they create although it'll be a while before it's ready.  I'm not sure how I'll address it if molds and yeasts show up and need treating.  Maybe more honey wash, maybe a honey/salt wash.  Maybe some other molds.  I love see what others are experiementing with.  I did a washed curd cheese with Belgian White ale last night and the curds smelled SO good when I was hooping it.  I just wanted to keep smelling it for hours!  I hope it tastes good.  I need to go read up on how to age it well.  It's been brined and patted dry so I better go read what should happen next with temperature, humidity, etc.

Offline Boofer

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 12:45:32 AM »
I'm very intrigued with the washed rind process/art and rind treatments in general. It's absolutely fascinating what you can do to cheese by applying a wash or a particular culture to the rind. I'm learning as I delve into what works and what may not.

I just finished a simple Port Salut that I washed with Vouvray wine and salt. I'm currently working on my Fancy using my own raspberry liqueur. And I've also washed a cheese with Moscato wine. Enticing flavor.

I wonder if any of the wide variety of herbal teas would offer a pleasing effusion to use as a wash? Possibly teamed up with a nice white wine.

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Offline mightyMouse.tar.gz

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2012, 01:21:46 AM »
Last time I was up in Monterey, I visited the aquarium. They were having a fundraiser event whose theme was gormet food (Alton Brown was actually there doing a talk on cooking- tickets were like $200 some odd dollars. In hindsight, I really wish I had coughed up the money but we had our 1 year old daughter with us, don't think she would have liked that...). Anyway, there was a local cheesemaker there that had the most beautiful washed rind gouda I have ever seen. The flavor was absolutely amazing and the rind looked fantastic. I really wish I could remember the name of the creamery. All I recall was him telling me that he got his start at the Cal Poly Artisan Cheesemaking Course (which I really hope to do this year...).
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }

Offline Tiarella

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2012, 05:27:31 AM »
I'm very intrigued with the washed rind process/art and rind treatments in general. It's absolutely fascinating what you can do to cheese by applying a wash or a particular culture to the rind. I'm learning as I delve into what works and what may not.

I just finished a simple Port Salut that I washed with Vouvray wine and salt. I'm currently working on my Fancy using my own raspberry liqueur. And I've also washed a cheese with Moscato wine. Enticing flavor.

I wonder if any of the wide variety of herbal teas would offer a pleasing effusion to use as a wash? Possibly teamed up with a nice white wine.

-Boofer-



I did a Drunkan Goat 2 weeks ago or so but had a wine fridge failure and got a fair amount of those wild blues on it.  At first I was following directions to just pat it down but that didn't work well enough.  Last night I washed it thoroughly like you did  with one of your cheeses and put it back into a pot of port.  I didn't put salt in it  (and NOT because I was going to drink the port afterwards!   :P ) because the recipe didn't call for that but now I wonder if I should have. 

I too am curious about all kinds of rind treatments and the two areas I have the most focus on are 1) how to keep my rinds clean of mold when I want that and 2) what neato cool things I can do to make incredible cheeses that DO have natural rinds or intriguing rind finishes.  I'm still struggling with keeping mold away.  I quake at the task of keeping all molds away since I know they are floating everywhere and that every time I open the door of my wine fridge I'm letting in fresh air full of more airborne divisions of molds, yeasts and more, Oh My!  I've been assuming that it's like keeping a body healthy; less about avoiding possible contaminations and more about creating the bio-terrain that is inhospitable to the growth of all the pioneering micro-organisms floating around.  Learning the best way to keep it inhospitable is a learning process.  I get it that salt and pH are important in the process and am still looking for other things.  Oh, and olive oil rubs, patting down molds, brushing, washing and patting dry when overwhelmed, etc. 

To get some very cool rind treatments that avoid molds AND add to the flavor seems the best of both worlds.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 06:05:55 AM by Tiarella »

Offline hoeklijn

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2012, 06:00:10 AM »
At the moment I'm working on my first Reblochons, which are simply washed with water, salt and a bit of BL. The effect of the washing is also influenced by the Geo of course.
Since I'm a big fan of Epoisses I will try something like that using a wash with Grappa or Marc de Bourgogne. And also a pressed cheese washed with Chimay (a brown Belgium trappist beer) is on my wish/wash list.
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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2012, 06:07:13 AM »
Herman, have you done washed curd cheeses?  That's the style of ale one I did.  I haven't done much with washed rind cheeses yet but aspire to that sometime.   :)

Offline Boofer

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2012, 08:30:16 AM »
And also a pressed cheese washed with Chimay (a brown Belgium trappist beer) is on my wish/wash list.
I've been thinking about a Chimay-washed candidate also. I'd have to get two bottles though. One for the wash and one to inspire the cheesemaker. ;)

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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2012, 11:07:45 AM »
careful about that inspiration, you might get a little too 'inspired'

I am particularly intrigued by herb washed cheeses, that is the ones actually rubbed down with dried herbs and given a coating of such. This is an interesting idea -likely related to the practice of packing meets and rubbing them down with herbs and spices to prevent spoilage.

We make in addition to our hard, long aged alpine cheese a Raclette style cheese which is washed curd and short aged (up to 4 mo) I've been thinking about different concoctions to use for the wash instead of water -such as herb mixes, wines, and the idea occurred to me to use some diluted hard apple cider (hard because you don't want all that sugar, and diluted because alcohol can stunt the culture). This one would be good to make a few of in the middle of the summer, and sell in the fall or early winter.

Also been thinking along the same lines for the brining stage -brining a cheese in a more flavorful mixture than the plain saltwater we normally use. This would be a good candidate for Mutschli, which is a younger, softer alpine cheese we make that is aged only a few months.

I even thought about washing a cheese with the juice drained off of sauerkraut. But this would probably lead to major yeast troubles, as sauerkraut is fermented by a combination of wild yeasts and bacteria that are naturally present in and on the cabbage.

We make our own wines at home, usually of local wild fruits. Such homemade brews would be great to mix in with out cheeses and create a uniquely local product.

We can also derive washes and brines from a few other wild plants, such as rose hips, apples blossoms and leaves, and a wide variety of wild herbs.
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Offline hoeklijn

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2012, 01:41:21 PM »
careful about that inspiration, you might get a little too 'inspired'
Seeing Boofer's liquor I'm not afraid one bottle of Chimay will be a problem...
Herman, have you done washed curd cheeses?
euhh, yes, Gouda. Just kidding, I know what you mean. No, not yet with curds washed in ale or something else. Have read also about somebody who had soaked 1/3 in whiskey, 1/3 in ale and kept 1/3 just in the whey. Moulded first a layer of the whiskey, above the layer with the normal curd and finished with the ale curd. And then pressed it. Seems like an amazing experiment to do...
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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2012, 02:44:47 PM »
He he he.... curds washed in Jägermeister.... That would be interested (probably nasty...).
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }

Offline Tiarella

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2012, 08:08:01 PM »
careful about that inspiration, you might get a little too 'inspired'
Seeing Boofer's liquor I'm not afraid one bottle of Chimay will be a problem...
Herman, have you done washed curd cheeses?
euhh, yes, Gouda. Just kidding, I know what you mean. No, not yet with curds washed in ale or something else. Have read also about somebody who had soaked 1/3 in whiskey, 1/3 in ale and kept 1/3 just in the whey. Moulded first a layer of the whiskey, above the layer with the normal curd and finished with the ale curd. And then pressed it. Seems like an amazing experiment to do...

Hmmm, that sounds interesting!  I think I'll stick to one at a time.  I do encourage you to do a washed curd with some ale or something in it.  I swear they could bottle the smell of the curds as the most wonderful perfume in the world!  I want to make another one so I stood for ages in front of the single bottles of ale at the food coop......looking at labels, wondering, having NO clue how to choose, etc.  I was going to choose by the pretty labels.....   ;D  Then I found one on sale that seemed like a nice flavor option.  I have to make cheese again tomorrow after I finish planting garlic and preparing for the massive storm.....or whatever it turns out to be.  Maybe I'll do washed curd again with the ale.  Or try it with some wine I bought for a drunkan goat....if I wash the curd with that it'll create a marbled wine pattern of curd borders when the finished cheese is cut open.

Offline hoeklijn

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Re: So What's in the Wash?
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2012, 06:36:52 AM »
Well Tiarella, I wish you all the best with the storm, what I see here on the news and the internet sounds scary... And I'm absolutely going to try a Chimay one of these days, weeks, months....
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