Author Topic: Whey Cultures  (Read 1398 times)

Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Whey Cultures
« on: October 27, 2012, 11:25:48 AM »
Did a search on the board to see if there was an existing thread. Since the most recent one is 2 years old, I decided a new one would be good.

I use an old practice of holding over whey as a starter culture. A lot of people don't like this practice -they find it prone to error, contamination, etc. What I have found is that this is true for a lot of people trying to use whey in such a way (nice pun there, eh?) because they are skipping some important steps.

Let's get this right out front: Whey culture is prone to contamination if you do it wrong. But when done right, you ensure that favourable cultures will dominate.

Let's get this out front too: Whey using a whey culture, you are NOT going to wind up with the same strain ratios as you might have used as a mother culture to start the batch in the first place. What you will get is a mixture of cultures that is very well adapted to your make recipe after 2 or 3 times. You will also get a much more complicated family of cultures, which if you preserve your culture properly is a very good thing.

The number 1 misconception I have encountered with whey cultures is that you just hold over a bit of whey and use that to culture the next batch. that is not how you make a whey culture. If you do that, you will have problems and your culture can only last a few batches before it becomes so weak and contaminated as to be useless or even dangerous. What you do is use the whey to process the starter culture for the next day's cheese. But even then, the whey by itself is not sufficient. You need to continually reinforce the culture with your desired strains to ensure they dominate.

Here is how to pass on a whey culture. We will get to why you should do this a little later on. We won't deal with specific amounts or acidity ratings, as those vary from cheese to cheese.

First, you start off with your principle starter culture(s), and make a yogurt out of them.
Use this yogurt to culture your first batch of cheese. It is important that this first batch be made of raw milk.
Hold over a bit of your yogurt.
Make your cheese using very sanitary practices. Before removing the curd, take out about 1 liter of whey. It is recommended that you have a container that you use only for this step.
with the aid of a hot water bath, heat the culture to 61 C, and then immediately cool off to 38 C. Add to a preheated, sterilized thermos to incubate.
Take about 1 T of the yogurt culture you made previously, and add to the whey in the thermos. Close the thermos tightly, and shake well to stir. Put in a warm place to incubate overnight.

Using the leftover yogurt you made the first time, continue to make new yogurt every week using sterilized milk.
Each time you make the whey culture, add some of this yogurt to help maintain a strong culture.

After 5 days, you can use the whey culture to make the yogurt as well. This is needful, as the strains in the yogurt will weaken over time.

You can also use any live culture store bought yogurt to periodically reinforce the culture (this is how the do in the Alps, and it works well, so don't be afraid of it)

The most important factor is that the make recipes of a lot of these cheeses are specifically formulated (over a period of centuries of trial and error) to target good bacteria and encourage their growth while killing off or greatly weakening any undesirables or pathogens. Also, the flash heating and cooling of the whey serves to give the desired thermo cultures a boost, and kill of anything else. This will kill of MOST of the wild cultures in the raw milk.

After doing this at least 5 times, you should be able to use this culture in pasteurized milk and still be able to achieve something close to the full raw milk flavor profile.

I also use this whey culture to inoculate yogurt. I always thoroughly cook my milk when making yogurt (this breaks down fats and other proteins which causes the yogurt to set up faster and thicker without becoming overly sour, and without needing any starches or dehydrated milk) But by using my whey, I basically end up with the bacterial profile it would have had with raw milk, but I also ensure that my good cultures will dominate. And by the why, Swiss alpine cheese culture makes some great yogurt.

I also recommend that you periodically take portions of your culture and deep freeze it. It can keep a year or two under these conditions, although you will need to restart it using an intermediate batch of runny yogurt.
If you do this, you place the culture in reserve and have a backup in case of contamination or weakening of your strains. This is also what you do with a whey culture if you do not make cheese every day, and cannot proceed with the daily incubation cycle.

Now here is one important thing to note. If you do not make cheese every day, DO NOT use a straight whey culture. It won't work, you have no way of controlling the strength and the culture will probably continue to grow until it becomes so acidic as to kill itself. Instead, use your whey to make yogurt and use that as your starter culture. This way, you have total control over your culture.

Now here a few reasons why you might choose to do this:
-A whey culture establishes a complex set of bacteria, which since they are drawn directly from the finished cheese are ideally suited to your recipe. (this also makes consistency an important practice)
-You can establish a complex set of safe wild flora which can be used to give pasteurized milk a full flavor profile (you are reintroducing the wild strains)
-You can use anything as a starter, such as yogurt. After 2 or 3 rotations you will have established a set of strains pretty true to your cheese's traditional cultures (with the exception of a few exotic ripening agents). NOTE: This is how the local cultures used for cheeses came about in the first place, they are a direct result of the cheesemaking process. It actually doesn't take hundreds of years to develop a genuine culture for, say, an Alpine or Emmental style cheese. All it takes is a few batches. (Note that the makers of Emmentaler cheese traditionally do not add an PS powder, because it is already in your milk they just cook the milk in such a way as to encourage its growth) The cheesemakers in Switzerland actually make a new batch of culture every year. They are not passing down a collection of strains that has been preserved since the middle ages.

I will repeat this over and over again, so it sticks. In the tradition as I learned it, they start off with a few basic thermo cultures, but the ripeners and flavoring cultures are almost entirely derived from the milk. The cultures that flavor Berner Alkäse, for example, are selected not in a laboratory, but by the process used to make the cheese. Also, the methods used in preparing the whey for incubation help to further isolate desired strains.

Using a whey culture helps you to appreciate how the way you handle a cheese has a significant effect on its flavor. When we use isolated lab cultures, it's easy to get certain results. But then we no longer understand the consequences of our actions as cheesemakers, because we have shielded ourselves from them. The different flavors of our cheeses (with the exception of modern lab made 'Frannkencheeses') developed from wild cultures. Many traditional cheesemakers in Europe actually still to this day isolate their own cultures each year. It sounds kind of mystical and all that, but it's really pretty simple. But the amazing thing about this is that they have done this in some cases for thousands of years without having any idea what it was they were doing. They understood the consequences of their actions, but not the science of it. Today we understand the science of it, but not the consequence of action. Personally, I prefer the former.
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser


Guests, join the CheeseForum.org community to remove this ad.


Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2012, 11:44:24 AM »
Now some may ask themselves,
If I start off with basic cultures, how do I arrive at the rich flavor profile of an emmentaler or whatver old world cheese I am making.

The answer is that you probably won't get it the first time. It might not be until the third or fourth batch that the flavor will have developed itself.

This, I believe, is part of the reason why Swiss traditions generally start off the season with a secondary cheese which is not fully aged. Most use Mutschli, some use Raclette, and there a handful of others. These weaker flavored cheeses give the culture the opportunity to develop before it is used in the full-flavored cheeses. Most cheesemakers recognize the significance of these cheeses as being a way to use the inferior early and late milk, making a cheese where the inferior quality won't matter quite as much. But I believe the cultural impact is also important.

Now that said, I have successfully made a full flavored, nutty, intense Alpine cheese the first batch using a simple starting culture that lacked what we would generally recognize as the bacteria that cause these characteristic flavors.
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser

Offline bbracken677

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Dallas, Tx
  • Posts: 1,166
  • Cheeses: 16
  • I love me some cheese!
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2012, 10:58:55 AM »
Doesn't whey usually have some rennet remaining? If you added whey, as a starter, from a previous make to a fresh make, what is the initial reaction of the milk to the addition of the whey?

Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2012, 11:21:41 AM »
In my experience, there is no reaction. If there is any active rennet remaining in the way, it is such a small amount as to be totally insignificant within the time frames we are working with.

Remember that we are working in quantities of 3 to 5 dl of incubated whey culture per 100 l of milk (that's a ration of 3:1000 to 5:1000) Then we have 1 cl of liquid rennet per 100 l of milk (or 1 ml per dl of milk, you could also say)

working with such small numbers, we wind up with only trace amounts of rennet added to the milk through the whey culture. It would take a very long time for this to have any measurable effect.

When using a whey culture, you add the culture together with the morning milk and evening cream, heat that up, add the evening milk and heat it back up, then add the rennet. So this is only in the milk about 30 minutes at most before the rennet is put in. Not enough time to do anything.

A whey culture is already fully active when you add it, unlike a powder culture which needs time to get started before it gets to work on the milk.

But also, having made yogurt cultured with cheese whey I have never seen any effects of rennet coagulation occurring even after days. So I don't think it is something to worry about.
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser

Offline bbracken677

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Dallas, Tx
  • Posts: 1,166
  • Cheeses: 16
  • I love me some cheese!
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2012, 12:53:38 PM »
Thanks!


Guests, join the CheeseForum.org community to remove this ad.


Offline JayW

  • Young Cheese
  • **
  • Location: Western MA.
  • Posts: 15
  • Cheeses: 3
  • Default personal text
    • cheesemaking.com
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2012, 04:09:09 AM »

I will repeat this over and over again, so it sticks. In the tradition as I learned it, they start off with a few basic thermo cultures, but the ripeners and flavoring cultures are almost entirely derived from the milk. The cultures that flavor Berner Alkäse, for example, are selected not in a laboratory, but by the process used to make the cheese. Also, the methods used in preparing the whey for incubation help to further isolate desired strains.

Using a whey culture helps you to appreciate how the way you handle a cheese has a significant effect on its flavor. When we use isolated lab cultures, it's easy to get certain results. But then we no longer understand the consequences of our actions as cheesemakers, because we have shielded ourselves from them. The different flavors of our cheeses (with the exception of modern lab made 'Frannkencheeses') developed from wild cultures. Many traditional cheesemakers in Europe actually still to this day isolate their own cultures each year. It sounds kind of mystical and all that, but it's really pretty simple. But the amazing thing about this is that they have done this in some cases for thousands of years without having any idea what it was they were doing. They understood the consequences of their actions, but not the science of it. Today we understand the science of it, but not the consequence of action. Personally, I prefer the former.

Brilliant piece you have written here ... I have seen this done many times on the Alpage and have done it to a small degree here but since I do not make the same cheese all the time only for limited runs. Have seen many  methods for incubation but the best was staying on the alpage with friends in the Etivaz area a couple of years ago where they incubated at 2 different temps  (2 different acid levels) and blended the whey before use to get their perfect acid. Most likely selecting for different strain balances as well. Best of the science and the old ways.

PS... interested in your background and experience ... please email me --jimatcheesemakingdotcom
Jim Wallace .. the "Tech Guy" at www.cheesemaking.com
                    ...... current workshops are online and filling up quickly now! http://www.cheesemaking.com/JimW.html

Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2012, 12:43:30 PM »
2 incubations, that's a fantastic idea. Woukd you happen to know what the specifics of each were? I am always looking for new ideas to use in my cheeses.
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser

Offline linuxboy

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Ukiah, CA
  • Posts: 3,986
  • Cheeses: 199
  • www.wacheese.com
    • Washington Cheese Guild
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2012, 08:26:57 PM »
We use the multiple incubation approach in industry when making undefined strain starter cultures, like the meso probat line that Dupont (Danisco) sells. The problem with undefined starters is how do you maintain the ratios of all the species when successively culturing generations. If you take an average temp among all the strains, it won't work... usually will produce strain dominance or will produce poor biomass results, prolonged fermentation, etc.

So instead, we use culture building blocks. Start with a mother, separate into multiple tanks. Do a first block where you target something like l lactis lactis and l lactis cremoris for the primary acidifiers. Then do a second block and adjust the parameters... add citrate and acetate and up the dissolved O2 with a lower incubation temp for Leuconostoc, for example (produces 90%+ Leuconostoc in an undefined mix). Or add inhibitory additives, depends what the strains are. But basically, premise is you target one specie and culture to encourage it over others. Then you blend the building blocks so that your final undefined blend is exactly or very close to exactly the same as the mother. It's taking the concept of blending post-fermentation or post-lyophilization and applying it to undefined, traditional technologies.

That's really interesting that they do it in Etivaz using a similar approach. Presumably to maintain the cocci:rod ratio?
Taking an extended leave (until 2015) from the forums to build out my farm and dairy. Please e-mail or PM if you need anything.

Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2012, 08:44:06 PM »
L'Etivaz is an interesting cheese, the process for it is a deliberate attempt to preserve the very old techniques used in the region for centuries. They say it is basically the original Gruyere, they withdrew from the official Gruyere program because they felt it had become too modern and compromised on the quality and tradition. As such, it is a closer relative to Berner Alpkäse than the typical Gruyere would be.

Similar to Alpkäse, this cheese has to be produced in copper kettles over a wood fire (no jacket vats) and it is a true alpine cheese -made up on the Alp during the summer grazing.

The double incubation technique would be something I would be very interested in for the production of short-term aged cheeses, to develop a more complex profile for these cheeses. (I'm not going to mess with the Alpkäse recipe. This must strictly follow tradition, or as close as I am able to in Indiana)
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser

Offline Alpkäserei

  • Old Cheese
  • *****
  • Location: Indiana/Kanton Bern
  • Posts: 600
  • Cheeses: 62
  • Default personal text
    • https://www.facebook.com/Kaesereigrimwald
Re: Whey Cultures
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2012, 12:18:24 PM »
I was thinking about this and realized, we also use a double incubation method.

Our method is to do the flash heating/cooling of the whey to isolate strep, but then once it is at incubating temperature we mix in yogurt, which will be our source of lactobacilli.

The yogurt itself is continually produced alongside the cheese, using yogurt to culture future batches and on occasion reinforcing with whey (the milk for yogurt production is thoroughly cooked and sterilized)

But I am still interested in what has been brought out here, how can we tweak the process to result in strong lactobacilli?
My concern is that the practice from the Alps may not work as well in Indiana (different climate, different wild strains, etc.) So as a result, I want to understand better what must be done to get the desire bacteria from the local flora.
Guät git's dr schwiizer Chäser


Guests, join the CheeseForum.org community to remove this ad.