Author Topic: Hello from Far Northern California!  (Read 1848 times)

Offline Tielesse

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Hello from Far Northern California!
« on: February 16, 2009, 06:58:26 PM »
Hi everyone :)

I'm Tielesse, and I live in the mountains of Northern California. I'm interested in learning more about cheese, as well as learning how to make and sell cheese. Well, I just love cheese! :D I am very much a newbie, so I do have some questions . . .

My situation is this: I have Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making, and I'd like to start out making fromage blanc. According to the recipe, the cheese is supposed to set up for 12 hours at 72º, and then drain for another 12 hours at 72º.

My apartment is for all intents and purposes underground, and is uninsulated so the temperature varies quite a bit throughout the day (I always thought temperatures remained more constant underground, but this doesn't seem to be true in my case; my apartment is old and was intended for use as a lake-side cabin.) The thermostat is in my parents' apartment above me. They turn the heater off at night in spite of cold mountain temperatures because the heater blasts with a noise like a foghorn right next to my window, waking me up at intervals during the night, lol.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it's difficult for me to maintain a constant room temperature of 72º for 24 hours. How do you all maintain constant temperatures for cheeses that need to set up or drain for a long time? I'm specifically interested in how and what equipment you use to keep the cheeses warm or room temperature for hours, since I expect to have to use some sort of refrigeration for cheeses that need to age at low temperatures.

Thanks for any advice or suggestions! :)


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Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2009, 07:43:34 PM »
Hi everyone :)

I'm Tielesse, and I live in the mountains of Northern California. I'm interested in learning more about cheese, as well as learning how to make and sell cheese. Well, I just love cheese! :D I am very much a newbie, so I do have some questions . . .

My situation is this: I have Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making, and I'd like to start out making fromage blanc. According to the recipe, the cheese is supposed to set up for 12 hours at 72º, and then drain for another 12 hours at 72º.

My apartment is for all intents and purposes underground, and is uninsulated so the temperature varies quite a bit throughout the day (I always thought temperatures remained more constant underground, but this doesn't seem to be true in my case; my apartment is old and was intended for use as a lake-side cabin.) The thermostat is in my parents' apartment above me. They turn the heater off at night in spite of cold mountain temperatures because the heater blasts with a noise like a foghorn right next to my window, waking me up at intervals during the night, lol.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it's difficult for me to maintain a constant room temperature of 72º for 24 hours. How do you all maintain constant temperatures for cheeses that need to set up or drain for a long time? I'm specifically interested in how and what equipment you use to keep the cheeses warm or room temperature for hours, since I expect to have to use some sort of refrigeration for cheeses that need to age at low temperatures.

Thanks for any advice or suggestions! :)

Welcome Tielesse.  I'm in Santa Cruz, Central Coast.  We all deal with temperature issues from time to time!

You could try draining your cheese (into another container, obviously)  in your oven... don't turn it on of course.  That would probably stay warm enough when your room temp goes down.

Offline John (CH)

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2009, 07:56:03 PM »
Hi Tielesse and welcome to the forum.

Several people here from California, there's even a fairly busy Geographic Based Posts Board just for people in California.

For your question on maintaining ~21 C 72 F "warm" place for cheese to drain/ripen, LL has a good idea, similar to one of the methods used to make yogurt. Like that recipe, you could also wrap it in a towel or place it in a picnic cooler box in an oven to help dampen your temperature swings. That said, mild temp swings should be OK.

Good luck!


Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2009, 08:31:35 PM »
Good to know I had the right idea, John!  Alternatively I thought she might be able to use a yoghurt maker thingie.  That's what I make my mascarpone in.

Offline H.A.M.

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2009, 08:42:45 PM »
Hope it is ok to make suggestions even if I am new here...

Get some high/low thermometers and put them various places around appliances, high shelves near the ceiling, oven as already suggested, etc...
We've lived in 4 houses in the last 5 years and there is usually one perfect spot.

Having made Fromage Blanc and its cousin Chevre frequently, I can tell you that the culturing temp is more important than the draining temp. 1-2 degrees either way doesn't make alot of difference though.

Culture it overnight in a picnic cooler. Fill your cooler with a little warm water to temper the ambient temp in the cooler, then empty before setting your prepared milk in. OR set in your pot or jar of milk and culture and fill to surround up to the level of the milk with 80* water. This will keep it in your 72* range for long enough to get a good set.

I also have never had to drain it a full 12 hrs. If you are using the culture from cheesemaking.com check it in 4-6 hrs to see how it's coming.

BTW the water and cooler method works well for any long cultured product. Just use warm water 8-10* above your target temp.


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Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2009, 08:54:32 PM »
H.A.M., of course you can offer advice!!! 

That's good advice too, I may just try making chevre now, I was wondering how to do that.

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2009, 05:43:17 AM »
Depending on the size of the batch you could goto goodwill or craigslist and get a cheap used crock pot and either fill it with water or some other idea and keep it on low. Maybe if the pot is not in the crock pot but hover above it to keep it warm. I could suggest more but it's almost 4 am.
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Offline Captain Caprine

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2009, 09:09:02 AM »
Tielesse,
If you have a gas oven the pilot will often be enough to keep the temp up.  I have also heard of people wrapping a stockpot in an electric blanket to deal with low temp.
CC
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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2009, 10:04:34 AM »
Good call Captain they make special ones for home brewing to keep the carboys warm in colder conditions but an electic heating pad or blaket would be much cheaper.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline John (CH)

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2009, 10:11:42 AM »
Good thought about a pilot light. The other common trick to keep oven warm that I mentioned on the Yogurt Making Recipe webpage is to leave the oven light bulb on.


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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2009, 10:20:59 AM »
Welcome to our oven, we'll leave the light on for ya.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Tielesse

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2009, 01:57:11 PM »
Thanks for all the suggestions!

Last night when I got home (late) my apartment was about 62º, so I stuck a fridge thermometer into the oven to see what would happen. As soon as I put it in, the temperature went up to 65º. I turned on the pilot light and went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning the temperature was off the charts for my thermometer, well over 80º. Still, I'm not giving up on that idea because it does seem like the oven is nice and insulated.

Similarly, I read a pdf on making fromage blanc and chevre from The Beverage People that suggested using a closet or box with a lamp with a 25 watt bulb inside it as well. Most of my closets are the wide type with folding doors; I think the regular coat-closet type would be better, but the only one I've got has sand blowing into it off the lake from the hurricane-force winds we get year-round, lol. Insulated and with the cracks filled up, I think it would be a perfect room for various cheese-related activities.

I've made yogurt using the cooler method, so I could try that as well. It worked pretty well for me, even with just a styrofoam cooler, but I think I'd need to get a much bigger one than I've got. I'd like a real ice chest with a lid that clamps down nicely; it'd probably be even more successful than the styrofoam.

I've got five packets of fromage blanc starter, so it's probably time to just get in there and experiment. :)

Offline LadyLiberty

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2009, 04:02:36 PM »
hmm.  Hadn't thought of a grow lamp.  Since we are raising chickens we have one of those as well.  Maybe.... naw. Probably too hot.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2009, 06:11:36 PM »
Tielesse......
You've gotten good advice here and this is something you will get used to on this forum.
Welcome aboard.
You have found the best cheesemaking forum on the web, by far.

Dave

Offline Tielesse

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Re: Hello from Far Northern California!
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2009, 07:43:55 PM »
Just to follow up on this thread, I made fromage blanc last night (finished this morning) and I think it was a success! To be clear, I've never tasted fromage blanc before--I just chose it for my first cheese-making experiment because it was suggested as a good choice for beginners. I wanted to follow the recipe in the book pretty closely, so I let the curd set up for about 10 hours (I just couldn't stay up until 2 AM to reach twelve hours) and let it drain 12 hours.

It turned out very firm, but pillowy and a bit grainy like ricotta. A bit drier than I expected. The taste was like fresh milk (again like ricotta) and a bit lemony. I didn't expect much since the milk was just some random milk a friend bought in a 2-for-1 sale at the supermarket, but overall, I'm pleased with how it turned out. I only wish it were a bit less firm, and smoother like cream cheese, but as I said I've never tasted fromage blanc before so maybe it's not supposed to be that way.