I will try to be as succinct as possible as I can tend to prattle on when discussing projects. I have highlighted the questions I have for ease in navigating through the post.
I am relatively new to the forums. I recently took over/purchased a small artisan creamery and have been very busy getting settled in. However, today I need some peer review on the modifications I am making to the feta recipe/process I inherited. This is for a Greek style feta using pasteurized goat milk. I have not implemented these changes, but plan to do so tomorrow. Also, I am making this feta in 30 gallon batches.
First thing to know is that the previous owners did not use PH targets whatsoever.
I am changing that.
Second thing to know is that the brine recipe they were using was 1/3 distilled water. 2/3 whey (from the chevre makes) and too little salt (3% salinity). This will also be changed.
The need to modify the recipe arose from a batch of feta I made with them back in December - we were having the typical slimy feta issue as well as too moist of a cheese. I/we assumed it was just a matter of adding a little more CaCl to the brine. While that was indeed part of it, I believe the larger problems are in both the make and in the brining.
The recipe is typical at the start: Heat milk to 88-90F, add starter culture, ripen for 45 minutes, rennet, floc x 4, cut curds, rest, stir, dip curds into basket molds, flip a few times before letting drain in molds overnight. However, when I started taking the PH I noticed that the cheese was only at 5.4 the next morning. My target is 4.8. To correct this I plan to increase the starter culture a bit and also increase the ripening time to one hour.
Backstory Interlude: I've made more feta on my own since the first slimy batch in December and one of the things I did (following advice from the many feta threads in this forum) was to dry salt the feta and let it drain further before placing it in the brine. First time I let it drain for 24 hours, last week I let it drain for 48 hours (24 on the draining table and another 24 in ripening boxes to prevent the rinds from drying out and yellowing). The longer draining definitely allowed for much more moisture to drain off the cheese and really firmed up the outside of the cheese. I plan to continue this process.
Here a question arises. We make feta in roughly 2 lb. wheels and do not cut them into smaller pieces. Do you think I'm okay to continue this practice or would I get better results by halving or quartering the wheels, dry salting and then draining?
Ok, so back to the process at hand. I've made a few tweaks to the make and now I am dry salting the feta and allowing for further draining before placing it into the brine. Let's talk about the brine. Here the recipe I inherited:
1 gallon distilled water
2 gallons whey (from chevre make)
.9 lb. kosher salt
3/4 tsp CaCl
Again, since I was trained without the use of PH targets I assumed the brine recipe was fine. Then, after reading another post on the forums and digging through other reference material I realized that the brine was NOT fine. Remember, the whey that I was using came from a chevre make - lactic acid coagulation - and therefore a very acidic whey. So last week I took the PH of the whey and it was 4.1. Yikes. Too acidic. The fix is easy - use the feta whey and bring it down to the appropriate acidity. I believe I want the PH of the brine to be the same as the PH of the feta, correct?
I also plan to use all whey instead of whey and water.
Now to the salt. Again, I made the error of assuming it was cool. I know they liked to make a less salty feta, however until I took a hard look at the recipe I didn't realize that they were using less than 3% salinity brine. Last week I bumped the salinity to 10% and tasted some of the feta yesterday - much better. I may drop it down to an 8% solution to make it a little less salty, but the 10% isn't bad. Thoughts? Since I am dry salting first, should I knock it down to 8% or so?
So these are my planned modifications:
* Bump starter culture up a bit
* Longer ripening time
* Dry salting and 48 hours draining at room temp
* Use feta whey for brine and adjust PH to the proper level
So last week I used the whey brine that was 4.1 (the feta whey was already disposed of so I had no other option). The feta was 4.8 when I placed it into the brine. I've been checking on it daily and last night I did notice a little slime forming, but nothing as bad as previous problems. I am assuming I may see more slime on the exterior due to the large variation in PH between brine and cheese, yes?
Well, I think that's it. I really want to get this thing down so I can concentrate on some new cheeses in the coming weeks. Please advise.