Author Topic: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?  (Read 6602 times)

Offline Wateetons

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Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« on: February 22, 2009, 02:35:24 PM »

First, my recipe:
- 2 liters of lowfat milk
- 250 ml cream (35% fat)
- 20 drops of rennet
- around 50 ml of buttermilk
- salt
- rind of a 250 gram piece of brie, very finely mixed in with the milk

(I should mention that I have also used raw milk, as well as real Penicillium Candida and I experienced similar 'problems' as described below)

I warm the milk to 30 C, add rennet & buttermilk, leave to curd for about an hour. Cut curd, slow warm to 32 degrees. Slowly 'cook' the curd for 15 minutes or so. Drain the curd for several hours or a whole night, finally sprinkle salt on the outside.

Then, the cheese moves to a plastic box in my cellar which is about 12-15 C. I leave the lid slighly ajar and thereby achieve approximately 90% humidity in the box (I checked). I turn every day.

After about a week or so, the cheese is fully covered in mold.

Then, the problems begin.

Problem 1: Before the second week is over I start to smell ammonia. This seems awefully fast. When I cut the cheese at this time it has a thick layer of mold, about 3 or 4 millimeters of very soft cheese and still a large 'hard' core. So its no where near done

Problem 2: The cheese seems to 'collapse' or 'shrink' (for a lack of better words). The outside mold layer is quite thick and wrinkly. Not smooth at all as Camemberts normally are. This happens every time.

So why does my cheese start smelling like its done, when its not. And second: why cant I get a smooth Camembert?

Offline chilipepper

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Re: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2009, 03:43:11 PM »
Well I'll give you a few observations but I'm by no means an expert and just have some knowledge that I've stumbled across from either this site or other reading.  I also have a few questions about your process. 

Since it seems as though you've exhausted many of the variables with the ingredients and process there are a few other places to look.  First the P.candidium rather than the brie culture would be of interest but since you've tried both, maybe not.  The other is Geotrichum Candidum which promotes a more stable rind and not getting the 'slip skin' effect.  May be something to try but might not be your initial concern. 

A couple of things that you've omitted from your process and I'm not sure of, are wrapping and time.  It is my understanding that after you get a good thick mold growth you wrap the Camembert to promote the cultures working their way into the cheese.  Secondly, time is very important and Tea has actually made some of the more information discoveries with her Camemberts.  When they are young and you cut into them you will often get a runny layer under the rind that eventually subsides as the cheese softens with time. 

So wrapping, or lack of, may be an issue and like any cheese, time may be an issue.

Anyway, those are my thoughts and hopefully someone else will chime in and help too!  The ammonia smell is normal with Camemberts.  You'll want it to subside before eating.  What do these cheeses taste like?

Good luck!

Offline John (CH)

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Re: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2009, 04:56:47 PM »
Congrats Wateetons on trying to make these very temperamental cheeses.

Frankly while not perfect compared to store bought mass manufactured Camemberts, I think they look very good and I'd have definitely eaten it ;D! Is the picture taken with the cheese at room or fridge temperature?

On your concern #1, I think it is a problem several others of us have which is possibly too fast naturing of the outer layer. On the starter culture, did you use very ripened buttermilk like this?

On your concern #2, either the rind is getting bigger or as you say the cheese is shrinking. If it is shrinking, then in my mind it can only be from dehydration. I find humidity gauges to be inaccurate at high ranges, do you have condensation on the inside of your box? Also, as Camemberts are small they are very susceptible to low humidity and thus dehydration and shrinking. Thus another reason why most people on this forum including me now have bought wraps.

Just my ideas and hope they help . . . congrats again, I still think look very nice, albeit in a more artisan than mass manufactured way, John.

Offline Wateetons

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Re: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2009, 01:18:14 PM »
Guys, thanks a lot. Clearly, wrapping is the way to go. Or to try at least. I have wrapped in the past, but not terribly systematically. I will do so from now on. I read about cheesewrap, regular plastic foil won't do?

As for humidity: I was actually afraid that very high humidity may have caused the too soon ammonia smell. I used a container covered with plasticfoil before, now I use a plastic container with the lids slightly ajar which results in 85-90% humidity (according to my very simple gauge).

Finally: I use regular buttermilk or sometimes yoghurt (as you can see I'm not terribly consistent). There's room for improvement there too.

So far I have had one very (I should say: extremily) good camembert cheese. I used raw milk and Penicillim Candida spores and I did wrap after some time (though again, I forget how long). I'll include a picture.

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 02:46:01 PM »
I think cheese wrap from a cheese making supply store is essential and make sure it' the one for camembert and not wash rind cheeses. Also I think air exchange is important. I would get a much larger tupperware and see if that works. How simple is your hygrometer analog or digital. If you go to my website down below is the link in my sig and go to FAQ there is an article on how to calibrate hygrometers to check how accurate they are.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline FineWino

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Re: Why does my Camembert look and smell like this?
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2009, 11:52:15 AM »
Wateetons, your ripening temperature is much too high.  I had almost exactly the same experirnce with my first Camemberts.
12-15 C is 53.6-59 F.  You really want to be in the 7-10 C range.  At the higher temperature the processes that break down the proteins and fats in the cheese produce a lot of undesirable byproducts, ammonia being the most obvious.  At that temperature it may be 5-10 days before you see the initial mold growth.  As soon as the mold coverage is complete, you should wrap the cheese.
As another poster mentioned, adding some Geotrichum candidum can be helpful for proper rind formation.  I have not tried using buttermilk or another cheese to make my cultures, so I don't know how much of a factor that is in your process.
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.  -John Kenneth Galbraith