Well, as is becoming more prevelent these days, the request for information has been ignored by the supplier of the culture (I have had no reply).
This is the information that came with the culture.
"The Freeze Dried Cheese Starter is an advanced blend of no less than four carefully selected bacteria cultures. It is an ideal general purpose culture, well suited to the manufacture of all forms of cheese- soft, hard, pressed, surface ripened etc, etc. It is also suitable for use in the production of buttermilk and many others dairy products that are available today".
So, as you can see, fairly general. It also suggests that I wouldn't need to buy different cultures because this one is suitable for all the types of cheese I would want to make (although it doesn't say how to do this). To make a soft cheese the instruction was:
1.Heat one gallon (4.5 litres) of milk to approximately 90ºC (194ºF) and then cool rapidly to 20-22ºC (68-72ºF).
2. Add two tablespoons (30ml) of starter culture solution previously prepared, and add 4 drops of pre-diluted rennet. Cover the container and stand in a warm area at 20-22ºC (68-72ºF) for 24 hours, when a good curd should have formed.
I assume the initial heating to 90 degrees was to ensure the milk was free from undesirable bacteria but I would have thought that store-bought milk would pasturised anyway.
I too am interested in what goes on behind the scenes and given what I have read have come to realise that acidity plays a major role, and yes, establishing a baseline is imperitive so I will make notes of everything when I try my next make.
The instructions that came with the culture say to add the rennet at the same time as the culture but from what you, and almost everyone else says, it should be added later as stated in your example for cheddar but if I don't follow the given instructions I can't establish a baseline for my bought milk and using the culture I have.
So, to establish a baseline for a soft cheese using this culture and taking your point about measuring acidity over time, my plan is to prepare the milk and add the culture and rennet and measure the acidity level change during the following 24hrs. If I measured say every 4hrs during the day I could get a feel for what the RATE of acidification is (I realise that this is an exponential rise and therefore have to considering that I will be asleep for a good part of this period) and noting any visible changes in appearance. I would be measuring the whey acidity as I'm not sure if there is a method of measuring the curd by titration. I should then end up with a soft cheese.
'too much breakdown before rennet makes for a more crumbly curd. Too much breakdown before draining, same'
so if I wanted to make a drier more crumbly cheese from the same culture I would delay adding the rennet until the acidity built up--to what?
Thanks for the time and benefit of your experience you have given me.