Author Topic: Homemade Washes and Brines  (Read 863 times)

Offline Alpkäserei

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Homemade Washes and Brines
« on: September 23, 2013, 11:19:46 AM »
There has been some discussion about the various alcohol-based washes, how they are made, etc.  One thing that has come up is the fact that many people really don't, for whatever reason, want to go and buy a bottle of wine. I should have seen this coming, since I myself have this same objection due to my own position as a rather conservative Mennonite.

So here we will look at a rather simple solution to this problem: Make your own wine.

This sounds kind of mystical and complicated, but it's not that hard at all. Making wine is really quite easy, and can happen by accident.

I make all of my own wines for washing, before that I had a bottle of cooking Marsala that I used for a little while. Now my wash brines are made from a wine I have made from local wild grapes. Our wild grapes are all red grapes (the species from which concord grapes are bred)  So this gives our cheese a rather dark color.
I am also working on a cider wash.

So here is a little about my wine process.

First, I start off with wild grapes. I fill 2 plastic sacks full of them, which is about 8 pounds. Wash them off lightly with cold water.
Put the grapes in a big stainless steel pot, put on some plastic gloves (I use nitrile, since it it abrasion resistant) and smash the grapes thoroughly. Boil some water, and pour just enough water to cover the grapes.
Let the mashed grapes sit for a long time, 4 days to 4 weeks. I go 1 or 2 weeks usually. It will start to ferment in this pot but we don't want this wild yeast to be our main fermenter.
Strain all the liquid into another large stainless steel pot, and place all of the mash into cheesecloth, press it out as well as you can with your hands. Or, you have a cheese press. You could use that to press out your grapes too.

Add 5 pounds (gasp) of sugar and enough water to come to just over 2 gallons total. Bring the mixture up slowly to a boil to sterilize the wild yeasts and bacteria to a high enough degree as to allow your desired yeast to dominate.

When the mixture cools down to under 90 degrees F, you can add the yeast. Amount really isn't that important. Bread yeast is perfectly fine, we have always had good results with it. Put one or 2 tablespoons of yeast into warm water, dissolve, and add to the mixture, stir very thoroughly.

Now it will ferment into wine.

I put it into gallon milk bottles with a special lid. This lid has a hole drilled through it and a plastic tube inserted through the hole, sealed with wax or putty. The end of the tube sits in a glass of water. The end inside the jug must be above the liquid level. This contraption is a one way gas escape, the fermentation produces carbon dioxide. It will bubble out through the water, which keeps contaminated outside air from introducing new bacteria or yeast into the wine.

Set this in a cool place, around 65 degrees, for at least 2 weeks. For wash, we like a dryer wine so longer is advisable. The longer it sets, the more sugar is consumed and converted to alcohol. You can let it set until it stops bubbling, which means either all sugar is consumed or the alcohol level has reached a level so high as to kill all the yeast.

Take a plastic tube now a siphon the wine out of the bottles into new bottles with regular lids. There will be a lot of sediment on the bottom of the fermentation bottle -this is mostly dead yeast. Don't get this in there.

Set the new bottles in a cold place, this will firmly stop the fermentation. Let it set for at least a month or else the flavor is too harsh, particularly if using wild grapes like I do. I find that with wild grapes, new wine is almost unbearably harsh but when aged out a few months it is quite good.

For hard cider, It is easy. If you cider is not pasteurized it will often accidentally turn itself into wine. To control the process, just bring it to a boil, cool, add yeast, and continue as before.


Once you have your alcohol, you can use it for your cheese. Cider can be mixed with salt and a little water and used to brine the cheeses out of the press. Add a few herbs to the mix and you have the Appenzeller brine. Wine could in theory be used the same, but it seems wine washed cheeses are usually brined in salt water.

I'm up to mixing nearly half and half alcohol and water, then salting to taste. Maybe it is 1/3 alcohol. I need to test this some time so you know what salinity. Lets just say, it is very salty. To get less color on the rind, use less wine. Specifics here really are not that important, feel free to do whatever you please. Some times you can even use straight wine.

Keep the same mixture as long as you can, because you want the slimy goo that will colonize it. This is B. Linens. Eventually, though, you have to get rid of it. If you keep it in an aging room climate, though, and keep it covered, it should last most of a year. Just keep adding more water, wine, and salt as it gets depleted from use.
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Offline hoeklijn

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2013, 02:26:56 PM »
Thanks for sharing this with us. A cheese to you!
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Offline Mike Richards

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2013, 10:45:23 PM »
Yeah--thanks.  This is fantastic.  I'll definitely have to try this.  I don't have any grape vines growing here at home and my apple trees aren't producing enough for me to do anything with.  Can you see any reason this wouldn't work with store bought grape/apple juice (for practice until I can actually use my own fruit) or with just store bought fruit?
If only I could make cheese as well as I grow a mustache...

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2013, 11:59:26 AM »
Thanks for sharing this!  Can you give some ideas for using cider as a wash?  Do mean fermented cider or sweet cider?  Or cider vinegar?  I used cider vinegar on a lush Mycodore rind in an attempt to bring it inder control when nothing has worked and it added a nice flavor.......    :D

Offline Tomer1

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2013, 03:22:07 PM »
Putting anything with sugar on a rind calls for yeast trouble so I would tend to use a dry wine\cider.
The wash can also be infused with herbs. (instead of use half water half wine you can boil one off with some herbs\spices and then mix)
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Offline Dibbs

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2013, 03:53:31 AM »
That recipe will work and be fine for washing cheese but if you want something good to drink as well I'd do things a little differently.

I wouldn't boil the must, which gives a cooked flavour IMO,  but add Campden tables (sodium or potassium metabisulphite) depending on the pH of the juice as below.  It will kill all the nasties so long as you are using reasonably sound fruit.

pH below 3.0 None
pH below 3.3 add 1 Campden Tablet per gallon of juice
pH below 3.5 add 2 Campden Tablets per gallon of juice
pH below 3.8 add 3 Campden Tablets per gallon of juice
above that you're probably best adding acid (tartaric for grapes and malic for apples) to get the pH down.

I wouldn't use bread yeast but buy a decent quality commercial yeast.  If the pH is low (3.3 or below) use Lalvin 71b - it eats acid.  If you are feeling brave you can add just 1/2 the number of Campden tablets and let the wild yeasts that survive it do the fermentation. 

I certainly wouldn't add water which can only dilute the flavour and I wouldn't normally add sugar either.

If you want to use store bought juice make sure it doesn't have any potassuim sorbate added.

Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2013, 11:55:19 AM »
this recipe is also quite fine for drinking. Thing like adding water and sugar are more common across the world than not doing so, without added sugar most fruits do not have enough to produce very high alcohol contents. Also pure juice wines can be overbearing for some.

Flash boiling is also a common and age-old practice, and is chemical free. For me, I keep chemicals away from my cheese. Flash boiling and cooling will not cook the juice, neither will pouring boiling water over the must cook the fruits.

bread yeast can give you surprising results too, don't knock it until you have tried it. With wild fruits, we have better results with ordinary bread yeast than with true wine yeasts.

As for sugar->yeast. Yes, normally this is true but this is a special case. We have not had yeast trouble even using a fairly sweet cooking wine. The alcohol combined with the thorough propagation of BL inhibits the yeast pretty effectively. Also the cool temperatures are not favorable to yeast. This is why we make sauerkraut at cool temperatures. 

As for Herbs, yes we sometimes make an herb tea to mix with wine instead of straight water. Another approach is to pack the cheese with dried herbs on the surface after the initial washing regiment to form a 'crust' of herbs on the outside.

I will experiment with Cider as a soaking brine, like Appenzeller. This is of course hard cider and it is difficult to keep it from spoiling. So we also mix a lot of preserving herbs into this brine, which gives us flavor too. I suspect this is the origin of the famous Appenzeller 'secret herb brine' is that they mixed in herbs to hold off spoilage of the brine.
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Offline Spellogue

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2013, 04:16:10 PM »
I've been wanting to add some sort of alcohol to a wash for a while now, and especially since reading Alp's recent posts. We only keep deep reds like Cabernets, Zinfandels, and Riojas in the cellar since we don't drink much white.  I'm thinking I don't want to darken the rind on a chevrotin type I need to start washing tonight by using one of the reds.   

Last night I added a tablespoon of 90 proof Kentucky Bourbon to a cup of ARN innoculated brine.  The bourbon scent is quite noticeable, but not terribly strong.  I've read mixed reviews on washing with hard liquor, but those were a much less diluted or full strength spirit.  Is it a bad idea to wash with the type of morge I made, or might there be benefits? 

I do like the idea of a purely homegrown alcohol wash.  I've brewed lots of my own beer in the past but don't have any on hand at present.  The one home made wine I made from homegrown Concord grapes turned out to be plonk.  Concord grapes are better put to the service of making jelly in my opinion.  I can't say I'm a fan of Manischewitz.  A lot depends on personal tastes.   From a culinary standpoint they say if you wouldn't want to drink it, you hadn't ought to cook with it.  My dad loved the stuff.   A cheese wash is a different animal though.  I could make just a gallon and see.   I'm very curious about hard cider.  I have surplus honey from which I can make mead, but I understand that takes years to age into a drinkable product.  Maybe I will stick to trying homebrew for my first attempt.  I haven't made any in years but I do enjoy the craft.
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Offline Boofer

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Re: Homemade Washes and Brines
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 10:19:00 AM »
Excellent addition to the data pool. A cheese for your inspirational thread, Alp.

I can definitely recommend against anything sweet & sugary for a wash, but the wine-brine works well.

Let's ferment something!
Bread, beer, wine,'s all good.