Author Topic: Aging Colby  (Read 930 times)

Offline mkorona

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Aging Colby
« on: July 08, 2013, 12:25:27 PM »
Hello Everyone!

Newbie cheesemaker here who has been doing a lot of reading on this forum and coming up with more questions than answers (always seems to be the case when I do research into a topic....)

I have been making soft cheeses for a while now (not too frequently), and have moved on to pressed cheese. Last week I did a basic queso fresco just so I could try to cheese right away and it turned out well, and this weekend I decided to try my hand at Colby. For reference here is what I did:

2 Gallons store bought pasteurized milk
1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride in 1/2 cup filtered water
1/2 (approx) packet Mesophilic DS C101
1/2 tsp veal rennet (maybe a little over, finished bottle up)
3 tbsp cheese salt

-Heated milk slowly to 86 degrees
-Added calcium chloride when milk was around 80 degrees
-Let culture hydrate for 2 minutes before stirring in
-Cheese cultured for 1 hour, checked milk temp, still 86
-Rennet added and stirred in up down motion for approx 30 seconds
-Used flocculation method with a milk jug cap, coagulation at 12 min
-Flocculation multiplier of 3 was used, checked for clean break at 36 minutes- curd was firming but still seemed on soft side, decided to wait until 45 min recommended in recipe
-Cut curd in approx 1/2" curds after 45 minutes (was firmer now). Struggled greatly to get consistent curd size, ended up cutting many of them smaller with the spoon while stirring), and some were likely smaller than 1/2"
-Let curds rest 5 minutes after cut
-Heated milk slowly to 102 degrees, stirring during process- this took about 45 minutes (temp had fallen to 84 degrees before heating began)
-"Cooked" curds at 102 degrees for 15 minutes
-Allowed curds to settle to bottom before draining whey to curd line
-Mixed in tap water (my water was temping at around 75) back to original whey depth and stirred for a few min. Temp dropped to high 80s.
-Allowed curds to settle and drained to curd line again
-Performed a second wash with tap water to get the temp to around 84 while stirring
-Allowed curds to settle and drained on more time
-Slowly added 40 degree water from fridge while stirring constantly to get temperature to 75 degrees (recommended in recipe but now I am worried that it was too low). Maintained this temperature for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent matting
-Scooped curds into cheesecloth lined colander and let drain for 15 min. Curds were quite small (to me) at this point, similar in size to store bought cottage cheese curds (larger than ricotta curds but substantially smaller than cheddar or queso fresco curds)
-Mixed 3 tablespoons of cheese salt in 1 tablespoon increments, allowing 1 minute resting between each mix (concerned that I added too much salt, the recipe I followed called for brining but the timing wasn't going to work for me and another recipe had the salt mixed into the curds, so I tried that but I didn't notice it was for 3 gallons not two... oh well, my partner loves salty foods!).
-Put in 4.5" mold lined with cheesecloth and pressed at 10lbs for 15 min
-Flipped and redressed cheese, pressed at 20lbs for 30 min
-Flipped and redressed, pressed at 40lbs for 90 min
-Flipped and redressed, pressed at 50lbs for 4 hours
-(Extra flip here because my mold was in a bowl and I wanted to drain the whey) Flipped and dressed, pressed at 50lbs for 8.5 hours
-Cheese is air drying now (my house is at 78 degrees so hopefully that isn't too warm)

This cheese is MUCH moister than the queso fresco which is expected, but I worry it is too moist- I wouldn't be surprised to come home (just finished pressing this morning) and find that it has fallen under its own weight and is bulging near the bottom. The cheese did hold together after every pressing (even the 10lb one) so I am not toooo concerned, but I am a little worried about the low washing temperature and the general feel when i was mixing the salt in. The cheese smelled delicious, very sweet milk smell to it, and the curds I tried tasted that way too, so I am hoping to achieve great success with this cheese, but this waiting is nerve-wracking (it is going to be even harder as I try my hand at cheeses that need more and more time to age!)

I clearly have many concerns, especially the more I read, but my actual questions are about aging this colby once it has finished air drying.

First, I don't have a good cave option yet, so I was thinking of putting the cheese in a large cooler (62 quart) with a single ice pack on the opposite side of the cooler to try to keep the temp around 55 degrees, swapping the pack out as it melts (I would have to check the temp on this to see if it is working). I do have a hygrometer so I can check humidity and add containers of water if necessary. I intend to seal the cooler but can always prop the lid up if I find I need to for adjusting humidity. Do you think this sounds like a viable option or would I be better off just aging in my cold (37deg) fridge?

I am looking at the vacuum sealing route but have been reading that it is better to age cheeses naturally for a month or so before vacuum sealing for better flavor development, given colby being a younger cheese I am not sure if I should either skip that natural aging step, or skip the vacuum altogether. Thoughts/opinions would be appreciated!

Lastly I have a friend visiting from across the country in 2 weeks- she will be here for a full week, and I am considering cutting into the cheese to try when she is here (so it will be 15-17 days old) do you think this is much too young? My initial plan is to age in the cooler naturally until we cut in to the cheese, try that, and then at that point vac seal the rest and allow it to age for another month.

Please share any advice or opinions, as I love to hear from other people and gather as much information as possible! I already have loved reading through the boards all morning and am glad a site like this exists. Thanks in advance for any help anyone offers. Have a great day!


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Offline JeffHamm

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2013, 03:51:13 PM »
Hi,

Well done on your colby make and good notes.  These will be very helpful to you in the future, trust me.

Anyway, when I was pre-cave, I used ice in a cooler to age my cheese.  I put in two or three 2-litre milk jugs that were frozen solid.  I swapped these twice a day (morning and evening).  I put a thermostat in the cooler, and this seemed to keep the temperature around 10 C, which is ideal for aging a wide variety of pressed cheeses.  New Zealand is quite humid, so the cooler would get a lot of condensation, which would drip down to the bottom, so the cheese had to be placed on top of containers / boards, etc, to keep them from sitting in puddles of water.  I would also wipe the water out.  Keeping an eye on things means this can work, but you are tied to maintenance (it's bad to forget to change the ice as things warm up, etc).  Your experience will depend a lot on the local conditions, if you have very dry air, you may not find condensation a problem but rather keeping the humidity up.  Adjust and adapt the information you find here to get it to work for you.

At some point, you will get a less effortful cave, and then you can play around with more cheeses.  Your regular fridge will be too cold, and aging will effectively stop.  So, you need to find somewhere that remains around 10 C, and is humid (Basements can be a good place to find cool nooks and crannies).

Now, here's a few suggestions.  If you're going to use the floc method, ignore the "clean break" test.  You had a 12 minute floc time, which is great.  If you were following the suggestion of 3x floc, then 36 minutes is when you cut, not when you are expecting a clean break (although with raw milk, or low heat pasturized creamline milk,  you probably would get one, the point of the floc method is to measure what is happening and standardize based upon that.  The floc time tells you the rate at which the rennet is working on the milk, and the floc multiplier is there to tell you when to cut to obtain desired moisture content).  Now, you cut at 45 minutes, which is closer to a 4x floc.  That means your curds will retain more moisture than had you cut at 36.  Colby is a moist cheese, so this is fine.  It also means this cheese will probably age more quickly, and isn't going  to be ideally suited for long term aging.  Again, that works well for you.

The extra salt will probably make this a bit saltier, but not inedible.  Personally, what I do is before I start making a cheese based upon a recipe I've copied from the board or else where, I go over all the amounts and double check to sure it is scaled to the make I'm doing, and write them at the top of my notes.   I do this  when I first find the make (since I usually make 11 litre makes these days, I just scale all notes to 11 litres).  That way, when I get around to making it, it is already tailored to me.  I copy makes out of books I have and do the same, rather than marking in the book, because at some point I might increase my make size, etc.  Also, I can adjust the presentation format of the procedure to be good for me.

I've not made colby, so I can't comment on the procedure and I'm not sure how long it takes to age.  However, with a washed curd, I suspect in 2 or 3 weeks, it will not have developed much flavour and this is likely to require 2 or 3 months.  I think caerphilly would be an ideal cheese for you.  It tends to the salty side (which your partner will enjoy) and it is ready quick (it is ready to eat in two or three weeks).  It's also not a particularly difficult cheese to make.  Check the cheddar boards, you'll find a lot of people are making caerphilly.  There's 3 make procedures out there, and all produce a nice, tangy, tasty cheese. 

Anyway, I would suggest aging your cheese out at least a month before vac. bagging it.  Maybe even a bit longer.  If you want to keep the rind clear, after a week, start wiping it down with a strong brine (leaving the face that goes down dry so it's not sitting on a wet surface).  It might start to "muck up" a bit, and you'll be rubbing a slimy, schmier around.  You can then back off to wiping two or three times a week.  This will protect your cheese.  Or, you can just let the moulds grow and brush them back.  When you eat it, just cut off the rind.  This works well, and the moulds work on the cheese to flavour it.  I tend to do the latter, but I know how wild moulds are hard to get used to when you first start, so again, do what feels right to you.

I hope that helps.  I think you'll be quite pleased with your cheese, but give it time to age out properly.  It will be worth it.  (A cheese to you for your excellent start, by the way)

- Jeff
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Offline BobE102330

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2013, 04:30:39 PM »
Proselytizing for Caerphilly again Jeff?  ::)  All kidding aside, I'll second that recommendation.  It's a nice cheese to hone your technique since it is ready so quickly.   I usually have some hanging around because it is good eating, too.  My girlfriend's daughter asked me to make some for her and uses it on everything she eats. 

Sorry I can't add anything to your Colby quest.

Offline JeffHamm

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2013, 05:44:18 PM »
LOL!  Yah, I do make this recommendation a lot, but that's because I do think it is an ideal cheese to start with when getting into pressed cheeses.  Being ready quick means you get the feedback on your make technique while what you did is still fairly fresh in your mind.  It's also tasty, so it's worth having some around.  There's room to play with it, such as salt levels can be played with, and it responds well to adjustments in the floc factor that is used (Dan makes a 4x version which is popular with his family and friends).  There's also a few different versions, so one can try out different approaches to the same cheese, so see how things change and how they stay the same.  Hmmmm, I'm doing it again aren't I?  :)

- Jeff
The wise do not always start out on the right path, but they do know when to change course.

Offline mkorona

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2013, 08:34:28 AM »
Thanks so much for the advice Jeff, I will look in to the caerphilly today!  I especially appreciate you explaining the floc method, helps me to understand the purpose better.

Here is a pic of the colby air drying in my cupboard after two flips ( https://www.dropbox.com/s/sslap1a5z4uh19b/2013-07-08%2022.47.18.jpg )- it's definitely got some bulging from its own weight but I think that regular flipping will keep the bulge in the middle rather than towards one end (which is how it looked when I got home last night).

Now for my next question, any suggestions for keeping cat (or animal) hair away from my cheese? I have it in a cupboard to dry but when I flip it, it seems to be a magnet for tiny hairs! I think when I move it to my cave I should be able to keep it much cleaner, but for now I guess I will just be vigilant about plucking the hairs off before closing the cupboard back up. I know there probably isnt a real solution (that doesnt involve putting the cat down....) but I am curious how concerned I need to be about contamination at this point- will wiping with a brine or vinegar solution kill off any contamination from a stray cat hair? I certainly am not leaving the hair on, and I know I may end up cutting the rind off when I actually go to eat the cheese, but any thoughts on how this surface contact could permeate throughout the cheese?

Thanks again for the suggestions and pointers, I am looking forward to further cheesemaking adventures


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Offline Boofer

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2013, 09:03:43 AM »
Hmmmm, I'm doing it again aren't I?  :)
Yes, you are. Keep it up, Jeff. Even makes me want to get into Caerphilly. ;)

Excellent responses to all the concerns voiced.

-Used flocculation method with a milk jug cap
I would think it would be difficult to effectively spin a milk jug cap because of the small size. Perhaps something a little bigger? Also, you sanitized the cap before using it, right?

I am hoping to achieve great success with this cheese, but this waiting is nerve-wracking (it is going to be even harder as I try my hand at cheeses that need more and more time to age!)
I would suggest getting a few more cheeses made to take your mind off the Colby. Caerphilly has been mentioned already. I am fond of Saint Paulin as an easily made semi-soft table cheese that is ready within four to six weeks.

Most semisoft to hard cheese takes time to develop its flavor and character. It's something that shouldn't be rushed.

-Cheese is air drying now (my house is at 78 degrees so hopefully that isn't too warm)
When you get a spare moment from making all your new cheeses, would you please update your profile with your location? It's always good to see where folks are making cheese.

When I begin a cheesemaking session, I close the windows and wipe down the counters with Clorox anti-viral/anti-bacterial wipes in my kitchen. My wife normally knows that the kitchen is closed to traffic during this time. My Yorkie doesn't get petted or allowed near the kitchen. In short, I do everything I can to prevent dust swirling in the air (along with dog hairs, etc.) and to limit any contamination from my cheese process. The stove hood is also wiped to preclude any dust drifting down into the kettle where my milk is being turned into curds. I use blue nitrile gloves whenever I handle my curds or cheeses directly (I have taken some heat in the past for using gloves, but I believe it further limits any contamination my hands might bring to the cheese. During the winter, cheeses still need to be washed, turned, rubbed, etc. If I happen to have a head cold, I don a throwaway surgical mask to limit my breathing on the cheeses.

-Boofer-
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Offline JeffHamm

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2013, 02:11:25 PM »
Cheese looks good!  Nothing you can do about cat hair getting on cheese other than make sure you've cleaned the "cave" first, and keep the area clean before getting the cheese out.  Cat hair goes everywhere, except back to the cat it seems!  Boofer's advice is good, wipe everything down first, and keep the cat out.

Oh, and you can post photos direct to the site.  Click the + below, where it says "attachments and other options" and you'll find a way to add photos direct to your post.

- Jeff
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Offline mkorona

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2013, 03:05:53 PM »
This post is a little old not but just thought I would provide an update. I had trouble watching all the mold grow, made me nervous, so I did scrub it all off 3-4 times over the course of 5 weeks using a vinegar/salt scrub. I did a final cleaning and cut in to after 30 days.

The picture of moldy cheese is before cleaning the final time.

The zoomed in is on some neon yellow that I couldn't seem to scrub out- not sure what it is, but it was surface only and I wasn't eating the rind so I left it alone.

The cut cheese seemed to look pretty good to me, there were some holes but my understanding is that is more normal in a colby.

In general the cheese was aged at 13c in about 80% humidity, flipped daily for 3 weeks and then every few days for the last couple of weeks. I had trouble getting my wine fridge cave cooler than 13c or the humidity level any higher. The cheese was 39.5oz before aging and 29.5oz after aging. (I had to air dry it for 8 days before it was dry to the touch on all sides, and that was with flipping 2-3x per day. Those 8 days are included in my aging time).

I only have eaten from the section cut displayed in the pic, the rest has been vacuum sealed and back in to the cave for later tasting. The cheese feels fairly firm and dry, definitely drier than a store bought colby or monterey jack, but it is far from even an aged cheddar let alone a Parmesan.

The taste is primarily that of a young cheese but the salt level is  high (I accidentally added 3TBS of salt in the recipe when it should have been 2). Overall the cheese is edible but it lost its sweeter/milkier scent/flavor from when it was fresh curd that I was hoping would still come through a little, and I would prefer it were less salty, but for my first pressed cheese I am satisfied. 

I didn't end up eating the full sectiion that was cut yet as I went on vacation, so the rest of that has been sitting in just a cheap ziplock in the fridge for two weeks that I will try in the next day or to (no mold growth on it in the fridge as of last night).

Does anyone think the salt flavor will mellow as it ages? I know colby is not a cheese that stands up to long term aging but maybe just a few more weeks (we are at 7 weeks from first make now). Or I read that you could try soaking cheese in milk to reduce saltiness so maybe I will try that with a section if anyone things that could work.

Also, this cheese did not want to melt when I tried. It melted a little more than a queso fresco (which I know isn't supposed to melt) I had previously made, but for the most part it just got pretty squeaky in the microwave on top of some chips.

I am thinking maybe I will try a caerphilly for my next cheese attempt but have been pretty busy lately so haven't had the opportunity to start anything yet- fingers crossed I get some more cheese made soon so I can keep experimenting and find what I like! (Plus I have a ton of cultures in my freezer from a groupon I had to a homebrew store that sold culture...)

Offline JeffHamm

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2013, 03:31:09 PM »
Hi,

That looks pretty good for a first cheese!  Well done.  A cheese to you.  Aging it out a bit longer should be fine.  It's not one for aging out for a year or more, but taking it out 3 or 4 months will be good for it.  The flavour and texture profile will change as the cultures go through various stages.  Getting cheese to melt is based upon the pH at different stages, but I'm not consistent at obtaining this either.  There are threads on this, so do a search for melting and you'll find information on it.

- Jeff

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Offline Boofer

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2013, 08:03:03 AM »
I had trouble watching all the mold grow, made me nervous,
Congrats on your first pressed cheese.

If you can manage it, you should monitor your cheese and nip in the bud any unwanted mold growth rather than allowing it to develop and then cleaning it later. Rind maintenance is far easier than a nasty cleanup after the fact. Additionally, off-flavors may be introduced into the cheese if molds are permitted to grow unabated.

Not so sure the salt level is going anywhere. I wouldn't anticipate it magically reducing over time. It's captured in the cheese for now and the future. My advice is to make note of it and adjust accordingly in your next cheese. ;)

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Offline mkorona

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Re: Aging Colby
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2013, 12:03:03 PM »
Thanks again for the advice! I will keep trying cheeses and post my adventures as they happen (and probably ask load more questions!)