Author Topic: Cheddar curds not knitting again!  (Read 181 times)

Offline TimT

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Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« on: April 07, 2015, 09:21:09 PM »
The coming of April and the cool weather (for us Aussies at least) means it's time for me to get back into serious cheesemaking. So yesterday I got 6 litres of goat milk and started a cheddar off.

It all went pretty well and smoothly right until that dreaded time when I tried to get the curds to knit.

I thought I had this issue knocked on the head last year, I really did! The secret (as Jeff and others helpfully informed me on this site) to getting cheddar curds to knit well is to ensure a high ambient temp.

So I kept the oven on until it was time for me to press the curds, then opened the oven door and put the cheese in the cheese press there and screwed it down. 

A few minutes later, I come back.... the f*^&(^*(&(ing cheese fell to pieces in my hands!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwgh!

So, not sure what's going on here. Could it be the milk I used? (I've never used it for cheddar before).

Possible infection? (I did smell something that might have been 'bready' coming from the curds early on - an indication of possible yeast infection). I suspect this wouldn't be enough on its own.

Possibly mishandling during the cheddaring stage?.... Maybe. When I broke the cheddared curds up and chucked them back in the pot to age for half an hour more, I found they expressed a bit of pale white liquid (the recipe said not to squeeze them). And my stirring of the curds perhaps wasn't as regular as it should have been (which may have caused some matting). Or simply the weight of the curds on one another could have caused matting as well.

Kind of, maybe, possibly, could have. Basically I have no idea what went wrong but I have a few possibilities to work on.

(It's knitted now, overnight, though looking more than a little misshapen...!)

Rant over. This is only the first cheese of the season folks, hope the next one goes better!

Offline Spoons

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2015, 10:38:31 PM »
If these few steps have been done correctly, then you should get a good knit:

*Do the cheddaring stage at around 95F
*Ambient temp at pressing around 72-75F
*Initial pressure around 0.80 to 1 PSI for 30 minutes (Your wheel will be lumpy still, so handle with care when flipping)
*Second press around 2 PSI for 30 minutes (you'll still see curd lumps but much better)
*Last overnight press anywhere from 4 to 10 PSI (I've had air-drying issues  following a 4 PSI press, but no issues after a 9 PSI press)

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2015, 12:12:01 PM »
I'm no expert on making cheddar cheese but did make a Cheshire the other day, which is quite similar and may have some of the same problems with curd knitting.  I think I avoided these problems by keeping the ambient room temperature high.  I did this in a economical way by placing a small electric heater in my laundry room a couple of hours before the curds moved in from the kitchen area.  The heater cost $11 at Lowes Hardware/Home Center and easily maintained the small room at 95F.  Right after most of the whey was drained I moved my rectangular vat into the laundry room and propped the end with the pitched curds.  This mass was 93F when moved in with a 5.45 pH (goal was 5.2 - 5.3).  I let it drain and broke up the curd mass a couple of times in the next hour.  The pH had dropped to 5.22 during this hour.  So, I salted it and filled the press mold.  The curds were 94F going into the mold. 

Pressing proceeded over the next several hours with a couple of flips and increasing weight.  The curd borders were readily visible at the 30 minute flip but the cheese was knitted.  This was with an initial force on the follower equal to a little less than half the cheese weight.  I turned the heater off after the first flip and increased the weight with this and further flips.

Even if you don't have a suitable room it should be easy enough to cover the vat with a large cardboard box heated with an incandescent light bulb.  You suggested a number of possible causes for your problem.  My suggestion is to solve the cooling one first and if this doesn't do it then look at the others.   8)

Offline awakephd

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2015, 02:39:02 PM »
So I kept the oven on until it was time for me to press the curds, then opened the oven door and put the cheese in the cheese press there and screwed it down. 

A few minutes later, I come back.... the f*^&(^*(&(ing cheese fell to pieces in my hands!

Hmm ... is this literally the timing / sequence of events? IOW, was it really only a few minutes of initial pressing? If so, then -- at least based on my experience -- your curds SHOULD fall apart, with just about any cheese (not just harder-to-knit cheeses like cheddars). Maybe after 30 minutes of initial pressing, I might be able to handle a cheese without it falling apart ... but it may take an hour or even two before it is really going to stick together.
-- Andy

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2015, 06:32:10 PM »
So I kept the oven on until it was time for me to press the curds, then opened the oven door and put the cheese in the cheese press there and screwed it down. 

A few minutes later, I come back.... the f*^&(^*(&(ing cheese fell to pieces in my hands!

Hmm ... is this literally the timing / sequence of events? IOW, was it really only a few minutes of initial pressing? If so, then -- at least based on my experience -- your curds SHOULD fall apart, with just about any cheese (not just harder-to-knit cheeses like cheddars). Maybe after 30 minutes of initial pressing, I might be able to handle a cheese without it falling apart ... but it may take an hour or even two before it is really going to stick together.

This.
It's probably a pathogen.

Offline TimT

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2015, 06:33:21 PM »
Yes, I probably didn't wait long enough was my main problem.

I had better success in getting the curds to knit last year.

Think it might be worthwhile trying a different trick next time: putting *two* cheesecloths in the mould, so when I pull the cheese out, I can just whip one off and flip the cheese over with little damage to its shape. Whip'n'flip. It rhymes, so basically, I have to try it!

Just pulled the cheese from the mould after the final press. It's looking good.

Offline awakephd

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 10:14:20 AM »
FWIW -- keeping in mind that I am a LONG way from being any sort of expert -- I often wind up *not* flipping the cheese the first time I pull it out of the press, just because it looks too fragile to attempt -- I just put it back in the mold without removing the cheesecloth, step up to the next pressing weight (if appropriate), and wait a while longer.
-- Andy

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 07:00:44 PM »
Hi Tim,
Here is the last Cheddar I made - though it doesn't use Goats' Milk - it tries to show the Texturing - Milling and first press stages.

http://cheeseforum.org/forum/index.php/topic,14475.0.html

The attached control sheet also has the press weights and timings.  One thing in your post was that you are using a screw press - nothing wrong with them - but you must keep adjusting them.  As the whey is expelled the volume of the cheese lessens and so does the pressure being exerted on the cheese.  I have not had good cheddar knitting results with a spring assisted screw press.  The other factor is that salted curds take quite a lot of pressure to fully knit and I am pressing at approx 85Kg on a 145 cm Dia cheese.  You will still see the outlines of the individual curds as I can't just can't get enough pressure like the commercial guys do - but then again, I don't want to :)

A cheese for encouragement  :)

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Offline TimT

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2015, 06:57:40 PM »
Yeah you're absolutely right about the screw press; I've noticed and known about this problem for some time now. I might look into making a wall press or similar to avoid this problem.

Considering the weight required for the cheddar to knit is so small though, I might just be able to achieve it by plonking a filled jar or bottle on top though. Hmm. I'll look into it. 

Offline TimT

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2015, 06:59:54 PM »
I've had problems in last year's cheddars with the curds only achieving a loose knit in the end, and you could definitely see their outline in the final cheeses. I seem to have avoided that in this one at least, so it looks like this one might turn out alright after all  O0

Offline John@PC

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2015, 08:00:22 AM »
Considering the weight required for the cheddar to knit is so small though, I might just be able to achieve it by plonking a filled jar or bottle on top though. Hmm. I'll look into it.
Tim, tell me you forgot to add the  ::) emoticon here.  Either that or that jar / bottle will have to be mighty big :).  I had the same issue happen to me on the first flip with my last cheddar, and I uttered some of the same expletives you used no doubt.   Everything turned out fine once I got the time and pressure right, but next time I'm going to make sure the milled curds are consolidated enough to survive that first flip; if not add some time and pressure until it is.

Offline awakephd

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Re: Cheddar curds not knitting again!
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2015, 10:32:25 AM »
Yes, watching a cheese fall to pieces can make anyone "flip" out.

:)
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