Author Topic: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum  (Read 3769 times)

Offline Likesspace

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Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« on: December 06, 2009, 05:14:22 PM »
First of all I want to state that the idea of pressing under a vacuum, (to achieve a totally closed curd), is NOT something that I came up with on my own.
This is something that member Wayne Harris has been talking about for at least a year and possibly longer.
Now having said that, over the past couple of weeks I've been trying to figure out how this could be accomplished in the home setting. Of course I wanted to keep costs at a minimum while also achieving the results that I would like to see on a cheddar variety of cheese.
Well I eventually thought of the vacuum storage bags that are sold at Wal Mart stores as well as other retaliers across the country and then when I saw a post by another member that has used the bags for cheese storage I thought...."Why not give it a try".
Well today I did just that.
Thanks to suggestions from other members I decided to go ahead and load my mold with the curd....seal the curd inside the vacuum bag and then use a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag.
In the below photos you can see the bag that I used (with a glass of my own home made Barolo that I've been recently sampling and have decided that it has become a very nice wine over the past year and a half to two years. It has nothing to do with the vacuuming process but I thought I'd put it in the picture anyway).  ;D
I've also taken a photo of the curd as it was loaded in the mold and then photos of the entire mold in the bag.....after it has been vacuumed and finally once it has been placed in the press.
I did flip the cheese a few minutes ago (after a half hour in the press) and I did notice that the curd is slightly more closed than it usually is at this stage. I did not take a photo at this time because I wanted to get it back into the press as quickly as possible while the curd is still warm.
I am now pressing at a higher pressure for the next two hours and then will flip again. Each time I turn the cheese I also dump the whey out of the bag and upon the first turn there really was not that much whey to deal with.
I really have no idea if this will work or not but I'm excited nonetheless.
If it does work (and does not impart any undesirable taste or odor to the cheese wheel) then it will be an inexpensive way to accomplish a closed curd.
I did spray the inside of the bag with Star San and allowed it to sit closed for over an hour before using. I then wiped the inside of the bag with a paper towel but did not rinse it.
Anyway, here  are the photos that I have taken up to this point.
When I give the cheese another flip I will be sure to take more photos and post them.
The real test will be when I cut this cheese in half sometime over the next week. I will also post photos at that time so that we can all get an idea of whether or not this slight amount of vacuum really does make a difference.

Dave

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2009, 05:15:09 PM »
And here's one more pic.......

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2009, 05:23:54 PM »
Btw....
I know that I'm drinking my Barolo out of a water glass but I hate the long stems on our red wine glasses. These are much easier to handle once I am about two thirds of a way into a bottle.  ;D
Also, the whey that is seen in the dinner plate is not out of the vacuum bag. This is what was left over from loading the cheese mold.
I saved this whey so that I could get my final Ph reading and I have to say that I'm really excited about this particular cheese.
Not only did I hit my temperature marks correctly (thanks to a new thermometer and information that Debi supplied on calibrating my old thermometer), but I also feel that I hit my Ph markers as closely as humanly possible.
Upon draining my Ph was exactly 6.15. When I added my first addition of salt my Ph was 5.35.
When I checked the final whey Ph (that which is on the dinner plate in the photo) the reading was 5.15.
Of course anything can happen from here on out, but this is by far the closest I've been to hitting all of my markers. As I said, I'm really excited about this one.
Time will tell I guess but I've certainly spent worse Sunday afternoons than this one.

Dave

Offline DeejayDebi

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2009, 06:45:56 PM »
Well you go Dave! Sounds like you are having a great make so far! Go Team!


Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2009, 07:05:44 PM »
Okay, the bottle of Barolo is now history and I'm on my first glass of a very nice commercial Pinot Noir. I'm really going to have to slow down or tomorrow will be a real.....well, let's just say that tomorrow won't be a fun day at work.
As promised, here's a shot of the wheel after spending two hours under a vacuum press. I can't say that it's drastically different from what I normally see at this point (at least not on the surface) but hopefully there are some good things happening within the interior of the cheese.
The next photo I snap will be tomorrow evening when I remove the wheel, after it's final pressing. I normally have a very nice closed surface curd by that point and I don't expect anything different on this wheel. My hope is that the interior of the cheese will be completely closed with none of the very very small mechanical openings that I've seen in the past. Again, time will tell.
Here's wishing everyone a great week.

Dave

Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2009, 07:50:36 PM »
Very nice job on both setting this test up, and hitting your pH numbers.  That only comes withe enthusiasm and attention to detail.

A couple of questions:

When did you draw the vacuum? Before or after the pressing? Or on both sides perhaps?
How long did you maintain the vacuum relative to the pressing time?
Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2009, 08:01:48 PM »
Wayne,
First of all, thanks for the kind words. That means a lot coming from you.
As for the vacuum/pressing here is what I did....
I took the curd directly from the vat and added them to my cheesecloth lined mold. I then put them in the vacuum bag and used the vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag.
I then put the entire bag under the press and began my pressing schedule.
The first press was for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes I opened the bag.....dumped the accumulated whey...gave the cheese a flip and then placed it back into the bag and sucked the air out again.
I then put the mold back in the press for two hours (at a higher pressing weight) and then repeated the above procedure.
Right now the cheese is back in the press for the first of two 12 hour presses (again, at an increased pressure setting and again, after emptying the whey).
Tomorrow morning I will repeat this same procedure and then take the cheese out when I get home from work.
One benefit to this is that we won't have to wait long to see the results. Since I am still experimenting with my Cheddars I will open this in about a week (or less) to see what the results are. Of course after cutting the wheel I will vacuum bag it to finish aging but I see no sense in continuing this method if it's not going to work.
I'll be sure to keep you up to date and a big thanks to you (Wayne) for your idea of pressing under vacuum.
I still need to give you a call concerning wine making since I'm now officially back into the hobby. I started a Pinot Noir Friday evening but I need to talk to you about acing and tannin balance once I get a little farther along in the process.
Talk to you soon.

Dave

Offline FarmerJD

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2009, 08:57:29 PM »
Great experiment Dave. I will watch with great interest. This is like a great cliffhanger. :)

Offline FRANCOIS

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2009, 03:14:21 AM »
I would point out two things:

1.  You should always check the pH of the curd, not the whey as the pH will be staggered (prematurely) in the whey.  I realize this is probably a contraversial topic as I have seen some very epxerienced cheesemakers use whey as their measuring point.  I have seen people use a mix as well.  At the end of the day you care about what the curd is doing, not the whey.

2.  I have played with this sort of thing on an industrial scale in two ways.  We thought it might help us reduce press time if we could extract the whey faster, so we attempted something similar but pulling 29mmHg on a 50# block.  The curd basically exploded inside the hoop.  I suspect minor trapped air bubbles were the culprit.  I also think we burst the curd walls and caused spontanious loss of yield.  The second thing I have done is, in a rush, tried to vacuum a still warm wheel of cheese so I could put it in the cooler and go home for the day.  The wheel exploded inside the bag, I suspect for the same reasons. 

Vacuum is not the same thing as pressure in reverse, it has physically different effects on the wheels.  For a tightly knit cheddar you really need to apply force, not vacuum, in my opinion.  At the big cheddar plants here the blocks undergo only a few minutes of pressing because of the extreme pressure at which the curd is forced down into the hoops.  Works for them.  The vacuum bagging is really just to preserve the cheese and add a little extra support while the curd cools.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2009, 06:09:31 PM »
Francois....
First of all, I do appreciate your insight. I've read a number of your posts and always seem to learn something new. You are a great resource for information and it is appreciated.
I've often wondered about whether checking the whey would give the same Ph accuracy as measuring the curd, but I am limited by the type of Ph meter I own (and can afford at this point).
I would love to have one of the "flat probe" meters but that's pretty much out of the question until possibly next year. My wife has been very tolerant of my cheese making expenses so I don't want to press the issue.  :)
At this point I'm sort of up in the air concerning the pressing under vacuum.
Of course I'm not using much vacuum at all with this experiment, but it has been interesting.
First of all, the temperature inside of the bag is noticeably warmer than the air temperature in our kitchen. When I open the bag to give the wheel a flip it honestly feels as if it's a good 10 degrees warmer than the outside air.
Also, this morning when I removed the follower from the mold I heard a sudden escape of air, that seemed to come from the wheel. I think the technical term would be "whoosh".
I have no idea why this would happen but it did surprise me. This sound did not come when I opened the bag but only when I pulled the follower from the top of the cheese. I don't know what this means but I found it interesting nonetheless.
I've also noticed a slight amount in the increase of whey I've gotten from this wheel.
That could be because of the vacuum effect or it could be because I am finally cooking at the proper temp. due to a thermometer calibration. Either way, something different is taking place, no matter how slight that difference might be.
I will be removing the wheel from the press within the next hour or so and other than when I flipped the wheel it has spent the entire pressing time under vacuum.
My plans are to let it air dry for a day or so and then cut it open to see the results.
So far I haven't seen any type of cheese explosion and hopefully I won't!
Oh, one other thing......
I really love the type of press that I use, but there is no way that I could ever achieve the amount of pressing weight that the commercial makers use. Even if my little press could handle the structural stress my mold would no doubt collapse under 25 p.s.i. and above.
I'll update this post with a pic of the wheel once it comes out of the mold.
Thanks for your input and have a great evening.

Dave

Offline Boofer

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2009, 06:24:30 PM »
Reminds me of the old Saturday movie serials (Am I dating myself?).... Every moment a cliffhanger....

Thanks for the muted excitement, Dave.

-Boofer-
Let's ferment something!
Bread, beer, wine, cheese...it's all good.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2009, 06:50:53 PM »
LOL Boofer!
I'm really not trying to make this into a cliffhanger. I just want to give it a day or two to air dry before I cut into it.
Once I cut the wheel into wedges I want to vacuum bag it for further aging, so I would like to make sure all of the whey has been expelled before hand.
So, as promised here's a couple of pics of the wheel. I can't really say that it looks much differently than any of my other cheddar wheels, but it does feel a LOT different.
The wheel is nice and soft and ummmm...springy, when pressed with a finger.
I can't tell that there are any "off" smells from the wheel as it simply smells like cheese. I was happy to see this since I was a little worried about the bag imparting unwanted odor to the wheel.
Within a day or so we will all know if this has helped with the curd knitting issue. If it has I'm going to be one happy guy. If not, at least it was a fun experiment to do.
Sorry about the poor photo quality but quite honestly I suck at taking pictures. I really need to spend some time with my camera and learn how to use it.

Dave

Offline DeejayDebi

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2009, 07:17:16 PM »
It looks really good Dave. I have to ask though do you not normally feel a kind of springiness to your new cheeses? Maybe you have been over cooking for awhile.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2009, 08:25:05 PM »
Debi....
I do normally feel a springiness to my wheels, but not as much as this one has.....
I really don't know how to describe it, but there is definitely something different about this wheel of cheese.
When I loaded the curd into the mold it was different from any of my other cheddar attempts...not quite as dry and I'm certain that this is due to actually cooking at the proper temp. due to your calibration recommendations.
At this point I am not contributing any of the good qualities of this cheese to pressing under a vacuum.
I'm certain that it is due to 1. proper temperature and 2. hitting my ph markers better than I ever have.
I don't know that I have ever spent so much time drawing samples and giving them a ph check. I went into this make determined that I would hit all of the markers and this involved taking readings sometimes as little as a couple of minutes apart.
It was quite literally a PITA but if it works I guess the extra effort is worth it.
I really wish everyone could poke a finger into this wheel to see what I'm talking about. I don't have the words to describe it, but it is most definitely "different".
Darn, I'm really dying to cut this sucker open to see what is inside. I know I'm just setting myself up for disappointment but I'm really hoping for some good results.
It's going to be a long couple of days.....

Dave

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Re: Cheddar Experiement, pressed under a vacuum
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2009, 08:48:06 PM »
Francois....
First of all, I do appreciate your insight. I've read a number of your posts and always seem to learn something new. You are a great resource for information and it is appreciated.
I've often wondered about whether checking the whey would give the same Ph accuracy as measuring the curd,

The levels are very different. Or, I should say, the degree of their difference increases throughout the cheesemake. One middle ground you could take is to measure the whey at the closest point possible to the curds. So let the curds settle, drain whey, and instead of measuring that whey you drain, measure the whey freshly released from the curds. Same with later measurements. Reserve a small clump of curds separate from the main wheel, and stick the glass electrode bulb in there. So long as it is moist, some whey will be released and you can get a more accurate measurement.
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