Author Topic: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......  (Read 2846 times)

Offline Likesspace

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My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« on: December 26, 2008, 03:53:56 PM »
Hi guys,
Up to this point I've only worked with two gallon batches of milk (with the exception of swiss where I used three gallons).
Well today i decided to go for broke and attempt a 5 gallon batch.
A week or so ago I bought a new cheese pot that is supposed to hold 5-1/2 gallons of milk. Even though this is what is advertised I'd be very surprised if you could get the entire 5-1/2 gallons into it.
I also got in a couple of larger cheese molds which hold 5-10 lbs. and 4-5 lbs. respectively, so I figured I was all set to attempt something larger.
Well first I went to the store and bought my 5 gallons of whole milk. Of course I got a lot of strange looks from the other customers in the store but that's another story.
I then went home and proceeded to pour the milk into my new pot and once I was finished it was only about an inch away from the top of the pot.
Now right away I knew this was going to be a little different and I was not disappointed. Working this close to the top of the pot, I had to be really careful not to splash milk all over the place. Once I got the hang of it though, it really wasn't that bad.
My biggest problem was that my spoon would barely reach the bottom of the cheese pot. I was literally holding the handle of the spoon with my fingertips which was a bit of a pain. Then, when it came time to cut the curd I had the same problem with my cheese knife but with enough determination I was able to get the job done.
Then the foreworking and cooking time started.
By the way, I was making a swiss cheese so the foreworking and cooking time amouts to about 1 hour and 40 minutes of near constant stirring....
Well after this 1 hour and 40 minutes was up, my arm was about to fall off. Because of the increased height of this new pot and because of the added resistance of this amount of milk,it was quite a workout to say the least. I was so happy once the cooking phase was over and I was ready to dump the curds into the strainer(s).
So, I got my oldest daughter to hold the strainer over another cheese pot (saving the whey to brine in) and I grapped ahold of the pot.
Now let me digress for a second to say that I am a weightlifter and a racquetball player. I'm not out of shape but this sucker was heavy! Also, the whey was so close to the top that it was difficult not to spill the whey all over the kitchen floor. I finally decided that the strainer/pot would have to set on the floor so that gravity could help me out a little bit.
Well I finally got the why poured off and the curds loaded into the mold. By the way, I did not use a cheesecloth on the mold on the advice of a fellow cheesemaker.
I then started pressiing and things were going beautifully....
Then it came time for the first flipping of the cheese (after only 15 minutes).
Normally this is not a big deal. I've done it so many times before that it's pretty much a piece of cake but after taking a look at this 8" diameter wheel with a thickness of about 3 inches I was a bit intimidated.
Well once I removed the cheese from the mold, it really wasn't that big of a deal at all. The cheese held together nicely and the flip went without incident. I now have it going through another 30 minute press before flipping again.
All in all, this experiment went pretty well. Every step was a learning experience and every step was different but I feel like this will pretty much be the size I am working with from now on.
I like the look of the bigger wheel and I like the fact that I have a lot more cheese with the same amount of time spent in processing.
I might cut back to a 4 gallon batch on certain cheeses and jump up to a 6 or 7 gallon batch (in two pots) for other cheeses. I'll just have to play it by ear from here on out.
One other thing....
I did use direct heat on this particular cheese and I really am starting to think this is the way to go if you have the proper cheese pot.
I was able to control the heat really well throughout the entire process by simply making minor adjustments of the flame. Direct heat also took some getting used to, but all in all I like it. I would never attempt this with a thin bottom pot like I was using before making this latest purchase.
So, hopefully this information will help someone who is thinking about making larger batches.
Thanks to everyone who offered advice to me (I'm posting this on two different forum sites) when I had questions.
Once I get the cheese out of the brine I'll try to snap a pic or two and upload them. Hopefully I'll be satisfied with what I have by that time.

Dave

Offline John (CH)

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2008, 04:06:17 PM »
Likesspace, congrats on making the big cheese! Yep, everything scales up with bigger batches, lots of learnings, thanks for the story.

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2008, 12:00:32 AM »
Like, I saw you were on that other forum, I'm not, traitor. J/k.

When I read your post above and didn't mention my name but, "a fellow cheese maker" I thought oh crap did I steer him wrong...Thankfully everything worked out.

Yes working close to the surface is tough. I did it once and now i've redesigned my vats, I always like to have a good 4" of head space.

Is the pot you're talking about actually a pot for making cheese, if you could can you post a pic and a link to where you got it. Thanks.

I too love the look of the bigger wheels, the 4" x 4" never did it for me.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2008, 07:36:50 AM »
Okay, I admit it.....I am a traitor but in all fairness I was on the other forum before this one. I only found this particular site a few weeks back and immediately joined up. Lots of great advice and information on both sites.
As for the "cheese pot" I'm using, it's a Trantomina (not sure if I spelled that right....might be a Jewish company  ;D) 22 quart heavy bottom stock pot.
The bottom is triple layered with a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. The pot really does seem to heat evenly and very slowly which makes it perfect for making cheese over direct heat.
I paid $44 - $45 at our local Wal Mart store. Not cheap but not terribly expensive either.
Now I guess I'm going to have to start looking for one that's a little larger since I'd like to move up to doing even larger batches in the future.
I think my main problem is going to be finding spoons and knives that are  long enough to reach the bottom of the pot comfortably. If nothing else, I can always do some modification to my current utensils using stainless steel flat stock and stainless fasteners.
Hopefully I won't have to restort to that.
Below is a pic of a similar stock pot to the one I bought. The pic is of a 24 quart and mine is a 22 quart.

Dave

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2008, 08:08:08 AM »
Here's another site I just found. Their prices seem good and the quality appears to be the same as my current pot. I'm thinking about springing for the 35 quart pot. It looks like it is shorter than what I have but with a larger diameter.

http://www.kitchenfantasy.com/shopping_cart/stockpots.html

For those of you who like really big wheels of cheese, there is even a 200 quart stock pot on this site. Sheesh, that would be a nightmare to work with.
Hope this information helps.
Dave

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2008, 12:57:31 PM »
You bastard! I've been scouring the internet looking for a 200 quart stock pot for days now and found nothing...how did you find this site?

Although I don't need the 200 quart now as I decided what I'm going to do and I wouldn't pay that much anyway.

Dave, you have a couple options, 1. that pot and price look good, 2. you might save some shipping money by checking you local home brew store for similar pots and  price or used ones, 3 check craigslist for used, 4. if you have tool you could convert a keg if you can get one cheap.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Tea

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2008, 02:03:19 PM »
Likespace, thanks for that write up.  Keep us informed and a few pics for be great too, of how this cheese ages.  Being a swiss, it should start barreling, right?
Anyway thanks again.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2008, 04:28:24 PM »
First of all, LOL@Cartierusm....
Honestly, I simply googled something like "35 quart stock pot" and that was one of the first sites that came up. Sorry you spent so much time without success.
As for checking with my local brewer's supply, the closest one I know of is about 75 miles away from me. I live in a town of about 400 people, so NOTHING is local to me. :-)
I have thought about using a keg cut down but it would cost me about $30.00 for the used keg and then I'd have to take it to a machine shop to get it cut down. Probably not much of a savings over just making the purchase.
As for this cheese barreling....
This is a problem that I've always had with my swiss. I get very minimal barrelling with my swiss and therefore very small eyes in the cheese (sort of what you would epect in a Gouda). I'm not sure what the problem is but some of my swiss have even been totally blind.
But, the good news is that the flavor I've gotten so far is amazing. Even as young as two months old they have a wonderful swiss "bite" to them and are very creamy and melt perfectly.
I have gotten these results only after switching from a different recipe I was using. Before switching I would turn out these very dense, very small wheels that would never turn into anything even closely resembling a swiss.
If anyone is interested in trying  my current recipe, simply Google: Ehow how to make swiss cheese. I can't say that I've ever used the Ehow site for anything other than this recipe, but it is a winner.
The last batch I made, did do some really nice barrelling so I have hopes that I will see some better eyes in this cheese. It was nothing like the barrelling I saw from one maker on this site,but at least the cheese did swell noticeably.
If anyone has some advice on how to get better barrelling of the cheese, I'd love to hear it. I've always figured that to consider myself a real cheesemaker I will first have to turn out a quality swiss and a quality parmesan since neither of these cheeses are what I would consider easy to make and make well. I'm getting closer, but I'm not there yet.
As for the pics......well here is one of the swiss right after it came out of the brine. Excuse my photography skills as I'm just starting out and have a lot to learn.

Dave

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2008, 04:33:52 PM »
As you can see from the above pics, I didn't get a good press on this cheese. For some reason, the curds just didn't knit together as well as I'd like and I'm sure I will have trouble with mold growing in the fissures once the sweating phase starts.
I've been corresponding with Cartierusm and Cheese Head concerning this problem and they've both offered some very helpful advice. Hopefully this cheese will still turn out since it really is a nice looking cheese other than the surface problem.
All of my other swiss cheeses have have a perfectly smooth texture all the way around so this is something that's new. If anyone else has any advice, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks,
Dave

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2008, 05:11:16 PM »
For the eye formation are you keeping it in a warm enough area during that phase, as the bacteria needs warmth to grow and humidity to keep the cheese from drying out.

Aside from the suface defects the cheese looks great..so are you photography skills, looks good to me.

For the previous cheeses you've made, do you have any pics you can post, what size mold did you use and how much weight. Also what kind of weight? Is it direct weight from weight lifting set, a fulcrum are, a spring tightening system? That could help determine what's wrong as a lot of the systems on the market, cheese presses, for home use are Holy inaccurate, at least in my opinion. Did you follow the same procedure for ladlesing in the curds hot, I know we did talk about this and you said it took you longer because the sheer volume of curds increased.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2008, 08:01:21 PM »
As for the sweating stage, I usually keep the swiss in my kitchen. The temp is always between 70 - 74 degrees F. I also place an overturned tupperware lid over the cheese and use a dampened paper towel under this lid. Normally I'll see 72 degrees @ 85% humidity under the bowl.
My previous batches of swiss have been made out of three gallons of milk and a 6-1/2" mold. They really make a nice thick wheel of cheese but I have plans of moving to a 7 - 8 gallon swiss which should have a better thickness in my 8" mold.
As for the press I use, it's about as simple as it gets. Two large cutting boards which slide down on four dowel rods. The mold sits under these and standard weightlifting weights serve as the pressing force.
My recipe calls for 8 - 10 lbs. of pressure for 15 minutes...flip....14 lbs. of pressure for 30 minutes...flip....14 lbs. of pressure for two hours....flip....and 14 lbs. of pressure for 12 hours.
As I said before, in the past this has always resulted in a perfectly smooth, very elastic cheese which has a perfect texture and taste after a month or two of aging.
I'm beginning to think you might be right about direct heat being the problem, since this is the main change that I made in the processing of this cheese.
I'll be sure to let you know how my next batch turns out.
I really do appreciate all of the help/advice you've given me. When it comes to turning out a good product (whether it's wine, ice cream, cheese or the perfect racquetball swing) I'm about as anal as they come.  :)

Thanks again,
Dave

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2008, 08:17:06 PM »
Hey you're talking to the king of perfect. I think the two problems might be the heat, but your pressures must increase! If you don't know how to figure it out in the future let me know. Below are your weights converted to 6 1/2" and 8" molds.

10 lbs. for 6 1/2" mold = 27 lbs.
14 lbs for 6 1/2" mold = 37 lbs.

10 lbs. for 8" mold = 40 lbs.
14 lbs. for 8" mold = 56 lbs.

so this means for the first press on an 8" mold use 40 lbs.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Likesspace

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2008, 04:28:53 PM »
Okay, you've convinced me. For my next batch (be it a swiss or a stirred curd cheddar) I will increase the pressing weight.
If I do an 8" cheddar, I have no idea where I will find that type of weight, though.
If I'm figuing this correctly I will need to increase the 50# final press weight to 200# on an 8" wheel.
If I'm using my 6-1/2" mold I will still need to increase the 50# weight to 132#.
Sheesh, that's a lot of weight to put on my little home made press.
The most stable weights I have are 12" x 12" square paving blocks that weigh 22 lbs. each. There is simply no way I can stack 9 of those up to reach that 200# mark.
I'm going to have to give this some more thought.
I'm sure that any weight increase will help so I might try some lesser amounts and see how it works out.
I would feel comfortable putting five of those blocks on the press which would give me 110 lbs. of pressing weight. Maybe that would be enough....
I hope you realize that you have just made my cheese making life more difficult.
Sheesh, logical thinking is really a pain in the ass.  ;D
Thanks again and I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out.
Dave

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2008, 07:31:42 PM »
Most my swisses are pressed at 15 lbs at the most, you're pressing yours at 50 lbs. Wow, that's a lot, but I'm by no means a swiss expert.

You can make a fulcrum arm like Wayne and make the arm 4 times the distance, I don't know the math on this, but then you would only need 50 lbs. and you can hang it off the end. Look at Wayne's machine.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Wayne Harris

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Re: My first large batch of cheese and my thoughts.......
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2008, 08:19:12 PM »
My machine is here
Wayne A. Harris - in vino veritas