Author Topic: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know  (Read 2546 times)

Offline Sing_cheese

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time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« on: December 30, 2008, 08:03:06 AM »
My fear in moving to larger wheels and pressing with massive amounts of weight were the same as Likespace.  I have done the same as him and am now using about double the weight (the parmesan last pressing below is at 18kg whne the recomended weight was 20 lbs) the cheese looks fine but am now worried about the fact that it may have been too little (mostly from reading how real parmesan's are made in Italy for their standard wheel size and doing the math backwards). 

In looking at Parmesan making in Italy the wheels are between 33kg and 44kg in weight and are a diameter of 14-16 inches and about 7 - 9 inches high (these are the Italian D.O.C. control requirement specifications).  My large Parmesian is 9 1/2 inches in diameter and 7 inches high this implies that it is not dense enough, hence perhaps too little weight when pressing even though I double the weight from my 6 inch press (20lbs to 18kg). 

The math says that I am increasing the surface area 113 sq in to 254 sq inch which to me says the weight should go up by about 2.5 times. I will press with more weight next time.

Also does the increased size imply increasing the pressing time as well? I have not seen this discussed any where.


It does also brings up another interesting question.  That is increasing the length of time in the brine bath due to the extra size of the cheese.  I have read that the D.O.C. Parmesan's in italy are brined for 3 weeks!  I have a feeling that the density of the cheese is important for this but also is the weightof the cheese.  I have read somewhere else (cant remember where), that you should brine at least 1hour per inch per pound of cheese.  In both Ricci Carrol and Tim Smith's books they recomend that you brine for at  24 hours (they are expecting a 2 pound yield).

Given the dimensions of my parmesan and its weight ( 5.4 kg or about 12 lbs) it should be in brine for about 84 hours.  Does this make sense to anyone?  I have now had it brine for 36 hours and was thinking about taking it out at 48 hours, but having just done the math I am not so sure anymore. 

Doing the same math for a real D.O.C parmesan (assuming a 38kg wheel 8 inches high) yields a brine time of 710 hours or 27 days.  Close to the Italian Parmesan information I have read.

Any suggestions?

Also what about other cheeses?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 08:16:43 AM by Sing_cheese »
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Offline John (CH)

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2008, 08:41:41 AM »
Sing_cheese, I have no clue to your issues, but have attached picture from our local HEB Grocery Store display of Parmegiana Regiano brand monster parmesan wheels to give other readers size perspective of what you are talking about ;D.

Offline Sing_cheese

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2008, 08:59:54 AM »
Yes I understand that they make really big parmesan's as well, but the Itallian food regulation has standard sizes and specifications.  I am led to believe he most common class is the 14-16 inch diameter that is about 7-9 inches high (I have seen manuy of these) and according to two cheese books I have they should weigh in at 33-44 kg. I have read that the legal minimum size is 24kg. Am yet to find a maximum. Your picture is really a big one must go around 100kg at least!
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Offline John (CH)

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2008, 09:39:04 AM »
Hmm, while everything is bigger in Texas ( ;), I don't think they looked like 100 kg, but they did look bigger than 14-16 inch diameter, next time I'm in the store I'll measure.

On pressing weight, I don't think it is just a mathmatical psi type thing, as it's also a function of ability of the whey to be expelled which is a I think a function of geometrical shape of cheese (thin and wide vs tall and thick) and number of holes in hoops and amount of filter caking off of curds around the holes and drain matt at bottom and the interal ability of filter curds to form and permeability of filter cake (smilar issues to oil well drilling mud). Thus determining weight and time is really a process of trial and error, in my opiniion. A very expensive process when making wheels that size.

Offline Tea

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2008, 02:02:47 PM »
Also in regards to brine time being different, in my book for some of the cheese it give you the time varience to brine, for different size cheeses.  Of course being a homemade cheese book, the weight are only in 1-2kg range, but it does varify that longer brining times are needed for larger cheeses.


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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2008, 07:37:44 PM »
Sing, what's your real name? Anyway, from Beverage People they say for every 2 pounds of cheese have it in brine for 12 hours. Here is a link to their PDF http://www.thebeveragepeople.com/pdf/webcheesepdf/Brining%20Instructions.pdf

I wouldn't use whey from other batches as they suggest because brine can be reused for ever. That way you're not wasting salt.

As for brining you really can't over do it but you can under do it. Brining is to keep the cheese moist, give it a salt protective layer and harden it's rind. So over doing it really can't be done to easy, I mean maybe 3 months, but 5 days or 2 weeks it's not going to make a difference, as far as ruining the cheese. You do want consistency for the future but take it with a grain of salt (get it, grain of salt, brine...oh forget it, nobody gets me....LOL)
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Sing_cheese

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2008, 09:49:44 PM »
Thanks Cartier/Tea et al,

I think I will let it go for around 3 days and take it out.

My name is Gerrit (my daughter Asya also may post under the Sing_cheese moniker as well, we have been building up our Cheese amking skills in tandem - really nice to have someone to talk cheese making to when she is in Singapore)
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Offline Cartierusm

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2008, 10:13:22 PM »
Tea, I didn't know your last name was "et al"...lol
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.

Offline Tea

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2008, 01:00:24 AM »
Well see, even you can still learn something new every day .   ;D

Offline Cartierusm

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2008, 02:39:02 AM »
Yeah, I know how I come off, but I really love to learn and I'm on this board to learn and give back the little knowledge I have on cheese back to those who need it.

Trust me I learn something new every day, especially today, what a disaster.

P.S. I belive the most important function of this discussion of cheese, is what to do when something goes wrong or what to look for when performing certain functions. The biggest question I have now is what to do when you don't get a clean break, do you wait and for how long. Will waiting longer affect the cheese.
Life is like a box of chocolates sometimes too much rennet makes you kill people.


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Offline Tea

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Re: time in brine for larger cheeses - my big Parmesan needs to know
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2008, 03:11:56 PM »
Cartier that can be a trickly question, and I think it will depend on the cheese that you are making.  I have found that you have a few options.

1.  If the set is really poor, and the milk still fairly liquid, I have at times added some more rennet.  This of course is assuming that you know that the set problem is not because or old/out of date rennet.
Sometimes, if the water that we dilute the rennet in is too hot, it renders the rennet useless.  So if after the second addition there is still no set, I cut my losses and give it to the animals.  There have been a couple of occassions where I have no other explaination other than milk quality being the problem.

2.  You could change track and find a cheese that calls for a lesser rennet use, and make it.  The fetta recipe that I use, calls for a lesser rennet usage (1.6ml per 10ltr rather than the usual 2.5ml per 10ltr) and a setting time of 1 - 1 1/2 hours.  That is if the culture that you used is suitable for that.

3.  Depending on the set, say at least a medium set, you can proceed, understanding that you are not going to have the larger curds, and that the curds will shatter very easily.  So you can stir occassionally to minimise shattering the curds.  Draining off the whey probably will require the use of a cheesecloth, and the resultant curd then scooped into moulds.

Usually I find that I can get a cheese in the end, but with a reduced yield that is drier and a little more brittle than usual.  The whey usually makes a good ricotta.

I also would probably leave it set for a maximum of 2 hours, and that would depend on the room temp. Remember I live in the tropics.  If it is not set by then, I don't think it will set any more with more time.

Calcium can help with the setting of milk too, but I think I remember you saying that you use it anyway.

Hopefully someone else will be able to add to this, but this has been my experiences.