Author Topic: how to maintain wooden cheese vat  (Read 711 times)

Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2016, 05:27:05 PM »
Excellent book by the way.
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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2016, 08:20:58 PM »

What you post may well be true but this is not a discussion of wood versus steel.  Gene has stated that he wants to use a wooden barrel vat and let it develop its own bacterial flora.  I have simply pointed out that doing so may also result in growing harmful pathogens because you can't selectively sterilize any vat to kill only the harmful pathogens and preserve the beneficial bacterial.  I suspect that the Cheese Nun sterilizes to kill everything and recommend that Gene do the same if he wants to use his half barrel vat to make cheese.  I have not seen "Cooked" but I'll bet that the Cheese Nun does not use a wood vat with the nooks and crannies that one finds in a wooden staved barrel.  Pathogens can grow in these little voids as they are continuously damp and contain whey proteins.  Finally, I was referring specifically to Listeria - a pathogen with a much higher fatality rate than E. coli.

Actually, from what I saw in the documentary, she does not sterilize the wooden vat between uses. The vat she was using appeared to be similar to a staved half barrel. The point of her choice to use a wood vat was that non-pathogenic "good" bacteria colonize the wood so heavily they prevent the "bad" bacteria from proliferating. If this is to happen, then the wood would not be heavily cleaned or sterilized. Also, what holds true for E. coli can also hold true for Listeria. According to the documentary this is the method preferred by traditional French cheese makers and has been used for many generations successfully. I would suggest viewing the documentary before speculating.


Offline Kern

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2016, 06:36:33 PM »
Here is a link to an interesting book, chapters 5 and 8 are of particular interest for this discussion.  5 is co-authored by Sister Noella Marcellino who is also known as the "cheese nun".  A trained microbiologist, her research has shown that the wooden vat is actually safer than stainless steel in regards to pathogens, including Listeria.

Cheese and Microbes

Here are some quotations from chapter 8 of the above referenced book:

"Very few data exist regarding the inoculation of wood by microorganisms."

"Microbial adhesion was dependent on the wood species and microorganisms tested."

"It is clearly stated that surfaces in contact with milk should be easy to clean and well maintained.  This requires smooth, washable and nontoxic surfaces.  After use these surfaces should be cleaned and, if necessary, disinfected....  Wood porosity clearly does not fit the requirement for a smooth surface and plastic and stainless steel utensils are preferred."

"Currently no legislation or guidelines exist in Europe regarding the cleaning of wooden tools.  The only mandatory aspect is to guarantee the efficiency of the cleaning regarding potential contamination by pathogen species."

"In the scientific literature only two [types] of wood vats have been explored."

"All [regulations] support the use of wood without restriction, provided that the appropriate cleaning and drying procedures are utilized.  General guidelines for wood management in the dairy sector are missing and would be of great value to the future of artisan cheese production.  Many scientific questions remain..."

It seems that my arguments stand as the author's statements support them:  No protocol has been developed to maintain and clean wood so as to guarantee that it is pathogen free.  Such a protocol would have to kill pathogens without harming beneficial bacteria.  Otherwise there is no advantage to using a wood vat beyond the aesthetics of "doing it the old way".

That some Italian cheese making operations are said to have been safely making Listeria free cheese in wooden vats for many, many years is proof of nothing.  I quote from the following.

L. monocytogenes was not identified as a cause of foodborne illness until 1981, however. An outbreak of listeriosis in Halifax, Nova Scotia, involving 41 cases and 18 deaths, mostly in pregnant women and neonates, was epidemiologically linked to the consumption of coleslaw containing cabbage that had been contaminated with L. monocytogenes-contaminated sheep manure.[17] Since then, a number of cases of foodborne listeriosis have been reported, and L. monocytogenes is now widely recognized as an important hazard in the food industry.

Offline Gregore

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2016, 12:44:54 AM »
Really the only way to make cheese and be absolutely sure sure you have no bad bacteria is in a bio   clean room .

As for the wooden barrel it works exactly like we all make cheese . We add a starter to a food source and expect it to get a running start on anything bad that might fly in from us or the environment . And that is what the barrel does , the cheese is cultured in it down to,a low ph and that kills off  any pathogens or reduces them then the next day you start all over again , and thus further reduce the level of potential pathogens , day after day after day .

That is why it is safer than stainless ,  there is no head start for the good guys to get going.

The only problem I see is that you are not  using it every day , day in day out like cheese makers of the long past.

The whole thing is similar to kombucha  and kefir making , I wondered why it was so safe to make and I did a little testing when my wife  made a new batch. The ph when it was ready to,drink was 2.5 for the kombucha and 3 something for the kefir , then you hold back some and add it to the new fresh milk or sugar water . The ph when tested was so low with the addition of the hold back that there was no way for bad anything to live in it.

I suspect that it is almost the same with the barrel the acid drops so fast from the left over cultures in the barrel that  there is not much of a chance of bad cultures growing .

Most of what  is bantered about about the dangers of bacteria in milk come from a time when we moved cows to the city ( and I do mean right into the city)and fed them mash from the distilleries so we could all drink our selves silly and give the milk from the sick cows  to out children ..... All in the name of profit .

statistically the most dangerous thing the average person will ever do is strap on a seat belt and drive  a car.

the chamber has 8000 slots and only 1 bullet we think it is safe because we do it every day and manage to make it home at night , Milk pathogens from cheese has more than a million slots and 1 bullet , and yet it scares us to death .

Don't see any one warning me not to drive , and or drive my friends around.

Offline Gregore

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2016, 01:01:11 AM »
I recommend contacting the cheese nun and asking if she would be willing to share with us any info she has on the use and maintenance of wooden barrels for cheese making .

Offline Al Lewis

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2016, 01:06:57 PM »
If you don't mind me asking, how do you plan on heating the milk in your wooden barrel? ???  Also, there is this from their site.

Question: How long would it take, in your opinion, for the 'wine' aroma to dissipate? We would like to use as a basin stand in a powder room.

Answer: Like the others, there's not much of an odor associated with ours. However, don't forget to put water in the bottom of the barrel from time to time, and put a stopper in it as well. If you don't it will dry out and the bands will fall off!
By Cheryl Martin on March 2, 2014
« Last Edit: April 10, 2016, 01:12:42 PM by Al Lewis »
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Offline Gene

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2016, 09:02:51 PM »

The cheese I make is an aged, uncooked lactic curd goat cheese.  (I imagine it's much like the Humboldt Fog made by Cypress Grove--though I haven't tried their product to say for sure.)  The temperature range during the 24 hr milk incubation is 75 - 85°F.   I like to combine the current morning milking while it's still warm with the previous evening milk which has been chilled overnight.  I may have to warm it slightly before adding it to the wooden vat.   This particular cheese has really worked well for me, both in terms scheduling around my job and goat chores, and with the cool mountain climate of this area.  It has garnered several fans among my friends, most particularly with a lady from the French Pyrenees.

The wine barrel just arrived today.  Once I have a chance to cut it, make a lid and the current batch of kids weaned leaving me milk to work with,, I'll post pics of the first making.

Offline jwalker

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Re: how to maintain wooden cheese vat
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2016, 08:31:24 AM »
So did you cut your barrel yet ?

I just saw this thread now , wish I'd have seen it earlier.

Before you cut it , drill some 1 inch teck screws thru the hoops and into each wood stave , that will keep it from falling apart when cut.

And yes , I would keep it full of a saturated brine when not in use , if cared for properly , it should work fine.

Actually , some of the worlds best Feta is aged in oak barrels , and the barrels are re-used many times.

Barrel Aged Feta

Barrel Aged Feta is a classic Greek style feta made from a mixture of sheep's and goat's pasteurized milk, produced by Mt. Vikos, Greece. The cheese is aged in 120-pound oak barrels for about 6 months. the cheese is crumbly yet creamy in texture with rich, sweet and tangy flavour.

As I understand , that's how washed curd cheeses came about , as they couldn't heat their wooden vats , so hot water was added to the milk to heat it up.

Good luck.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 12:07:26 PM by jwalker »
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