Author Topic: Curds Spongey, Impossible To Press - Cheese Cloth Cleaning > Root Causes Discussion  (Read 2587 times)

Offline Annie

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Hi all,
I have tried to find the article about how to clean cloths which I thought I saw mentioned, but haven
t been able to.

Anyway, I have had this problem several times where I make the cheese (warming, adding, setting, etc) and somewhere along the line something gets in which acts like yeast but doesn't smell like yeast. Now I reognize the smell and stop, but before I continued, and the cheese will swell and be full of holes and spongey (and impossible to press!) This does not happen all the time, maybe 1/4 or 1/3 of the time.

The smell is mild and not unpleasant, but it is not like bread (I bake bread). It doesn't even smell "off," altho now I know it means trouble. In fact, the smell is mostly in the whey and not all that noticeable in the cheese itself. And the curds float.

I'm using raw milk from our cow.

/This has happened both before I got the sanitizer and after I started using it, so I'm thinking it's the cloths and towels, because I use cloth to strain the milk and of course towels to dry my hands, etc.

So, if anyone has any suggestions as to what it is, how to prevent it, or even how to handle my cloths, because I can't use paper towels to strain the milk, I'd really appreciate it.

I figure I can wash and boil the cloths, no problem, but what I can't figure out is how to dry them, because if I dry them in the machine, well, first, it's an extra-large machine so not so good for a handful of stuff, and seconddly, I dry everything else in there, so it doesn't seem like a good idea, but if I air-dry them, then they are exposed to stuff also.

How did people avoid this in the olden days before they had paper towels and all that?

Thanks for any advice :)


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Offline John (CH)

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Webmaster edit - link fixed.

Annie, there's a thread here on cleaning cloths and another here, here, and here.

There's some info on yeast infection in our Wiki: Body Defets, Mechanical Holes article (Which needs work). As yours doesn't smell like yeast then I doubt it is yeast, also as most people with yeast problems have expansion and holes after pressing, not before pressing like you. Which sounds like a contamination in your raw cow's milk or induced from hygiene reasons as you say.

Me I just dry cloths in clothes dryer with family stuff and have not had your problem, but do use store bought past & homogenized cow's milk.

Are your holes irregular shaped or reasonably spherical and how are they distributed, evenly throughout or in certain area? Picture would of course help. Hope others can help more!
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 05:44:51 AM by Webmaster »

Offline Annie

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Annie, there's a thread here on cleaning cloths and another here, here, and .

There's some info on yeast infection in our [url=http://cheeseforum.org/articles/wiki-cheese-body-defects-mechanical-holes/Wiki: Body Defets, Mechanical Holes
article (Which needs work). As yours doesn't smell like yeast then I doubt it is yeast, also as most people with yeast problems have expansion and holes after pressing, not before pressing like you. Which sounds like a contamination in your raw cow's milk or induced from hygiene reasons as you say.

Me I just dry cloths in clothes dryer with family stuff and have not had your problem, but do use store bought past & homogenized cow's milk.

Are your holes irregular shaped or reasonably spherical and how are they distributed, evenly throughout or in certain area? Picture would of course help. Hope others can help more!

Thanks so much, John.

I didn't take any pictures and I hope never to have the problem again, so maybe no pics :) The way I remember the holes was that they were a lot *like* something caused by yeast, and I actually did have a yeast in my milk once when I had it near some grapes (who knew?!?), but smaller. *Lots* of small round holes throughout, and not a huge variation in size, either, but who knows what would have happened if I had kept them instead of tossing as soon as I realized they were not good.

Thanks for all the links. I have been looking at other stuff as well, like for people who clean reptile cages, and how to clean cloth diapers.... and also how to clean the washing machine as well.

I'm off to check out your links :) Thanks again!

Offline Annie

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Oh, these are great :)

I noticed some people talked about using Star-San, I think that's what I have. I have been spraying it on cloths that I use, but just started a few days ago, and also might have missed using it a couple of times.

Would star-san replace everything? Boiling and all that? I do plan to make a few changes, but I have admit that I really hate boiling things...

I had thought before that just regular washing would be ok as I use a lot of borax in our wash.

Thanks so much for your help!

Offline ArnaudForestier

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Annie, Star-San will sanitize a clean surface, but it won't clean that surface.  The protocol is to clean the surface completely, then apply whatever sanitizing protocol you want to use.  If you have bits of cheese embedded into your fabric, you may apply the sanitizer, but there are so many nucleation sites on the cheese clump that it is bound to be a local source for contamination. 

Many people even today dry their cloths outdoors (if you've never seen "The Cheese Nun" video, highly recommend it - and an image of her cloths drying, fluttering in a fresh breeze).  You'll never be free of all flora - they're everywhere.  But you can reduce your risk by following good procedures.  FWIW, I either boil my cloths, then dry them, the day of the make, by hanging them so they hang freely and don't touch any hard surface; I try not to allow movement around those cloths, to minimize stirring up any nasties.  I do the same thing with Star-San, depending on my inclination - soak, squeeze excess, air dry completely while I'm doing the make, and use. 
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Offline Annie

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Annie, Star-San will sanitize a clean surface, but it won't clean that surface.  The protocol is to clean the surface completely, then apply whatever sanitizing protocol you want to use.
Oh, I didn't write that well--I didn't want to skip the *cleaning*, just the boiling or soaking in ammonia/bleach, but I'm glad you clarified that since I was so vague  :-[

I'm actually using disposable cheesecloth right now; I do want to get some of the good stuff that I can re-use (and the baking soda tip in one of the threads John linked will help :) ). Since I milk the cow, we have a *lot* of stuff to sanitize, not just the cheese-making things.

Quote
If you have bits of cheese embedded into your fabric, you may apply the sanitizer, but there are so many nucleation sites on the cheese clump that it is bound to be a local source for contamination. 
Yes, that is so hard to clean out of the loose-weave cheesecloth that I just gave up!

Quote
Many people even today dry their cloths outdoors (if you've never seen "The Cheese Nun" video, highly recommend it - and an image of her cloths drying, fluttering in a fresh breeze).  You'll never be free of all flora - they're everywhere.
This is so true! I would boil my pots, then worry about what was in the air, or if I breathed on it. I love the star-San!!!!!


Quote
But you can reduce your risk by following good procedures.  FWIW, I either boil my cloths, then dry them, the day of the make, by hanging them so they hang freely and don't touch any hard surface; I try not to allow movement around those cloths, to minimize stirring up any nasties.  I do the same thing with Star-San, depending on my inclination - soak, squeeze excess, air dry completely while I'm doing the make, and use.
This is a great description, thank you. If I did that, but put everything dry into zip-lock bags or a sterilized jar as someone else does, do you think that would do it? I actually have to make cheese really often right now as 2 of my teen-age children are away and they usually drink a lot of milk, so anything I can do to save time is a great help.

Offline MrsKK

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As you are using raw milk, I'm thinking it may be something in the milk that is the culprit.  I've had something similar happen every now and again, with no obvious contamination otherwise.  Raw milk has so many organisms of its own that they could be competing and overcoming the culture you use.

BTW, what kind of culture are you using?  I've noticed issues when I use yogurt that is a couple of weeks old to culture my cheese.

Offline Annie

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As you are using raw milk, I'm thinking it may be something in the milk that is the culprit.  I've had something similar happen every now and again, with no obvious contamination otherwise.  Raw milk has so many organisms of its own that they could be competing and overcoming the culture you use.

BTW, what kind of culture are you using?  I've noticed issues when I use yogurt that is a couple of weeks old to culture my cheese.
Karen,
thanks so much for reply. I hadn't thought about what I use, which is buttermilk, but now I'm thinking about what you said and remembering that the buttermilk cultures apparently last only for a few days.

So, could this bethe situation? The heating causes everything in the milk to start growing like crazy, but you have a mishmash of cultures, then you don't know what you'll end up with.

So you add something for culturing, and that has a *concentration* of the culture you want, so it grows and overwhelms (?) the cultures that are there, so you end up with what you want, right?

But if you use something which has for whatever reason an inadequate number of cultures, then the mishmash of cultures grows all willy nilly, and you can end up with a mess?

Is that the way it works?

Because if so :) the butter milk was a little old, but this recipe called for much less than I had been using!

Do I have that all correct? Because to be totally honest, biology is not my strong suit!

Thanks very much for mentioning this :)

Offline MrsKK

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I'd try a batch of cheese, same exact method as before, but with fresh, fresh buttermilk.  If you end up with the same problem, I would try another batch, same method, etc., but pasturize the milk (gently at 145* for 30 minutes, quick cool down).  If you still get the holey cheese, then you are getting external contamination.

Offline Annie

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I'd try a batch of cheese, same exact method as before, but with fresh, fresh buttermilk.  If you end up with the same problem, I would try another batch, same method, etc., but pasturize the milk (gently at 145* for 30 minutes, quick cool down).  If you still get the holey cheese, then you are getting external contamination.
Thanks, Mrs K! This sounds like a great way to narrow the source of the problem. I don't know enough yet to have figured out how to do that.

I must say that it is so much easier to understand the science when I am actually doing it. Some of the posts I have read here have such a knowledge of the science! It's so kind of everyone to share their knowledge like this :)


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Offline ArnaudForestier

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[quote-Annie]This is a great description, thank you. If I did that, but put everything dry into zip-lock bags or a sterilized jar as someone else does, do you think that would do it? I actually have to make cheese really often right now as 2 of my teen-age children are away and they usually drink a lot of milk, so anything I can do to save time is a great help.[/quote]

Annie, sorry, I misconceived what you were talking about - so it seems you've got a handle on it all, regardless.  But on your above paragraph, yep, that works; it's what I did, too, though now I don't worry so much about it.  I've come to the conclusion, since yielding my sword to the ever-present ambient flora, that it isn't so much about aseptic technique, as about doing what you can to limit unwanted contamination, such that your desired flora have a fighting chance; actually, better than fighting chance, by providing the right make and environmental conditions, such that they outcompete the nasties. 
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Offline Annie

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Annie, sorry, I misconceived what you were talking about - so it seems you've got a handle on it all, regardless.  But on your above paragraph, yep, that works; it's what I did, too, though now I don't worry so much about it.  I've come to the conclusion, since yielding my sword to the ever-present ambient flora, that it isn't so much about aseptic technique, as about doing what you can to limit unwanted contamination, such that your desired flora have a fighting chance; actually, better than fighting chance, by providing the right make and environmental conditions, such that they outcompete the nasties.
Oh, that is so nice, Arnaud. It really reduces my feelings of paranoia regarding santizing everything!

Offline Laura (VA)

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I have a similar problem. This has happened twice to me when making a raw milk cheese with no culture added. My curd is okay and doesn't float but once it goes into the mold it puffs up and becomes spongy. Here is a photo.



All of my other cheeses and yogurt with added cultures turn out fine. 

Here are my steps. I milk the cow, filter using a disposable milk filter, put the milk into my cheese pot, put the lid on and let it sit all day in the kitchen to ripen for like 9 or 10 hours. No culture is added. Then I add the rennet and let it sit for an hour, cut the curd then drain in a colander for 2 hours before putting the curds in the mold. The milk is never heated or cooled. My kitchen is about 78 degrees. We have the A/C on. I used a new piece of cheesecloth for draining. I did not sterilize the pot or utensils so that is a possible source of contaminants.

Any ideas about the puffiness? It is kind of creepy. The cheese feels like a sponge or a loaf of bread. It is uneven in the photo from being squeezed a little. It doesn't smell rotten or yeasty but it does have a vague odor maybe a little ammonia-like.

Any thoughts appreciated!


Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Laura, There is no such thing as raw milk that ISN'T contaminated. That's a natural part of the process. As a calf feeds, colonies of natural lactic acid bacteria, and even Propionics build up on its lips and gums. (They don't brush or gargle after all). So those bacteria get transferred to the mother's teats and to the milk. All this is really good for natural cheese making. The problem is that there are also lots of undesirable contaminants as well and filtering does almost nothing to remove them. To varying degrees those contaminants are in all of our milk, some survive even after pasteurizing.

So, with "normal" cheese making we add lactic acid starter bacteria (LASB) that will outcompete the bad bacteria. The LSAB start out in much greater numbers, eat the lactose, and produce lactic acid - all of which is not in favor of the contaminants. By starting with no added LASB you are at high risk that the undesirable organisms will take hold and cause the problems that you see in your cheese. Plus without LASB you have little control over the flavor outcome. You are producing a cheese, but what kind? And it only takes a small quantity of contaminants to really take off in milk that is naturally ripened.

Yes, there are some traditional cheese makers out there still producing great cheese using raw milk and no LASB. But those tend to be specific locations, with specific flora and they have been doing it that way for generations. Most of them add acidified whey from the previous day back into the fresh milk, so in a way this is actually a form of LASB anyway.

So is your cheese contaminated? Yes. With what? There are several possibilities but my initial guess would be some kind of Coliform. Risky. Depends on how old that cheese is and when the gas formation started. If it began immediately then I would suspect coliforms or some gas producing yeasts. However you said that it didn't smell yeasty. If it began later then there are other things like spore forming Clostridium. However Clostridium usually make larger, more violent looking holes.
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Offline Laura (VA)

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Thanks very much for your reply. I understand what you are saying. I know raw milk has bacteria and enzymes among other things. This happened immediately within a couple hours. I wouldn't dream of eating it. I am throwing it out and sterilizing and sanitizing. I did save a sample and was thinking of asking the lab if they could test it. It does smell like something and it is not unpleasant. I'm fine with the idea of yeast, coliform not so much. Thanks again.