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GENERAL CHEESE MAKING BOARDS (Specific Cheese Making in Boards above) => Problems - Questions - Problems - Questions? => Topic started by: btnellie on April 18, 2013, 12:40:58 PM

Title: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: btnellie on April 18, 2013, 12:40:58 PM

Thanks for reading my post.  I bought a Jersey cow last fall and have been making cheese from her milk since January.  I have mostly been following recipes from Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking.  I am looking for more details on troubleshooting problems with my cheese.  I have found some answers on this forum, some in books, but I am looking for resource recommendations. 

My 30-minute mozzarella has been turning out well and the milk itself is wonderful.  I have made several cheddar cheeses and they are not very good.  I have aged them for 1 -3 months so far.  They have a poor mouth-feel that is somewhat chalky or maybe dry-ish??  Hard to find the correct words.  The flavor is usually bitter and/or sour.  From what I have been reading is I likely need less culture (using raw milk) and less rennet (my curd sets up faster than recommended in recipes) and maybe more salt (to help with bitter).  The less time I age the cheese there is less of the problem flavors, but also less flavor at all.  Once I added double salt and that cheese tasted better than others (although could still use improvement).  I would guess that indicates enzymatic breakdown of larger proteins was slowed and resulted in less bitterness.  That means I might need different cultures to help with the level of bitterness.

So, what I am hoping to find is recommendations for books, articles, etc that can give me details for troubleshooting.  It would be nice if there were tricks to formulating a recipe that is okay without waiting 3 months to get the results.  Since I am making cheese from my own cow, I have to make it 1-2 times a week to use fresh milk and that means several batches made before I can taste the effect of recipe changes.  Could I do a couple of little cheeses with slight alterations and taste at just a few days?  Is there a particular type of cheese that would help for basic recipe troubleshooting with my particular milk?  Or maybe someone has some tips on a different recipe to start with that uses raw Jersey milk and would have some of the modifications I need already worked in?  That may help.

Thank you for your suggestions,
Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: mdmoore00 on April 18, 2013, 01:22:44 PM
Hello Bethany, how lucky are you to have your own cow! I have been trudging my way through getting my recipes figured out and as you said, the time from make to sampling is long in some cases. I found the book by Gianaclis Caldwell, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, to be a fantastic reference and full of excellent recipes. It is written the way all educational books should be written. Tons of info in an easy to read format. I have found that using a pH meter will help in getting consistent results and well as keeping great notes. Using flocculation times will help dial in the correct amount of renet to use. after that there is crazies like my self that start building equipment and electronics to control temperature. This forum is fantastic, but it is hell to search. Try using Google to search the site, I have had better results this way and just ask questions. everyone is so kind.

Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: WovenMeadows on April 18, 2013, 06:55:31 PM
I can relate to what you're describing about your first cheeses; in reading more and more first-time posters saying similarly, I think these are common beginning problems.

The sourness/bitterness typically comes, I think, from too much whey remained in the curd when pressed; this whey contains lactose, which continues to ferment down the road, souring the cheese. This could happen from cutting the curd too large, and/or not cooking the curd long enough, and/or not stirring the curd often or hard enough.

Another problem I have had and seem to see is that aged cheeses are too crumbly and brittle. This usually comes from developing too much acid in the vat (vs later, in the aging process), by cooking too long or too low, allowing the starter more time or better conditions to product too much lactic acid. (The acidity helps leach calcium from the protein network, which makes for a crumblier texture; by contrast, cheeses with higher pH/less acidity retain more calcium and have a more elastic curd).
Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: linuxboy on April 18, 2013, 07:29:31 PM
How are you cutting the curds, cooking them, and aging them?

I have never found culture amount to make a dramatic difference in texture, except insofar as some bacteria speed up protein breakdown and make for a softer paste, and determine rate of acid production.

Without knowing more of your setup, my guess is uneven moisture (causes by uneven cutting, stirring, etc) combined with acidity issues (caused by not hitting pH targets at rennet add, drain, and for cheddar, mill) is the root cause.
Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: btnellie on April 19, 2013, 07:44:16 AM
Thank you for the suggestions.  I do have trouble getting even curds.  I cut with a long knife in the pot I use.  I don't seem to be able to get a really even cut with some curds quite long after the diagonal cutting.  I try to cut them smaller when cooking.  It is hard to know what is enough/too much stirring from descriptions I have read.  I am suspicious of my pH issues too.  I need a meter.  Is there a type you recommend?  I haven't used the small hand-held ones before and I don't want to kick in the $$ or the counter space for a table top one. 

Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: WovenMeadows on April 19, 2013, 07:57:35 AM
Rather than trying to do diagonal cuts, I found it works much better to use a skimmer. You may have to bend it a little to get it to be a 90 degree angle to the handle. Then you can use it to slice horizontally, after making vertical cuts in both directions. A long thin spatula bent to 90 degrees also works. Then once I start stirring the curd, I just keep an eye out for larger pieces of curd, and cut them down to size.
Title: Re: New to making cheese- tips for fast troubleshooting?
Post by: mdmoore00 on April 19, 2013, 02:09:00 PM
I have cheap cheap cheap meter, like this ( Just need to keep it calibrated with either calibration solution or, as I do; distilled white vinegar has a pH of 2.4( IGA brand) and distilled water is pH 7. I calibrate several times in a make.