Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Michael Bronk's "Folly"

He makes his own cheese his own way and it's good!

We love to see folks take the basic principles of cheese making and improvise their our recipes. Why not?

If a recipe they have come up with works with their milk and suits their own creative style, we applaud.

Michael Bronk, a retired paramedic wrote to us a couple of months ago about a cheese he has been making.  (It took him awhile to get us some pictures because he does volunteer work with the Red Cross and there were some snowstorm emergencies happening in his area.)  Here's his letter:


My name is Michael Bronk. I exist way out in NW Washington state, about an hour and a half NW of Seattle, in the middle of nowhere. My wife and I co-exist with huge trees, mountains, skeeters, bambi, bears, cougars, bobcats, mountain lions and I am sure there's a bigfoot out here somewhere, too.

For years I have been making "cheese" with very little education. For Christmas I received the book "HOME CHEESE MAKING" and would like Ricki to know it goes everywhere with me as I can't seem to put it down.

As I said, I have been making "A CHEESE," and I am unsure what it is I have been making. Can you help me?

What I have been doing is as follows:
I put 1 Tbs of plain yogurt in 1 gal of whole store bought milk and let it sit at room temp for a few hours.
 I heat the milk to 55 degrees, add 1 1/2 tsp of diluted citric acid powder and stir until lumps develop.
At 88 degrees, I add 1/4 tablet of rennet (purchased from New England Cheese Making Supply Co).
I let the milk set until I get a clean break then heat milk to 100-106F.
I drain the whey and hang overnight in from the shower head (spare bathroom).
Having made a mold and a press from scratch, I line the mold with muslin and press lightly, adding more pressure throughout the day until bed time when I add as much pressure as possible.

Next day I unmold and air dry 2-3 days, then wax it and store in the fridge for 30 days.

What am I making?

Michael Bronk


We forwarded Michael's letter to our technical advisor, Jim Wallace, and he said Michael's cheese is non-traditional (in other words, it doesn't have a name).  He made a few points about the cheese-

1.   The yogurt culture does better at higher temperatures, so it may not be doing much of it's job at room temperature.

2.   It is somewhat redundant to ripen the milk with yogurt culture and then add citric acid to it, as well.

Questions for Michael:

How did you start making your own cheese?

I searched the internet for cheese making recipes and was very confused because the instructions were vague.

Over the years I modified all I gathered and came up with this "cheese" which I alter to try to create something that resembles cheese.

At times I would purchase an Artisian cheese and "rob" the mold from that cheese and incorporate that mold into mine. I have innoculated a blue mold cheese into my formula and actually duplicated blue cheese.

What is your final product comparable to (in taste and texture)?

Taste and texture depend on the process and aging I try to do. I started using a press I made with a threaded rod and 2 metal plates on each end of a plastic pipe. The cheese would be squeezed as I turned the wing nuts. Unfortunately the end product had a hole in the center from the threaded rod.

I would wrap the cheese in a clean bandana and store in the fridge, turning daily as I changed bandanas. Sometimes I would seal the cheese with wax and age for 6-8 mos. The end product was a creamy Brie-like cheese.

With some of my pressed cheese, I would add a TBS of parmesan cheese and wrap it, leaving it in the fridge to semi dry out. The texture, taste and aroma was like a parmesan. I would also add citric acid to some batches, hang the curd to dry overnight, slice into cubes and float them in a brine solution for 2 weeks. The end result was a Feta type cheese.

There are times my wife wants to make lasagna, so I go to work. I eventually take my curds, drain for a few hours and place them into a container to be used just like riccota. A family recipe for a cheese torte requires dry bakers cheese which is not available here. So I make my riccota type cheese for this and everyone raves after tasting it. I tried making mozzarella and was successful one time out of 3 attempts. I was stationed in Italy for 4 years and the cheese !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

cheeseandmore said...

The yogurt is a non-issue as the time and temperature allowed is not sufficient for organism growth. Basically, this is a fresh cheese; acidifying with the citric acid and then setting a curd with the rennet. The resulting curds are very loose (translate high moisture) which results in a product that is not suited for aging longer than 10 days. I make a delicious fresh cheese with raw organic jersey milk by adding Meso culture and calf rennet, allowing the curd to drain in molds at room temperature 12 hours on each side, then salting and refrigerating. A favorite of all my friends!