Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Washed Rind Cheese with Andy Mahoney

Article about Andy in The Grocer, September 2012
From Handyface - experimental home cheese making

We have surmised from his website that Andy Mahoney of Dulwich, South East London makes very good cheese.  This past summer, he entered an annual competition there called the Young British Foodies with a cheese he made from the milk of a goat names "Footsie."  He was nominated in the "Honorary Young British Foodie" category.  (That's a big honor!)

He has documented in detail (with pictures) the recipes for many of his fabulous cheeses at his website:

Raw Cheddar
Stilton-style Blue and results
Raw Blue
Raw Goat Blue
Raw Hurdlebrook Blue
Camembert and Camembert 2
Raw Goat White and Perfected for Awards
Bryndza - Czech Cheese

I asked Andy to share his post about washed rind cheeses with us and he graciously agreed:

Washed Rind Cheese
Posted by Andy Mahoney at his website, Handyface

Inspired by my experience washing Bermondsey Spa cheese in Kernel Brewery ale with Mootown Cheese I decided I wanted to try and recreate it’s oozing, meaty goodness at home.

At the heart of any sticky, orange-coloured cheese like Milleens or Stinking Bishop is the bacteria brevibacterium linens.  This naturally occurring bacteria is present on human skin at an incredibly high concentration, and if left unchecked, can start to smell – especially on your feet!

Smelly feet or good cheese?

Just as the blue of Roquefort cheese comes from naturally occurring spores in the Roquefort Caves, washed rind cheeses are also a product of their surroundings.  Historically, sweaty cheesemakers unwittingly transferred their own strain of bacteria to the cheese which, with the right environment, caused a sticky, pungent orange rind to form.  As the cheese matured, the bacteria ate into the cheese paste, causing it to break down into a soft, meaty cheese.

Brevibacterium Linens (apparently)

Nowadays of course, the bacterial strain has been isolated and cheese is innoculated directly during the make, or propagated from an existing cheese through washing.  Even though cheese making is a sanitary process, the “smelly feet” odour remains, which sadly turns a lot of people off washed rinds.  It’s unfortunate because many – such as Stinking Bishop – actually have quite a mild flavour.

24 pints of raw Ayrshire milk

I picked up my usual 24 pints of Redlays Farm unpasteurised Ayrshire milk from Blackheath market on Sunday and got cracking!

Three cheese moulds

Having not had much success with making washed rinds in the past, I asked around a few cheese making friends and forums for any tips.  A fair number of people recommended innoculating with geotrichum candidum (C7) to create a “clean layer” for the brevibacterium linens (C10) to grow on.  So, after heating the milk to 31C (89F), I added these, plus some DVI starter and left to acidify for 30 minutes.

Adding the animal rennet

Previous experiments into how much rennet to use indicated I should use around 0.06% animal rennet (R7), diluted in four times as much water, to achieve a set in around 60 minutes.

Curd giving a clean break

In reality the curd took around 20 minutes longer than expected to give a clean break – I think this may be down to natural degradation in strength of the rennet, as I’ve had the same bottle on the go for quite a while now.

Cutting the curd

Using a palette knife, I cut the curd into roughly 1cm cubes, starting with large blocks vertically, then smaller and smaller, angling the knife to try and cut through the blocks.  Cutting the curd allows whey to be released from the curd, and slows down the rennet acidification.

Stirring the cut curd while heating

Once the curd has rested for a few minutes to allow it to heal (i.e. recover from the cutting), it’s time to get stirring and heating in order to slow the rennet action even further and release more whey, making a less squidgy curd.  I heated to around 35C(95F) over the course of 20 minutes or so.

Getting rid of the whey

Here’s where my lovely vat becomes really useful.  Having the tap at the front allows whey to be drained off much quicker and easier than ladling out by hand.  Once the whey had been completely drained off, it’s time to carefully squash the curd into the moulds and add some weights on top for around 24 hours.

Curd in salt water

Then it’s time for the salting to start!  In the past, I’ve mostly used dry salting (i.e. applying salt directly to the cheese), however washed rinds are generally initially bathed in salt water to allow the salt to permeate throughout the cheese.  In this case, the cheeses floated around in a 16% brine solution for 12 hours, after which they were given a bit of a drying off, then placed in a fridge at 16C(61F) at over 90% humidity.

Unwashed cheeses (note the propagator cheese on the right)

After about a week, a light fluffy covering of geotrichum candidum had appeared, so it was time to start washing, to keep the surface moist and salty to encourage the brevibacterium linens growth.

Washing the parent cheese

First up for a wash was the parent propagator cheese.  This is one from a previous batch of cheese I’d made which had ended up with a great flavour and texture, so I wanted the strain to continue.  Washing consisted of a couple of drops of 10% salt water solution and a bit of gentle smearing.

Damp parent cheese

Washing continued roughly every couple of days.  As my experience with Bermondsey Spa had taught me, if the texture of the surface was any more moist than a postage stamp, I postponed washing till the following day.

Fully ripened homemade washed rind cheese

After about three weeks I cracked them open and had a taste.  They were really, really good!  So good in fact that I actually allowed other people to have a taste, including washed rind cheese king, Bill Oglethorpe of Kappacasein, who said:

    "Just polished off the cheese, it’s really good! I thought there might be too much salt and a hint of bitter but on second thoughts its fine. The contrast in textures is really nice, oozing on the edges and slightly chalky in the middle. I left it at room temperature for a couple of days and it survived very well."

I’m very happy with this recipe and the feedback.  Next time I might try to go a little lighter on the salt concentration to address Bill’s concerns, but other than that it seems like a winner!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lucinda McGinty of Jefferson County, NY

She never took a class, but she sure knows what she's doing!

Lucinda contacted us originally to show us a few of her pictures and to ask a question about her Jarlsberg.  We forwarded her question to Jim Wallace, our technical advisor, and then asked her about doing an interview for this article.

During the course of the interview, it became clear that Lucinda is making some fairly advanced cheeses and they look fabulous.  She said she is considering selling them, but the start-up costs for that seem daunting.   If anyone had advice for Lucinda regarding this, the comments at the end of the article would be a good place to share.  (We did send her a copy of the Farmstead Creamery Advisor by Gianaclis Caldwell.)

What kind of cheese are you making?

I am lucky to have a wonderful friend who owns some cows, I pasteurize the milk at 145F for 30 minutes and then decrease the temperature quickly in a sink full of cold water. Once the target temperature is reached I add the culture and proceed.

I have worked out a system to make 4 pound cheeses and am having a ball. The cheeses pictured are a Fourme d'Ambert (Blue Cheese),

a Jarlsberg,

The Jarlsberg is delicious - creamy and nutty and full of holes.

and two photos of my Jalapeno Jack that just came out of the press a few days ago.  The Jalapeno Jack is pictured before and after waxing. The wax is the yellow wax from you.  I love the way the jalapenos show through the translucent wax.

Here's a photo of me during the summer with my canned goods and some cheeses.  On the top shelf is my old cheese press.  It worked well but I was always afraid of toppling cement blocks and 5 gallon jugs of water.  (I didn't like the lopsided cheeses either).  My new press is so nice and so easy to use. 

My husband just built the dutch press for me (after 2+ years of begging) and the photos below show it pressing a 4 lb Wensleydale cheese.

I have (3) 10 lb weight-lifter weights to press my cheese. There are 5 positions for pressing. The first photo shows the first position directly above the cheese and exerts 17 lbs of pressure (10 lb weight plus 7 lb of arm).

The second photo shows position 2 with a 10 lb weight (27 lbs of pressure - 20 lbs of weight and 7 lb arm),

and the third photo shows 3 weights in position 4 which exerts 127 lbs of force on my cheese. With 3  10 lb weights I can go from 7 (no additional weight) to 157 lbs (3 weights at position 5).

The last 2 photos show a close-up of my cheese in the press - the first at moderate pressure and the second at firm pressure.  I plan to buy a few 2 and 5 pound weights to give me more flexibility with my press.

These next photos are of the latest Jarlsberg:

I vacuum seal my cheeses using a Foodsaver after they have finished aging to help preserve freshness. They are then stored in the refrigerator (about 45 degrees) until I am ready to use them. I used to just wrap them in parchment and then in plastic bags but the molds (especially the p. roqueforti) would always find them. So I ended up with blue contamination. With the Foodsaver  I don't have the problem with cross contamination. Also, my blue cheeses are now kept separate from all of the other cheeses in a different fridge.

A little snack with homemade onion caraway rye bread, spicy dilled green beans from last summer's garden, and Chardonnay

I usually coat my Jarlsberg with red wax, although in the picture above I had removed the wax for the last two weeks of aging (to mature the rind). 

During the last the 4 weeks of aging, the cheese normally ripens at 62F.  The container (below) has a damp paper towel to keep the moisture up in the container and you can see a piece of Parmesan rind in the container to impart flavor to the Jarlsberg rind (I hope).

The container in the background contains my saturated salt solution. After soaking my cheese I boil the salt solution, strain it and put it into a fresh container.  The solution is kept at 45F until the next use.

Where do you age your cheeses?

My cheese cave is a small drink refrigerator.  Unfortunately, the thermostat does not work properly and the temperature fluctuates between 40F and 60F.  Very annoying.  I am saving up for the refrigerator thermostat that you sell on your website to control the temp.

The area in my house where my cheese cave is remains around 62-65F all winter so cheeses that need the warmer temps, I just leave out of the cave (Jarlsberg, Leerdammer and provolone).

The cheeses on top of the cave are the ones that need to ripen at 63F (the temperature of the room).  Inside my cave is a Colby, a Parmesan, an Edam, a Wensleydale, my Jalapeno Jack, a Gruyere, a bottle of Vouvray wine I use to inject into my Fourme d'Ambert Blue Cheese, and on the bottom are 2 Cheddars in black wax.  I use black, red and yellow wax for fun.

How did you get started?

I have always enjoyed making healthy food from fresh ingredients and my family likes the superior taste and nutrition.  So, I try to cook from basic rather than processed ingredients.  Toward that end, I grow a large garden each summer and preserve the harvest for winter's meals.  We keep chickens for their eggs and I make all of our bread, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles salad dressings, ice cream, crackers and more.

The photos attached are of my chicken coop outside and inside. This was when the coop was new.  My girls (hens) are very happy in their home. The weather here in Jefferson County, New York can be unforgiving in the winter so there is a small heater on the wall and an electric water warmer on the floor to keep their water liquid.

About three years ago I began making yogurt instead of buying the supermarket stuff and when I mentioned how easy it was to my daughter, she replied that she'd heard that mozzarella was easy too.  Well my husband and I love to make pizzas so I had to look into making fresh mozzarella.  That's what started me along the road of learning cheese making.  I found New England Cheesemaking on the internet and have been having fun ever since.  I love watching milk change into curds and whey.   I buy all of the supplies that I need from you.

I have never taken any classes on cheesemaking and my first attempts were pretty bad.  The cheeses were dry, flaky, and sour.  My husband urged me to quit after about 7 cheeses but I am pretty hard headed.  Anyway, I found that chickens and dogs are not that picky about cheese and even bad cheeses are good if you melt them.

I used Ricki's Troubleshooting guide in her Home Cheese Making book and wrote to Jim (Jim Wallace, our technical advisor) about my problems.  I was a little overwhelmed but I kept a lot of notes and by changing the amount of culture, my stirring technique and paying close attention to the curds, I finally made a delicious Edam and a Blue Cheese.  That was in March 2011 I was hooked and my husband was happy.

We think it's amazing how much she's accomplished in just 2 years!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Erik Diemer (15) - He's already teaching!

Making cheese is one of his MANY accomplishments!

Erik Diemer

A couple of months ago, we received this note:


My name is Erik, I am 15.  My mom owns Kitchen Chemistry in Stroudsburg Pennsylvania and we sell your cheese making supplies!

I have to tell you how much fun it is to tell customers that THEY can make cheese! Every other week we have a demonstration showing how to make Mozzarella and its always a full class! 

I myself have ventured into aged cheeses and it is just as fun and impressive! And it's fun to know that your company and my family's company is responsible for the cheese makers of Stroudsburg! 

Thank you!

Erik Diemer/ DJ E-RoK


After further inquiry, we learned that Erik has his own very cool website - Planet Erok.  There are separate pages about each of his hobbies - bee keeping, photography, DJing, buying and selling coins, duct tape art and, of course, cheese making.  

His mother, Lisa owns a "cupcakery," where she makes and sells cupcakes and all kinds of kitchen supplies.

Lisa Diemer

How far away is Stroudsburg?!

Cheese making section

Don't you think our kits are pretty darned cute!

What do you teach?

We have many classes at Kitchen Chemistry, classes about cake decorating, soap making, chocolate and candy making, and classes about how to make lip balms! Exedra!  Every other week we have a free demo about one of two different cheeses, 30 Minute Mozzarella and my 20 Minute Farmer's Cheese.* 

The curd from the Farmer's cheese (what it looks like after Erik adds the water).

Explaining the reaction of adding the water

This is a display showing what the Farmer's cheese will look like before and after it's waxed.

Explaining future steps and answering a few questions.

This is a close up of the curds and whey from the Farmer's cheese.

Everyone looking closely at the milk, mere seconds before the reaction.

Stirring the curds, letting them firm up before he scoops them into the basket.

Letting the whey drain from the curd in the basket.

Flipping the cheese so it looks symmetrical when it's waxed

Erik got started because his mother, Lisa, began teaching cheese making classes in her store (along with everything related to the kitchen) over a year ago.  Erik took the pictures at first, but as he became more experienced with making cheese, he began teaching the classes.

They use some "unorthadox" methods, like silicone muffin molds and chocolate molds for setting the cheese.  (Erik pointed out that they don't need to use the non-stick stuff because the whey takes care of that.)  They also fill the Mozzarella balls with
pepperoni, herbs, spices, and/or seasonings.

What kind of cheese are you making?

I usually work on one cheese at a time and try to get it down pat. I will pick a cheese, find 4 or 5 recipes for it and make each of them, then I will take notes and then move on to the next kind of cheese. So far I have made Colby, Monterey Jack, Cheddar (a few different variations), Farmer's Cheese (both fresh and aged), Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, and with all the failed recipe attempts and whey ... lots of Ricotta!

Erik's press

Wax pot

Dipping a Colby

The numbers tell him when to flip the cheeses while they're aging.

Some of Erik's finished cheeses

What are your goals?

I am going to teach my mom how to use the camera and she will take pictures! 

My goal for cheese making is to be a relaxing fun hobby that I do on the weekends.  Since I am a beekeeper, I would like to get into the art of making mead (honey wine) so I can pair my homemade cheese with my homemade mead! I would like to teach classes on cheese making more often and maybe take some classes in college!

* Erik's 20 Minute Farmer's Cheese
By Erik Diemer (modified to be more "fool proof" from a recipe in Home Made Cheese by Janet Hurst) 

This cheese can be eaten fresh or aged up to a year.

3 quarts of whole or raw cow's milk
1 quart boiling water
1 packet mesophilic culture
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in ½ cup non-chlorinated water
1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride

Heat milk to 100F.
Add calcium chloride, stir and wait 30 seconds.
Add mesophilic culture, wait 1 minute and then stir.
Add rennet, and stir immediately.
Wait 30 seconds and then quickly add boiling water. You should see the curd floating in the whey.

Note: when you are adding water, do not gently pour it in! It needs to be a quick reaction with the milk!

Let curd sit for 2 minutes, then ladle the curds into a basket.
With your hands, press out some whey.
Then, flip the curd over so the latchings are on both sides of the cheese.

The cheese can be eaten now!

If you would like to age your cheese, let the curd firm up over night.
Then flip the cheese onto a dry plate or cheese board, then salt the top of the cheese.
After 6 hours or so, flip the cheese onto a CLEAN, dry plate or cheese board. Then salt the top again. Repeat this process until the cheese is dry to the touch.

At this point the cheese can be waxed and stored in a cool dry place and aged up to a year.

Milk in the fridge

Culture and rennet

Milk on the stove

Curds in the basket

May be served fresh or aged one year

For Erik's schedule of classes - click here