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Cheese Ageing and Leaf Wrapping

My education in cheesemaking has been continuing as you will have seen if you follow any of the Hooters Hall social media. I’ve been experimenting with aged Chèvre. Five weeks ago I made some Chèvre using shop bought milk. I let the curds ferment in the whey for 4 days and then ladled them into small cheese forms to drain before surface salting. I found handling the curds while they were still so wet very challenging and couldn’t avoid one complete collapse but I persevered. I let the cheese drain and then dry and cure for several days at room temperature. I’ve bought a set of roasting trays which have a wire rack over a metal tray making them perfect for no fuss cheese draining.

After curing I put my little, slightly misshapen cheeses into my cheese cave which is a small wine fridge that I bought for the prupose. I’ve have several oak chopping boards to use as shelving and a hygrometer to monitor relative humidity. I keep a small ramekin on water in there to help maintain the humidity and the fridge has an external temperature control and display.

We had the first taste of these cheeses after 2 weeks of ageing. The cheese was very acidic with a hint of citrus and proper goat cheese clagginess. I then let the remaining cheeses age for a further 3 weeks and we tried some more this weekend. The flavour had changed significantly over the 3 weeks. The acidic, citrus taste had completely gone and was replaced by a strong, complex goat cheese flavour. The texture was quite dense and smooth. Overall I was very pleased and I’m looking forward to seeing how the flavour develops over a full 60 days of ageing.

This cheese is pictured on the left in the photo below.

Aged Chèvre cheeses

The cheese on the right in the photo is another aged Chèvre this time made from raw milk. For this cheese I let the curds ferment for 2 days. I pre drained the curd using my normal cheesecloth in a colander method because I’d found dealing with the draining curd in the cheese forms too fiddly. I salted all of the curd together and then put it in the cheese forms. The pre draining meant there wasn’t any need for further draining but I removed from the cheese forms after 24 hours and let the cheese cure at room temperature for a few days before transferring to the cheese cave.

We had our first taste of this cheese after 3 weeks of ageing. It wasn’t as strong as the first cheese but had an enjoyable clagginess and creamy flavour. It was drier and more crumbly in texture probably because of the pre draining. I am leaving some of this cheese to age for a full 60 days but I have decided to experiment with leaf wrapping four of the cheeses.

Wrapping cheeses in leaves has been practised as long as cheeses have been made with cheesemakers making use of local vegetation. As a keen gardener as well as cheesemaker this is an area of cheesemaking I’m really interested in. Leaves can be used dry but you can also macerate leaves in alcohol before wrapping. Essentailly this means leaving them to soak in alcohol for a week or two. I decided to use leaves from the smallholding. I picked some vine leaves and fig leaves from the polytunnel, sage leaves from my herb garden and some nettle leaves from our small woodland. I soaked the vine, fig and nettle leaves in homemade Elderflower champagne and the sage leaves in an organic cider.

Here’s a picture of the leaves soaking and the cheeses pre wrapping

Leaf wrapping cheeses

The hope is that the combination of leaves and alcohol will have a positive effect on the flavour of the cheese. The leaves also protect the cheese, creating it’s own little micro climate.

Wrapping the cheeses wasn’t too hard. I used several leaves for each cheese and simply overlapped the leaves then secured them with cooking string. I found it easiest to apply the leaves around the middle of the cheese first and secure with string then fold those leaves over at the ends and add more leaves until both ends were covered before securing all the leaves with some more string. Of course the shape of your cheese will affect the ease of wrapping. Here are the finished cheeses.

Leaf wrapped Chèvre cheese

Leaf wrapped Chèvre cheeses

These leaf wrapped cheeses have now been put back in the cheese cave to complete their ageing. I plan to open them after a full 60 days of ageing. It will be interesting to compare with the non leaf wrapped, naked cheese.

Here’s a picture of the cheese cave

Cheese cave

At the front on the left you can see my latest cheese. This is a Chèvre that I made recently and lightly pressed using an antique cheese press that I found in a local antique centre. Here’s a picture

Antique cheese press

I used shop bought, pasteurised goat’s milk, let the curd ferment for 2 days before pre draining, salting and then pressing in a cheese form for 2 days turning the cheese after 24 hours. I’m going to let the cheese age for 4 weeks then try soaking it in red wine before letting it finish ageing. It should be ready on Christmas eve.

This is what it looked like just before going into the cheese cave

Chèvre cheese before ageing

Other cheese plans include experimenting with using herbs to coat the cheese and layering with herbs. I also want to try making different shapes of aged Chèvre because the shape influences the way the cheese ripens. The relationship of surface area to volume being the important factor. Cheeses with a higher surface area to volume ratio ripen more quickly from the exterior than those with a smaller ratio. Larger cheeses with lower surface area compared to volume will ripen more from the interior. Smaller or flatter cheeses, those with square edges, or long cylindrically shaped cheeses tend to ripen from the exterior. There are ash ripened cheeses to explore as well. I’m going to try making m own cheese ask using the prunings from my fruit trees.

Raw milk Chèvre and Paneer Cheesemanking

A double cheese update this week. Now I’ve perfected my Chèvre recipe I decided to buy some raw goat’s milk and see how different it was compared to shop bought pasteurised milk. Hopefully in the future we’ll be getting milk from Diaz and Santiago our golden guernseys so I’ll be using raw milk in all my cheesemaking.

Well there was definitely a difference. My yield was significantly increased when using the raw milk and because the curd formation was better the whey drained quicker which meant the end result wasn’t as wet. I had enough cheese to make a plain Chèvre as well as a basil flavoured one, using homegrown fresh basil and a chilli flavoured on using a homegrown dried basket of fire chilli.

Here’s a picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite is the chilli flavour. I like the way the smooth creaminess of the Chèvre is followed by the heat of chilli, it’s a very moreish cheese. Not that the Basil and plain aren’t also delicious. I read an article this week that described Basil as catnip for humans so I’m going to be taking the Basil flavoured Chèvre to a bring and share lunch at my workplace.

Raw milk is expensive compared to shop bought but until we have our own milk I will treat myself whenever I’ve perfected a recipe. I bought my raw milk from Red 23

The second cheese I made this week was Paneer. It’s a vegetarian cheese that does not require rennet. Instead the cheese is formed using a combination of acid and heat. This method of cheesemaking relies on the nature of milk proteins. Casein, the most abundant of milk proteins coagulates with the aid of rennet and is what most other cheeses are made from. The second most common protein in milk is albumin which is what makes paneer. Albumin is also found in egg whites. A liquid at room temperature, albumin becmes solid when heated and will not return to a liquid state.

When cheeses are made at a lower temperature the casein coagulates into cheese but the albumin remains in its liquid form in the whey. This is hwy you can make ricotta from whey. When making paneer the milk is heated to a higher temperature so both the casein and albumin form curds. This means that you have a slightly higher yield.

Because of the nature of paneer you can use it in ways that you can’t use other cheeses. Paneer can be cooked ina  sauce and will hold its shape, absorbing the sauce’s flavour. Paneer can also be cut into cubes and, stuck on a skewer and barbecued. One of my books even suggests making a cheese sandwich using paneer as the “bread” and a rich meltable cheese as the filling then fry the whole sandwich in butter.

Any milk will make Paneer even skimmed. The only milk that won’t is UHT. The other benefit of paneer is that it freezes well. We ate some fresh in a curry and froze a couple of portions.

Heat, acid made cheeses are common around the world not just in India where paneer originates from. In Mexico Queso fresco is essentially the same cheese but with spices such as garlic, chipotle pepper and coriander added.

I’ll be writing up some recipe notes when I get time but here’s the recipe for Paneer. There are variations on this recipe mainly focused on different acids. Traditionally yoghurt is used, much larger quantities are required because yoghurt is only mildly acidic. Lemon juice makes a paneer suited to dessert.

Panner Recipe

Ingredients

4 litres milk

1/2 cup 120ml Apple cider vinegar

1 tabespoon of salt (optional)

 

Method

Bring milk to the boil stirring continuously

cool for 1-2 minutes

pour in vinegar and stir gently

leave curds to settle for 5 minutes

Strain curds in colander

Add spices ans / or salt

Press curds

The paneer is ready when cooled and can be refrigerated for a week or frozen.

You will see in the recipe method that you need to press the curds. You don’t need any expensive kit to do this. Here’s my improvised cheese press using some heavy le creuset ramekins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see I have some cheese forms. You could use a cut off plastic milk container or plastic bottle with holes punched in it for a diy version.

Here’s a picture of the finished paneer.

Chèvre with homemade Kefir

I’ve been continuing my experiments with making Chèvre. I haven’t had much luck with the freeze dried culture, it’s been giving me inconsistent results but that’s not a problem because using homemade Kefir is working really well.

I bought my Kefir grains on Ebay and I’ve been feeding them organic, full fat cows milk . I have a glass of Kefir everyday which if I’m not using it for cheesemaking I just enjoy by itself. I hadn’t tried Kefir before but I do quite like it. Thicker than milk it has a slightly sour taste with a sight fizziness which I find very thirst quenching. I usually have a glass before I go on my evening run, it boosts my energy levels a bit without filling me up too much.

Using Kefir instead of freeze dried culture is the method that David Asher uses in the book The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. I’ve made some slight adaptions to suit me and because I’m using store bought pasteurised milk. Having done some research I’ve discovered that using Calcium Chloride helps increase yield from pasteurised milk. There’s some very helpful information and explanation about the use of Calcium Chloride on the website Curd Nerd Calcium Chloride what is it and when should you use it . For now I think I’ll always use Calcium Chloride when using store bought milk but hopefully next year I’ll have raw milk from our Golden Guernsey goats.

I’ve been using a half measure of rennet 2 drops instead of 4 drops/litre which has given me a nice soft Chèvre texture in my cheese but I might experiment with using 4 drops to see if I get a better yield. Based on the theory I think I might increase my yield but at the expense of the soft texture and possibly taste. Too much rennet leads to a bitter tasting cheese according to the research I’ve done. I suspect the best way to increase yield will be to use raw milk.

Here are my recipe notes and a picture of the final result. It’s a very smooth, soft cheese with a tangy flavour and moreishness about it. I particulalry like it spread on a digestive biscuit.

Ingredients for making Chevre with homemade Kefir

Method for making Chevre with Kefir part 1

Method for making Chevre with homemade Kefir part 2

 

 

Homemade Chevre cheese