Cheesemaking is a cross between art and science. It requires a certain amount of meticulousness for success. However, the best tasting cheese doesn’t involve precision, it needs an understanding of how the flavour and texture of cheese develops.
Here are some solutions to common cheesemaking problems.
Problems with forming curds
There are a number of problems that can arise with forming curds. Curds might not set a clean break, can too crumbly or soft, coagulate too quickly, or fall apart during stirring. All of these problems can be fixed by the following:
- Follow your recipe carefully: It takes time for cheese to curd properly, whether curding with acid or rennet.
- Temperature: Use a cheese thermometer to maintain the right temperature through out the cheesemaking process. If it’s too warm the curd will set too quickly and might have problems knitting together. If it’s too cold, it will take longer to form good curds and they might fall apart during stirring.
- Rennet: Age and quality of the rennet will affect how well the curds form. Soft, crumbly curds may be caused by expired rennet or low-quality vegetarian rennet.
- Type of milk: UHT pasteurized milk won’t be able to make cheese. In general pasteurization and homogenization will decrease cheese yield. However, using raw milk will not necessarily make it easier to make cheese. Non-homogenized milk might separate into milk and cream, giving you a dry tasting cheese with low milk fat. Raw milk contains it’s own bacterial culture, which will compete with any culture you add to the milk. If you are going to use raw milk, it’s best if it is REALLY fresh, because its natural bacterial culture increases over time.
Cheese is too bitter
Cheese becomes bitter if it has too much whey. Always add enough salt to draw out the whey. Then drain the whey and press the cheese according to your recipe.
Moldy or holey cheese
Moldy and holey cheese is perfectly fine, if it was what you expected. However, if your cheddar has large Swiss-cheese-like holes or blue veins of mold, then it has been contaminated by mold or yeast (the holes are usually caused by yeast.)
Sterilization is key to preventing contamination! This also means avoiding cross-contamination between your ferments. Don’t make cheese in a kitchen that has sourdough starter or kombucha in it. A good rule is to move your other ferments to a different room in your house at least 2 days before making cheese.
Never eat anything that doesn’t smell, look or taste good. It’s not worth the risk of illness.
Hard cheese releases liquid during ripening
It is important to monitor your aging cheeses. If they start to leak liquid, then stop aging the cheese before it start to mold or go off. Stick it in the fridge and eat it as a fresh cheese instead.
There are several reasons why hard cheeses will continue to release liquid during ripening.
- There is still too much whey in the cheese. Make sure you press the cheese for the right amount of time with the right amount of weight.
- If the liquid is oily, then the cave is too warm. This causes the fat to rise to the surface of the cheese.
- It is unlikely that an aging cheese will start to release moisture because the cave is too humid. However, humidity will prevent the cheese from drying properly and might cause it to start growing mold.
Other Cheesemaking problems
Do you have cheesemaking problems that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments section or on Facebook.