Thursday, November 17, 2011

Alpine, B 187

I haven't made an alpine style cheese for a while. The last one I made was in April, batch 165. The reason being is plural. It is not a cheese which I can make when I don't have a lot of time. I find it requires more concentration and focus than other styles which I am more familiar with. Especially the pH targets are critical in this cheese. The last two wheels I had cut into weren't of the best quality. They were too dry and crumbly due to missed pH targets. The flavor profile was not that bad, they were sweet and nutty but did have a sharpness to it which I considered a major defect. Apart from this, I find the pressing procedure cumbersome, the wrapping in cheesecloth, the turning and wrapping again etcetera. Added to this the fact that it takes a longer time to test the results, gives me enough reasons to opt out and make another style of cheese. 
However, I do like alpine style cheeses and I am planning to make them once I have the creamery ready. It seems like is a good cheese to have in the repertoire because of its storage ability and flexibility in marketing. 
About a week ago I cored two wheels with the trier which I had made at the end of last year. They were much better, the texture resembled more what I have been looking for. This gave me new courage to try another alpine style of which here are some images of the procedure
In the first picture I am taking a milk sample to do a lactic test. I was taught to do this by Peter Dixon. This test will give me a rough idea of the cleanliness of the milk. It is a very simple procedure. You fill a sterile test tube with milk of 70F to which no culture starter has been added. To sterilize the test tube, I boil them for about 5 minutes. You keep the tube with the the milk at room temperature for two days at which time a lactic coagulation will have occurred. The resulting curd will tell how clean the milk is. If the curd is solid without any disturbances, voids or gas bubbles, the milk is very clean. The more disturbances, voids or gas bubbles, the less clean is the milk. Lately, the milk I use has been very consistently clean as one can see in the picture below. The tube to the right is the one I just filled but the tubes next to it are filled with curds from my last two makes which were respectively two weeks and four weeks ago.
In the next image, I am adding the starter culture to the milk which is at 70F. I use 1/4 tsp of TA60 (Streptococcus Salivarius Thermophilus), the same amount of LH100 (Lactobacillus Helveticus) and 1/16 tsp Propionic bacteria to 10 gallon of raw Jersey milk. It took about 10 more minutes to raise the temperature to 90F at which time I added 5.5 ml of microbial rennet. To determine the flocculation time, I use the spinning bowl procedure. One floats a bowl on the surface of the milk and make it spin every once in a while. As soon as the bowl doesn't want to spin anymore, flocculation has set in and the time between adding the rennet to this moment is called the flocculation time. For this type of cheese, I use a factor of 2 to determine when it is time to cut the curd. The flocculation time was 12 minutes, times 2 makes 24 minutes, which brings us to the next picture. It takes about three minutes to cut the curd to rice size pieces after which I heal the mass for 10 minutes. This means let it be undisturbed so that the small curd pieces can heal their skin. 
The next step is cooking the curd. I gradually raise the temperature to 114F over about 40 minutes, making sure that especially the first 5 minutes don't go too fast as not to shock the curds. After this cooking procedure I let the curds heal again for 10 minutes before I drain most of the whey. At drainage the pH of the whey is 6.54. I think I am on target. (Never mind the value shown in picture with the pH meter, this was taken at a different stage).
Next, the curds are being pressed. I have captured them in a linen cheesecloth. I like to do the first pressing in rough woven cloth to enhance the draining, hench the linen. After I turn it once or twice I change the cloth into a finer cotton weave. I leave the cheese in the press overnight. In the meantime I have made some ricotta from the whey which, while draining, functions as a pressing weight. 
By the time I remove the cheese from the press, the pH has dropped to 5.44. I think I am good. All is left the salting. I brine the cheese in saturated brine for 30 hours, roughly 3 hours per pound.
Now it is just waiting for 6 months to see whether I succeeded in making an acceptable alpine style cheese.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Moved The Vat

Finally I have moved the vat from its storage into the cheese making room. The floors are done, the walls are ready and I have doors. I also bought some large sinks on Ebay. I am very excited, the creamery starts to crystallize and it looks like I might be making cheese within the for see able future. I even submitted the paperwork with the state.
Their is still much to do however. The electricity needs to be installed, the plumbing for the water has to be put in and the various heating systems have to be installed. Their is quite a bit painting to be done and other miscellaneous touch up work. And than there is the cave. The cooling installation has arrived but I haven't had time to install it yet so that has replaced the vat in the storage. I also have to built the shelving units for the cave. I have been thinking about how to do this efficiently and cost effectively. I haven't come up with a design yet and whether to use wood, metal or a combination for the structural elements. The aging shelves however will be wood. Luckily my inspector has given me that allowance.

Monday, July 18, 2011

B173 and B175

The title of this post stands for the batch numbers of these two cheeses. In cheese making, it is important to keep good notes in case something goes wrong but also in case things turn out well.
To keep track of my batches, I number them all and imprint the number into the cheeses. In this case, the numbers are hard to see. The imprint in the cheese above is overgrown with mould and the cheese below lost a lot of the imprint from washing the cheese. Nevertheless, I can still distinguish the numbers.
So far, things have turned out very well for these two batches. The upper cheeses (B175) were made June 28 in the style of a classic tomme (though I got distracted while heating the milk so the initial ripening temperature was a little high). The lower cheese (B173) I made a week earlier combining the procedure for tallegio and reblochon. Both cheeses were made from Jersey milk and are aging in the basement of our house in upstate New York.
The microflora in this cellar is very diverse as is evidence in the cheeses from B175. The basement was built in the beginning of the last century from natural stones which there are plenty of in Delaware County. It has a concrete floor with lots of cracks and and fresh dirt on it. There are plenty of cracks and air holes in the structure so ventilation a plenty. I think it closely resemblances a natural cave. The average temperature is about 58F and might be a little high but the relative humidity of 95+% is perfect.
I did not do any rind treatment on B175, the molds are a result of the natural habitation of the basement. I intend not to do anything to the rind, I'll let it grow naturally and will observe the stages of mold development.
The cheeses of B173 I washed with a light salt brine which is traditional for reblochon. Because I am not upstate all the time, this washing schedule won't be very regular. But so far the cheeses don't seem to suffer from it. They smell fantastic.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Creamery Construction Update

Finally, here is an update of the creamery in progress. I am nestled in approximately 1200 square feet in the left hand corner of the building above, behind the white door and the adjacent windows.
The photo below shows the outlay of the floor drains, cut into some very hard and thick concrete.
The make room and the cleaning room have a 2 feet high concrete knee wall made of three courses of concrete block. This will prevent the wicking of water from the floor and is required by NY state regulations. On top of this I have constructed a 8 feet high framed sheetrock wall. This part of the wall is covered with FRP (fiber reinforced panel) a.k.a. dairy board which makes it into a washable surface. Both of these rooms will have underfloor radiant heating. One can see the pex and concrete reinforcement laying on 2 inches of blue insulation foam board. I am about to pour the concrete for this.
The last photo shows the dry area. The walls here are bare sheetrock which will eventually be painted. At the end of this space, in the center of the picture, one can see the the entrance to the aging room. I will dedicate a post to this room in the near future.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Cheese Cave

It has been a while since I posted. This doesn't mean I have been sitting on my laurels. I have made quite a few cheeses and ate quite a bit of it too. I have also been working on the construction of the creamery in Walton. In the next few weeks, I will add some posts about some of the batches I did and some updates on the creamery.
Apart from making cheese, I have moved my cave. I lost the cave under the Brooklyn sidewalk because the lease to the building it came with, expired. Luckily my wife and I had just bought a house in Brooklyn with plenty of space. So I have moved my cheese in there. I have converted a space under the basement stair into a cave. I have cleaned it, tiled the floor and white washed the walls and ceiling. Because the space isn't cool enough, I have installed a air conditioner run by a coolbot. This easily keeps it to the right temperature but because I did not insulate, the air conditioner is running 50 % of the time on cool mode. I might try to squirt some expansion foam into the walls or otherwise insulate the space.
To keep up the humidity, I have installed a vaporizer. I know, this kind of defeats the purpose of trying to keep the space cool as the vaporizer steams up the space. But when I have some more time on my hands, I will change this into a humidity sensor controlled mister system. As I have planned a system like this for my cave in the creamery, this would be a good opportunity to investigate its workings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Triple Cream

Every time when I make a batch of semi-lactic cheese, the cream starts to rise to the top. By the time the curd is ready to be ladled into the moulds, there is a thick layer of cream on top. Especially this time of year when the solids in the milk are high. Lately I have been experimenting with another procedure. I let the milk acidify to a pH of 6.2-6.0 before I add a few drops of rennet. At this time I stir the milk, distributing the fat globules, which are already on top, back into the milk. By adding the rennet only at this pH level, the time it takes for the milk to coagulate should be short enough to prevent the fat particles to rise to the top.
So far, I have not mastered this procedure. Only one time I had some success. Hardly any cream was floating on top. Granted, this was when I used Ayrshire milk. The fat globules in this milk are small and less likely to rise. It is much harder to achieve with Jersey milk of which the fat globules are rather large.
In the past I used to scoop the cream from the top and used it as creme freche. Lately I have ladled it into the moulds and drained it with the rest the curds. This has resulted in some delicious triple or perhaps even quadruple cream cheeses. Yum...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A big British cheese in France

A few days ago I received these two clippings about Patrick Rance in the mail. They were sent by my father-in-law, Michael, in London who has been going through his papers. My wife has been pressuring him to sort them out. Michael has never thrown away much as is evident in these two clippings. The first clipping is from the Observer, dated Sunday 3 September 1989. It is a review of Patrick Rance's "The French Cheese Book" by Jane Grigson. The second clipping, from The Independent of Wednesday 25 April 1990, is an announcement of the Glenfiddich Tropy awarded to major Rance.
I suppose the reason he kept these clippings is that his cousin Janet was married to Patrick Rance. Janet was my wife's godmother and when I got interested in cheese three years ago, my wife told me about Patrick and how he was a cheese maven. She told me about Janet and Pat and how she spent time in their home and cheese shop in Streatley. She told me how one could enter the house through the shop and see mounds of cheese, but--a teenager then--my wife was otherwise preoccupied.
When she first told me about Patrick Rance, it didn't really register. I thought he was just another cheese seller. Not until I got hold of his books, in particular "The French Cheese Book", did I realize the height of his stature. I have read this book several times and we have used it as a travel guide through France. When my wife was spending time in Streatley, she had no idea what legacy was being built in that little cheese shop, neither had she any idea what part cheese was to play in her life.