I'll be putting troubleshooting tips and answers to frequently asked questions on this page. And, feel free to visit my discussion forum where you can post questions and I'll try to answer them (or maybe somebody else will!)
|The curds in my cheese are not setting up and giving me a "clean break" within the time called for in the recipe.||There are a number of possible problems, but the most common problem for me has been using pasteurized store-bought milk. (Never use ultra-pasteurized milk.) Try adding some calcium chloride (CaCl) just before adding the rennet. Add the CaCl in an amount equal to the rennet, diluted in 1/4 cup of cool bottled water, to the ripened milk just before adding the rennet. Blend well before adding the rennet.
Another possible problem is old rennet or an insufficient amount of rennet. Order a new batch of rennet and try that. As a final resort, increase the amount of rennet by 25%.
|I'm having a hard time regulating the temperature of the milk at various stages of the process.||This really should not be a problem if you are using a single pot and heating the milk directly. Remember to always heat the milk slowly, so don't use a high flame. As the milk approaches the target temperature, turn the heat way down and bring it to the right temperature slowly.
If you are using a double boiler arrangement (a water bath) here are a few tips that have worked for me:
1. You can use a sink to hold the hot water. Put your pot of milk in the sink. This way it is easy to add hot tap water, drain water, add ice, etc.
2. Use two thermometers. Put one in the water bath and one in the milk. Watch them converge on a common temperature. I use a water bath of about 2 gallons of water in a large pot and put my 2 gallon pot of milk inside it. While not technically accurate, the water will cool at about the same rate that the milk will heat. So, the average temperature of the two thermometers is where my milk temperature is likely headed. If it is too low, I turn the flame on for a minute or so. If it is too hot, then I remove the pot of milk from the water bath as it approaches the target temperature.
Milk has a pretty high capacity to hold heat. This means it heats slowly and cools slowly. So, once you are at the right temperature, you can cover the milk and it will stay at that temperature for a while. I'm at 5000 feet high, so things cool off quickly. Still, a covered pot of milk will stay at a target temperature for at least 30 to 45 minutes.
I try to keep the water bath at the target temperature for culturing or coagulating because that helps keep the milk from cooling.
|On my waxed cheeses, sometimes mold grows under the wax. And, on my natural rind cheeses, I get blue and or white mold growing on them as they age.||Let's talk about the waxed cheeses first. I've had this happen several times. I've found, by the way, that I can still eat the cheese, I just cut the mold off. What could be causing this?
1) The wax did not fully cover and protect the cheese. There are pinhole bubbles or gaps in the wax covering that allows mold to get under the wax and grow. Make sure your cheeses are well covered with wax.
2) In one case, I dropped a cheese on the concrete floor of my basement and the existing wax cover was broken and some peeled off. So, I simply reheated the wax and dipped the cheese in a couple of time to recoat it. This is the place where mold later started to grow. Obviously, the cheese got contaminated when I dropped it. Lesson? The cheese must be dry and clean when you wax it.
3) The cheese rind is not dry and well cleaned prior to waxing.
To remove blue or white mold that grows on my natural rind cheeses, I use a stiff brush dipped in a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and cheese salt to brush the mold off the rind. Usually, this mold growth will only occur when the cheeses are relatively young and still moist. As the rind cures and dries, this is less likely to be a problem.
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