4 April 2012

Homemade camembert - 2

Yesterday I wrote about making camembert cheese in the home kitchen. We got to the point where the milk had turned from liquid to curds and whey.

Cutting the curds:
Your cheese mix still needs to be at 32C/89.6F. If the temperature has dropped, turn the stove on again for about a minute.
  1. Take the long sharp knife and prepare to cut the curd. This is done by gently slicing through the curd at 2cm/i inch strips from top to bottom.
  2. When you have strips, cut the strips into cubes but slicing through from left to right.
  3. When you have cubes, then slice through the curds diagonally - both ways, left ot right, then right to left.
  4. Stir the curds with the slotted spoon for 15 minutes and check to make sure all the curds are in small 2cm/1inch cubes. If you see any larger ones, cut them with your knife.
  5. Let the curds rest for 15 minutes. This will allow the whey to ooze out of the curd.
Cutting the curds - from top to bottom.
And diagonally to make small cubes.
Stir the curds gently for 15 minutes and look for curds that haven't been cut small enough.

Putting the curds into the moulds
  1. After the curds have rested for 15 minutes, the whey will have risen to the top and the curds will have sunk down.
  2. Pour off the whey into a container. I found the container too heavy to easily pick up and pour so I used a soup ladle to scoop off the whey.
  3. When most of the whey is in another container - my batch yielded about 4 litres of whey - you have start filling the moulds.
  4. Place the moulds on a sterile draining rack that will allow the whey to drain off. I used the draining rack from the botton of a plastic container and placed it over a bowl. I supported the rack on both sides of the bowl and with a small upturned bowl in the middle. The four liitres/quarts of milk I used filled two moulds.
  5. Fill them right to the top and wait a short while for the whey to drain off. Pour this whey into your containers. Don't waste it. Keep filling the moulds until they reach the top of the moulds and you've used all the curds.
  6. Let the moulds drain for an hour.

Pour or scoop off the whey from the curds and store it in a jar.
When most of the whey is in the jars, start forming the cheese.
This cheese yielded about 1½ litres/quarts of whey. I'll use this for making ricotta.

Turning the moulds:
  1. When the moulds have drained for an hour, you need to turn them over to make sure they drain evenly. Making sure you have very clean hands, gently slide the curds from the mould onto your hand. It should slide out easily. Then turn the curd over and slide it back into the mould.
  2. Now you'll have the curds in the mould again but what was the top is not on the bottom.
  3. Do this every hour for the rest of the day, or about 5 or 6 times.
  4. Allow the moulds to sit on the rack and drain overnight. I put mine in the microwave and closed the door.
Load the moulds to the top and let them drain into a bowl. Save the whey.
I took the cheese out of the moulds too soon. Let them stay in the moulds overnight and remove them in the morning.

Salting the cheese:
  1. The next morning you can remove the cheese from the moulds and salt it.
  2. Use good salt - kosher or pure sea salt - sprinkle it all over the cheese and rub it in slightly.
Maturing the cheese:
  1. Place the cheese on a rack in a sterile box that will fit in your fridge or cheese cave. You need a humid coolish environment for the moulds to develop. The cheese needs air for the bacteria and moulds to develop - so don't keep the lid on the container.
  2. Set the temperature at between 8 - 10C and place an open container of water in the fridge to increase humidity. If you think the humidity level isn't high enough, place moist cheesecloth or cotton cloth in the fridge. You could also use a spray bottle of boiled water that has cooled down and spray the inside of the fridge.
  3. It will take about 14 days for the cheese to be fully covered with white mould but you'll probably notice it growing at the end of the first week.
  4. When you see the first signs of white mould, turn the cheese over.
  5. When the white mould is completely covering the cheese, wrap them in cheese wrap and continue to mature the cheese at 8 - 10C for another 3 - 4 weeks.

White mould not growing?
If, after a week, the white mould doesn't grow, you'll need to provide more humidity. Place the cheese inside a plastic box that has a drainage rack. Place a small amount of boiled cool water in the base, place the rack in, put the cheese on the rack and close the lid. This is important: every 2 days, open the lid to allow fresh air in, then close the lid again.

What sort of milk?
Almost all fresh milk can be used - whole milk, skim milk, goat or cow's milk. I used raw milk but if you can't get that, look for unhomogenised milk at the shop. If you can't get that, use plain pasturised milk.

It's best to start your cheesemaking in the morning. It will take all day to make camembert but most of that time is waiting for the next step; the actual hands-on work takes about an hour.

The amount of milk I used will give you about 1½ litres/quarts of whey. Don't throw it out, it's a valuable food full of beneficial bacteria. Store your whey in a preserving/canning jar. It will keep well in the fridge for at least three months. I'm going to make ricotta with this whey and it will sit happily in the fridge until I have time to do it.

I hope I've encouraged you towards cheesemaking. If you have the right equipment and cultures and a supply of good milk, you can make some very good cheese. It's not too difficult and although some of the processes can be time consuming, most of that time is waiting for the whey to drain or for the curds to set. It's another great skill that will add to the delicious and simple foods you can place on the table for your family and friends.

This is my favourite cheese site - Fankhauser's Cheese Page
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