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Thread: Cheeses and fermented foods

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Cheeses and fermented foods

    I've not seen many threads on home made cheeses and fermented foods and I'm not sure why. I've begun to play with this area of food preservation and I'm absolutely LOVING the results!

    For example, I no longer make regular canned pickles because the water in my area causes the pickles to be soggy in addition to new USDA guidelines causing over processing of foods. Additionally, recipes can't seem to get their acts together with regard for correct amount of spices, water and even processes. The Ball Blue book instructions for pickles leave a LOT to be desired when it comes to how to handle a brined cucumber.

    I'm now playing with brined fermented cucumbers for pickles and am getting absolutely AWESOME results, and it's a lot easier.

    For fermenting, I made my own vinegar from apples this year. Now I want to play with wines too..and beer, eventually distilling liquors.

    Finally, to complete the topic, cheeses. Who doesn't LOVE cheeses? Some don't, but if you're a cheese lover, there's nothing like a well made cheese, and it can be very expensive to buy. The cost of milk on the other hand has become very reasonable making cheeses very cost effective if you're in a position to have to purchase milk to make it.

    Cheeses are relatively EASY to make, but they can be a bit time consuming. The cultures needed for the various types of cheeses can be difficult to find as most grocery stores simply don't carry the packeted powdered cultures. But the good news is that often times, those cultures are VERY easy to find in any grocery store for some cheese types.

    Secondly, hard cheeses need to be aged and to do that, temperature controlled environments are necessary since different cheeses need varying temperatures, and even humidity. It's not like everybody has a cave offering French conditions for Roqford lol! However, modern technology DOES offer wine coolers, teeny refrigerators and even large ones where you can moderate temps for cheeses.

    Youtube is a HUGE help for cheese makers/making as I've recently discovered. I didn't know that different cheeses need different curd sizes. I even found a ton of instructions for building a home made cheese press which can be a pricey item to purchase when ready made, as well as lots of fudged up ideas for molds too.

    Soft cheeses are very easy to make, and are often ready over night. Things like cultured buttermilk and yogurt are very easy, and the cultures are readily available in any grocery store. There's even a sliceable solid herb cheese that's ready over night and sometimes if you make one cheese, the ingredients are immediately made available for another. Take Ricotta for example. I learned that the word ricotta means 'twice cooked'. When you cut the curd from a pan of cheese, it makes a greenish juice that when separated from the way, gets reboiled. The white stuff that forms on the top of this boiled whey is ricotta! Who knew it???!!

    So, this is all a process of discovery for me, and I'm excited by what I'm learning and thought it could be a fun thread over time as it builds with recipes, discoveries and experiences.

    I'll post again with something I learned about cultured buttermilk and how to make a mesophillic culture. My knowledge is limited so if anybody has info and teachings...please!!! Add to this thread!

    I like simplicity with gourmet results. In otherwords, I have a champagne appetite but less than a tallboy beer budget so do it yourself counts for a bunch.

    Oh and wine making. I want to learn that too and I don't want to use packaged wine mixes. How did they make fruit wines in the old days before chemicals were invented? Where can I find calcium carbonate easily? (used for cheeses) Potassium chloride is easy...cream of tarter, or a salt substitute called 'no salt'.

    Grapes don't need added nutrients..they are the 'perfect' fruit for wines, and even come complete with their own yeast. No wonder God makes such a big deal about wine..there's an object lesson/pattern there to be had for us. But other fruits need nutrients in addition to yeast. Are there recipes in old books where those nutrients were provided from natural sources without having to resort to a brewery store to acquire them?

    Thanks for reading, and I hope we have a fun and useful thread!
    As an American you have the right to not believe in guns. You also have the right to not believe in God. But if someone is trying to break into your home, or wants to harm you, the first thing you will do is pick up the phone and call someone with a gun. The second thing you will do is pray that they get there in time. ~Don Moore

  2. #2
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    Several years ago, a friend of mine had a very thick pocket book which contained some old information. I was thumbing through it one day..about 25 years ago or so..and happened across a page that talked about the culture used to make cultured buttermilk was the same culture used to make cheddar cheese. I never did get to read beyond that tidbit of info, but the tidbit stayed with me all these years. So, the other day I looked it up on line. What a huge blessing the web can be! Yep, the culture is a 'mesophillic' culture. This bacteria doesn't like it hot..just barely warm.

    Another type of bacteria used is called a Thermophillic culture meaning..heat loving. Each category, mesophillic and thermophillic is made of different bacterias which produce different flavors of cheeses. The bacteria in cultured buttermilk is used for making cheddar and colby cheeses among others. Just to get this all started, I'm focusing on cheddar and simple stuff because cheddar is such a widely used cheese, and from the looks of it, pretty easy to make, too. The longest part of the process is the ageing; 6-9 months.

    I wanted some buttermilk for making some bisquits and happened to notice that a half gallon was only $1.59 at Braums. I love Braums dairy products, and they happened to be on sale last week so I picked up a gallon of milk, some ice cream (a rare treat at my house) and the buttermilk.

    I learned (on line)that the bacteria content in cultured buttermilk is too low to use right out of the bottle, but that you can make a cheese culture from it that CAN be used in cheese, AND you can even make more buttermilk! I LIKE that idea because I'm not always in a position to run to a store, and often do have at least powdered milk on hand.

    All that was needed was to take 2 cups of the cultured buttermilk and put it into a clean container and let it sit in a warm place for 8-12 hours. The milk thickens and clabbers a little. Then, pour the culture into an icecube tray, freeze and put the frozen cubes into a freezer container. I used a plastic freezer bag. One cube equals one oz of culture for a cheese. When you need more, you take a cube and add it to a couple of cups of milk, let it ferment, and freeze the results as you did the first batch.

    Well, I happened to have an oz or two left after filling the ice cube tray so I added that tidbit to a couple of cups of whole milk. After 10 hours, it wasn't ready so I put a loose piece of saran wrap over the top, and placed it on top of my hotwater heater in my utility closet, for the rest of the day. Last night I checked it and it was ready! I'd used whole milk with this culture so the result was this beautiful, thick, creamy substance that reminded me somewhat of a high quality, full cream yogurt. And my goodness was it ever delicious. So, I put what I could into an ice cube tray to freeze, and the two oz left over went into the fridge for my breakfast.

    I added my favorite sweetening agent although it really wasn't necessary in terms of flavor, I needed the sugar boost (diabetic). To it I added one sliced giant strawberry that I'd slightly thawed in the microwave..just enough to easly slice it. Mixed it with the culture ...best yogurt I've EVER had! It wasn't tart/sour like most commercial yogurts..but it had that tartness which tasted GOOD. I'm not a tart lover lol! But this had a wonderful flavor. The milk I used was ordinary milk from Aldi's...nothing fancy.

    For cheeses, don't use the ultra pasturized milk. Even after pasturizing milk, there's still a bit of bacteria left and this is needed for cheeses. Ultra pasturizing kills it all and for cheeses which depend on the presence of bacteria, ultra pasturization is not something we want.

    I HAVE made yougurt in the past too utilizing a live culture, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt. I've used Mountain High and Dannon, but neither of them gave me the superior results that i got from Braum's cultured buttermilk.

    I used the milk for this batch of culture strait from the fridge. I didn't warm it or any thing, just mixed in the 2 oz or so of culture into the cold milk and called it good. I don't know what the results would be if I warmed the milk first before adding the culture. I'm not saying the results would be bad...but they could produce a slightly different flavor or texture as well as different ripening times.

    I'm going to stop here for now and will add more as I have it.
    As an American you have the right to not believe in guns. You also have the right to not believe in God. But if someone is trying to break into your home, or wants to harm you, the first thing you will do is pick up the phone and call someone with a gun. The second thing you will do is pray that they get there in time. ~Don Moore

  3. #3
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    I found an interesting use for the culture since I've not been able to make cheeses yet. I have to order some stuff online since I can't get it locally like cheese rennet and calcium chloride.

    In the mean time, I made a carrot cake and thought I had some cream cheese in the fridge. I didn't. So, I made my usual butter cream frosting which consists of butter, sometimes some shortening, confectioner's sugar, vanilla and milk.

    I like to use canned milk in my butter cream frosting as it adds a richness of flavor, but carrot cake stands out best if cream cheese is used and I would have used that instead of shortening..and didn't have the cream cheese as mentioned.

    SO, I took about 1/4 cup of canned milk and added 2 cubes of the frozen culture and let the culture thaw, mixed it well into the milk and used THAT to moisten the frosting ...viola I had cream cheese flavor in the frosting without adding a drop of cream cheese! It was excellent! It was pretty surprising lol!

    Nobody experiments with cheese making or fermented foods?
    As an American you have the right to not believe in guns. You also have the right to not believe in God. But if someone is trying to break into your home, or wants to harm you, the first thing you will do is pick up the phone and call someone with a gun. The second thing you will do is pray that they get there in time. ~Don Moore

  4. #4
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    Cheese is the next thing on my list. Am following your post with interest .
    A few months back I found a site with tons of great info....unfortunately I was using my smart phone to download info along with my notes...the phone died and my data couldn't be restored...Been searching for it since on and off with no luck...It was put up by a farming family in NE, they sold rennet, molds, etc etc, and provided their own recipes for dozens of cheeses, along with pics of the processes. The lady of the house was referred to as 'the cheese queen' or some such. I'll post it when I eventually find it.
    Those that I want to try first, are naturally the easiest to make, ricotta, mozzarella ( for smoking) and brie, which is surprisingly easy to make.
    There's a small dairy farm not too far from me which uses organic practices and sells cow and goat milk at a local farmers mart, that what I'll try. Milk sources were one of the most valuable features of the post...apparently many perhaps most producers heat their milk in excess of recommendations for pasteurization, this makes the milk inappropriate for cheese making, and with the help of readers they maintain a list of milk producers whose milk will make good cheese.

  5. #5
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    If you want to look at simple, old fashioned cheesemaking, check out The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher. He uses kefir as the culture to all his cheese, but only if not using fresh from the animal milk. Fresh, raw milk has all the cultures needed to make cheese. Most, not all, cheeses become what kind they are according to how they are treated after coming out of the mold. How they are aged, washed, not washed, etc. It's so much easier and affordable than buying cultures all the time!

  6. #6
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    I've been making cheese pretty steadily for the past couple of years... it probably sounds odd, but when we were milking 50 cows, we really couldn't afford to take milk out of the tank for "experiments" or anything except house milk, so I never did much with it. Now that I have this lovely little Dexter-Jersey milk cow, who gives about 6% butterfat milk, I've been having a blast.

    First, BE CAREFUL to find NON "ultra-pasteurized" milk for making cheese. It simply doesn't work- the flash heating they do denatures the proteins enough that it won't form curds, or otherwise just makes an expensive mess. Sadly, most milk is ultra pasteurized these days (extends the shelf life), and even some that's not labeled "ultrapastuerized" still may have been flash heated to far higher temps than they used to use. So you may have to experiment with various brands before you find one that will work.

    Cheddar, etc can be tricky, but most of all, they're just plain time consuming. You can easily take 5-7 hours to make a wheel of cheddar using the traditional methods! However, in Ricki Carroll's classic "Cheesemaking made Easy" book, there is a recipe for "farmhouse cheddar" which is a stirred curd cheese, and it makes a nice cheese, although maybe not quite as good as the "long version".

    The absolute easiest cheese to make is mozzerella. Use Ricki's "30 minute mozzarella" recipe, and you'll be amazed. I absolutely love the stuff... I often heat a couple slices up in the microwave to just take the chill off, and eat it for a quick snack. I do strongly recommend you buy the lipase powder and use it- you don't need much, but it definitely gives much better flavor to the cheese, especially if you are using commercial milk. Fresh, raw milk from a pastured cow has a much fuller flavor profile, but it still benefits from the lipase powder.

    Next easiest (except, of course, for yogurt or queso blanco is cream cheese. It's an overnight cheese, but the amount of time actually spent on the job is mere minutes. Ricki's site is THE best cheesemaking reference site on the web. http://www.cheesemaking.com/

    You can find most of the recipes in her book in the "recipes" section of the web site, including the farmhouse cheddar, mozzarella, etc.

    Now, wine...

    PLEASE, if you really want to do this, start with a kit. Once you learn the basics of how it should work (and what a good fermentation looks like, etc) then you can move on to country wines (which is what they call pretty much everything except wine made from varietal grapes). I've never had a problem with a kit wine (and they can be fantastic- I made a batch of watermelon mist wine for our youngest son's wedding, along with 5 gallons of Liebfraumilch. It's the only reception I've ever seen where people were STEALING the wine on the way out!)

    I've had excellent results buying from these guys: http://www.eckraus.com

    Their website also has a ton of reference and troubleshooting guides.

    I've got a wine rack in our cool basement full of assorted wines- most are "country wines" like apple-peach, spiced peach (this is probably gone... I made it by putting a couple sticks of cinnamon and a few chunks of candied ginger in the wine carboy when I racked it off the first time. It was amazing), pear-white grape, and some really interesting blueberry. The funny thing is, we're not really drinkers... but a glass of chilled mist wine on a hot summer evening, or a glass of the spiced peach on a cold winter night never goes amiss...

    Lost... while fresh raw milk certainly does contain a lot of lactobacillus, and you certainly CAN make cheese with just rennet, the commercial cultures (which aren't *that* expensive, and if you are making a lot of cheese, you can buy the commercial cultures which are a little trickier to measure for small batches, but which cuts the cost per pound of cheese down a LOT. Our milk has always been so biologically active that we could make "yogurt" (actually, "clabbered milk", as for yogurt, you first scald the milk to 180 and then cool it before adding the cultures, which helps keep it "whole" and not end up as "curds and whey" in the fridge) simply by setting a stainless steel pail of milk next to the hot water heater in the milk house overnight. The next morning, it would be solid curd from top to bottom.

    The most important thing about using cultures is they can rapidly reproduce, and that helps keep any potentially "bad" bacteria from becoming the dominant strain.

    I'm not saying not to experiment with "natural" methods, but milk isn't THAT cheap, and if you want to make hard cheeses, you won't know if your method is working for several months. Could get pretty expensive.

    Summerthyme

  7. #7
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    Well, I've been making cheese daily for almost 8 years now and have reliably made a sort of cheddar from fresh out of the goat milk. I have also made the best mozzarella that way. Fresh from the animal, put in rennet, cut the curd and then let sit til it stretches in hot water. Usually takes all day to reach that point.

    If you have clean, fresh milk and provide it with the right conditions, it'll be fine. Working with raw milk and fermented foods requires a different mind set. Those foods are alive and don't get bad, per se, they just change. And don't be afraid of mold, it's an integral part of cheese. Just look at bandaged cheddar.

    There is sooo much more involved in cheese than lactobacillus! If in doubt, use kefir, it also has both mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria. If using store milk, use kefir. I have not always got the cheese I was after (both with commercial cultures and with raw milk) but it has always been a tasty cheese.

  8. #8
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    Thank-you so much for your input.

    What do you do for a cheese ''cave''?
    As an American you have the right to not believe in guns. You also have the right to not believe in God. But if someone is trying to break into your home, or wants to harm you, the first thing you will do is pick up the phone and call someone with a gun. The second thing you will do is pray that they get there in time. ~Don Moore

  9. #9
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    I have an older, small fridge that I keep at about 50F and keep a pan of water to keep proper humidity.

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