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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A First Foray into Soft-Ripened Cheeses

After watching a video on YouTube, i decided it was time to put away my fears and tackle Camembert cheese.  It was remarkably easy, but the final outcome is still to be seen.  That shouldn't take very long, as it ripens for only 3 to 4 weeks.

First I had to sterilize all my equipment.  I did this by putting measuring spoons, stirring spoon, modified whisk (thanks to Jim Wallace of for this tip), ladle, stainless steel measuring cup, and long bladed knife, all in my stainless steel 1 gallon cooking pot, covering as well as possible with the lid, and steaming everything for 5 minutes.

Goat milk generally takes lower temperatures than cow milk, so next I heated 1 gallon of raw goat milk to  86° F.   Once it was there, I sprinkled 1/4 tsp of Flora Danica, 1/8 tsp of Penicillium candidum, and a tiny pinch of Geotricum candidum over the surface of the milk, let it set for a couple of minutes, then stirred it in well, covered it, and l let it set for 90 minutes.

I generally use DVI cultures from The Dairy Connection, but I've also purchased cheesemaking supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply, TheCheesemaker, and Glengarry,, and there are many more places to find what you need, so shop around for the best prices (including shipping) and order what you need all at once.

After it had ripened, I diluted 6 drops of double strength vegetable rennet in 1/4 cup cool water, and stirred it thoroughly into the milk.  I let it set until I had a "clean break" at about 60 minutes.

Now it was time to cut the curd.  I did this with my long knife for the vertical cuts, and then switching to the wire whisk for the horizontal cuts, making 1/2 inch - 1 inch curds.

 Here's where Camembert  is so much easier than other cheeses I've made!  No stirring, no heating!  Just let the curds settle for about 10 minutes, remove the whey until it barely covers the curds, and ladle the curds into prepared molds.  I had bought one brie/camembert mold, but needed two, so I got a piece of 4-inch inside diameter PVC pipe, drilled some 1/8-inch drainage holes in it, cleaned it up well, and voil√†! another mold!

The curds should be ladled slowly and allowed to drain.  I alternated between the two molds and had just enough to fill them both.  I set mine on bamboo sushi mats, set atop of shallow pans to catch the whey as it drained.

The curds drained quickly.  After an hour, put another mat on top, pick up the mold, and quickly but gently flip it. This was easier than I anticipated.  The curds quickly fell to the bottom to continue draining.  The cheese is flipped 5 times, with an hour in between.

Here they are, both of my cheeses, as I lifted off the molds after the last flip.  They hold their shape nicely and are ready to be salted lightly on all sides.

And here's one salted wheel just before I put it into a cool, humid room to form a rind.  The cheese needs to be turned every day and kept at the correct temperature (45°F) and humidity (90%) to ripen the interior.  Since I have a primitive setup at best, it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

My cheese "cave", for the present, is a styrofoam container with holes in the top and a wide bowl with water in it to keep the humidity high enough.  Time will tell if it develops properly.

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