Month: March 2012

Just the Vat Ma’am.

One question that I do not get that often, is what do you make your cheese in?  I am surprised that people do now ask me this.  They are curious to know what type of cheese I make or they want to know how I shape the cheese, but what I make it in…not so much.  I use a “Cheese Vat” , well to be honest I use two different set-up of double boilers that can be called “Vats” in the most liberal sense only.  Which one I use will depend on how much milk I am going to use.  One is a converted counter top roaster, and the other is a simple double boiler.  There are pros and cons to both of them and I would like to share.

Most cheeses are supposed to be made using indirect heat, the commercial creameries will use either steam or hot water to heat the vat so that the milk will not be scalded.  This would be excellent if I could get one of these vats that would only process up to 10 gallons or 40 litres of milk, but alas my house and my wallet would not take it. The simplest way is to use a stainless steel pot and a sink full of hot water.  You just keep adding the hot water to the sink-to warm the pot-to warm the milk.  This is fine but can be costly if you have to pay for your water.  The next way is to use a double boiler set up, similar to the one used for melting chocolate.



Two Pillows and a Havarti

On Sunday I decided to make some more cheese.  I had 14 litres of good quality milk that was just screaming to be made into a cheese, or three in this case.  I started at about 1:45 PM, normally I start about 10:00 AM, but we were out for a family drive so it had to wait, it turned out to be a good make.  I used the Havarti recipe in “Artisan Cheese Making at Home” by Mary Karlin.  Normally I have used the recipe from 200 Easy Homemade Cheeses, but I figured this was a good opportunity to try this recipe out.  I did make one change to the recipe, the book said to brine the cheese after it came out of the press, I dry salted the cheeses instead.  I am quite happy with the results.  I ended up getting two small 1 lb cheeses and one 3 lb cheese.  I plan on doing a different treatment to each cheese.  I will explain with each one.

A New Irish Dane in the Makine


Moulding The Future Of Your Cheese.

Once you have gone through the effort of making your cheese, dealing with the rennet, the culture, fussing over temperatures, then next step is to mould and press/drain your cheese.  You could spend lots of money on commercial style moulds, and there is nothing wrong with that, but what happens if you decide that cheese making is not for you?  You are stuck with a $95 Kadova mould and what would you do with it?  You now have an expensive planter.  (By the way if you have one you don’t want let me know and I will take it off your hands.)  My solution is to use your own home made moulds until you decide it is time to move up to a commercial mould or heaven forbid give up the cheese.

I have used everything from old margarine containers(cleaned of course) to Dixie Cups.  You can use anything you want as long as it falls into this very important category, it MUST be FOOD SAFE, it should have this symbol on it.  This means that food can come in contact with it. I often look at what is in the container, are the crackers in packages in the box, is the food actually touching the container.  This symbol to the left will often be on European products or those from Asia.  There are symbols for plastic that have the arrows in a triangle and a number in the centre, you are looking for one that has a 5 in the centre.  When in doubt don’t use it!  If you are looking at other containers look for one that is stainless steel.  Most cookie tins are made from stainless steel, such as the Danish Butter Cookie tins that I use.

Moulds have holes in the them to allow whey to drain during the pressing time, so how do I get my holes in them?  It is simple with the metal ones I used a hammer and a nail.  I punched holes from the inside out, this is important because you don’t want any burs catching your cheese cloth and this provides the channels for the whey to flow in the right directions.  As for the plastic container I used a drill, but I made the mistake of drilling from the outside in, I have since learned that you can use a hot nail to melt holes into the plastic (I am leery to try this), but I then used a micro plane to smooth the burs out.  For the tins I use a plastic lid as a follower (what you put the weights on) and for the large plastic box I made a follower out of the lid.  Like any mould you must care for these, if you are careful you can get many uses out of the plastic one, but if the metal ones start to rust, then throw them out.  You must sterilize then prior to each use, but check them a few days before your next make so that you are not scrambling to find a mould the day of.

My Cookie Tin Mould from the top

This is the bottom
This is plastic lid used as a follower and the weights can sit on top
This is my bid plastic box, some times it is hip to be square.
There still are some burs, but they go down with each use.

 I have seen some people use berry containers, others use a plastic clamshell that had muffins in it.  Use your imagination and make some good cheese.