Recently I was contacted by Luke Dolby from Cheeseandyogurtmaking.com about the possibility of having guest post on the site. After some deliberations I decided have Luke be our first guest blogger, as his topic was on milk and the importance of it with cheese making. I will include a little about cheeseandyogurtmaking.com and Luke at the end of his post, here is the usual disclaimer
Disclaimer – Much To Do About Cheese and Ian Treuer have not been compensated or paid for the following post. The opinions express are that of the writer and are not necessarily those of Much To Do About Cheese or Ian Treuer.
MILK IN CHEESE by Luke Dolby
As the owner of a cheese making Supply Company, we are asked every day about milk. So we’ve tied up some nuggets of information into one post for people dipping their toe into cheesemaking- enjoy…
This next sentence is kinda obvious yet worth stressing. Great milk makes great cheese. Period. Great cheese NEEDS great milk. Making a basic soft cheese using regular store milk, a dash of salt…sure, that gets you on the road. But to develop your skills and your range of cheeses, we need to start at the source. While as babies we lived on the stuff, understanding milk is a little more than child’s play.
Milk is mainly water. Roughly 86-88% of milk is water and our job is to heat it, press it, drain it, salt it and age it to flush out the H2O. What you leave behind in cheese, the goodies, are called milk solids. These solids consist of minerals, fats (butterfats), sugars (lactose), proteins (casein) and vitamins.
There is a secondary protein in milk called albumin and this is released at higher temperatures. This secondary release of curd from whey is what makes ricotta. Hence ricotta literally means “recooked”. And thus you just gained one smarty-pants point.
The fat contributes to the richness and final flavor of the cheese. Understanding the fat content of milk is therefore worth knowing, yet it varies considerably from animal to animal. To keep this realistic, we’re presuming our dear reader is not a yak-herder or buffalo farmer. Apologies to any camel breeders too- yes you can make cheese from these three animals but we will focus on the main three available to the mainstream.
This milk tends to be creamy and sweet, with a fat content of around 3.5%. Most milk on the market comes from our bovine friends and while fairly low in fat content, is cheap to buy and available all year round. Most milk in North America comes from Holstein cows, however other breeds, especially Jersey, produce what many believe is superior milk for cheeses. Cows’ milk does not freeze well as the cream separates.
An animal’s diet affects flavor and butterfat content. As animals switch from pasture in the summer to winter fodder (silage and grain) their milk changes with it. If you have your own animals or access to a local farm source, the seasonal subtleties of milk flavors will be more apparent than store-bought milk.
This milk tastes, as you will know if you’ve tried it, different. It has a more tangy flavor and a shade more butterfat, around 4% or so. Goats’ milk has small fat globules (compared to cows), meaning it is effectively naturally homogenized, forming a softer curd. This means you may need to add calcium chloride or stick to soft cheeses. The upside is it is easier to digest. Goat cheese is also known as chèvre and producers a lighter colored cheese than other animals. This milk freezes well. Many lactose intolerant people find they can stomach milk and cheese from goats.
A rich golden color and offering up a whopping 7-8% butterfat, sheep milk is high in protein but produces much lower volumes. Getting hold of it in many states can prove difficult. The upside is you get a higher yield per gallon and need less rennet too. Famous sheep cheeses include Manchego from Spain, Roquefort from France and the Italian Pecorino Romano (‘pecora’ is Italian for sheep). Beware- this milk IS high in lactose. This milk freezes well.
Raw milk is a BIG issue right now. It literally is milk from the udder and…. that’s it. The crucial thing is this milk is NOT pasteurized, and that is the crux of the argument fought in legal battles here in the United States(And in Canada Too – Ian). Raw milk could make you ill, and is to be avoided by the elderly, the young and the pregnant. Cheese made from raw milk must be aged for 60 days to be legal to eat as this aging kills the dangerous bacteria (pathogens) potentially present in raw milk.
So why not just pasteurize milk and avoid the risk? Because the artisans out there, the purists, want the flavor. And they feel you only get that with raw milk. Heating and homogenizing affects the milk and ultimately their final work of art- and they ain’t having it!!! We advise, starting out, that you pasteurize your milk. See….
This milk has been heated to a set temperature for a fixed period, then allowed to cool. We can thank Mr Pasteur for this through his microbiology work in the 19th century. This milk, unhomogenized, is still great (and safe) for making cheese and will form great curds without the need for calcium chloride. The flavor will still be great too if you get great tasting milk, but undoubtedly some will be lost due to some damage to the enzymes and vitamins in the raw milk. This is still worth doing, however, for novice cheese makers. Managing raw milk responsibly requires experience and skill and as this is a beginner guide to cheese making, caution comes first. Sorry to lecture, but E. coli and Salmonella are no joke.
Ultra-pasteurized (Ultra-heat Treated)
Now this milk sucks. For mozzarella it’s unusable. A lot of milk today has received this extra heat treatment so it lasts longer on store shelves. More money for Walmart et al, not so good for lowly cheesemakers like you and I. Check the label in the store if that is where you have to go, and make sure you buy only pasteurized. Buy the ultra mango lipbalm, or that ultra nose-trimmer you’ve been eying up. But keep ‘ultra’ out of your milk.
Skim (Non-fat) Milk
This type of milk is obviously popular for the health conscious, but for cheese making it has a specific benefit. It is great for grating cheeses (I hope twice in a sentence doesn’t grate), especially hard Italian cheeses like Parmesan and Romano. Yes, you ‘can’ use this for making a healthier soft cheese too… but your yield will be less than whole milk and you won’t get the richness and creaminess either compared to its full-fat cousin.
Unfortunately again, most milk is also homogenized and tracking down non-homogenized milk in most stores can be tricky. Persist if you can. This fairly recent process breaks down the fat globules in milk (not goats remember, they manage that themselves!). The reason for this is so the lumps of butterfat don’t form at the top of the milk (remember that back in the day?) and so the big store chains get consistency in their milk. It’s what the consumer wants, right? Well, like ultra-pasteurized milk, homogenization sucks for cheese makers as it forms a weaker curd. Add a drop of calcium chloride to this milk to firm up your curd, just as we recommend for some goats’ cheeses.
How to Pasteurize Milk
If you get raw milk from a local supply, here’s what to do. Heat your milk to 145°F (65°C) and maintain it there for 30 minutes. Use a double boiler or large pan for this and stir to prevent a film forming on top. Cool the milk down quickly- a simple way is to fill your sink with ice-cold water and place the pan into it to bring down the temperature quickly. Store it at around 40°F in your fridge if you are not using right away. This will now be safe to produce fresh cheese and the 60 day rule for aging cheeses no longer applies.
Lactose has gotten a lot bad press lately. But it’s nothing really new. For centuries the Chinese have recoiled at the very thought of it. Only those crazy Barbarian Europeans would eat rotting milk! But now new milk brands on our shelves promote lactose-free milk. However, lactose is THE vital sugar that starts the fermentation process so DO NOT buy lactose-free when choosing your milk.
Luke Dolby is from Kent England, where cheeseandyogurtmaking.com has been run by his family for the past 30 years, and recently moved to the United States to head up their new operation located in New Jersey. Cheeseandyogurtmaking.com is new to the North American market and carries variety of cheese and yogurt making supplies. Luke has graciously offered a discount code for Much To Do About Cheese readers. It is MTDABOUTCHEESE and is valid From 6/11/13 to 12/31/13. *Limit one use per customer, cannot be combined with other offers.
Go and make cheese.