Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, March 30, 2008


When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

After working with soft cheeses, mozzarellas and hard cow cheeses, I began the next phase of my life as a cheese maker today. Camembert is one of the most basic of the mold-ripened cheese to make. It’s the first step down the road to perdition more complex cheeses- the Bries, the blues, and the stinky stuff like Limburger. If all goes well, it will be my first cheese to develop a rind.

Adding mold to milk that has been ripened with a bacterial culture

The recipe that I used calls for not one but two different kinds of white mold. Pennicillium candidum provides the white powdery surface characteristic of cheeses like Brie. Geotrichum candidum is supposed to help prevent the skin from slipping off of mold ripened cheeses. Since I’m a complete noob here, I thought I’d take the more cautious route and include both.

The curds gave a great clean break. I'm just about to cut them here.

The process begins as it does for other cheeses I’ve made. I heated 2 gallons milk and inoculated it with a culture of starter bacteria. In this case, It’s a new kind of starter (Flora Danica) but used just like a regular mesophilic culture. Next I added some of the mixed molds. The molds come in little foil pouches, just like yeast. You add them to a quart of water in a sprayer bottle the night before you begin making the cheese. Then the rennet went in.

These curds were very easy to work with. They held together well, then sank below the surface (as shown here), making the whey easy to pour off.

I’m pleased to say that I got a very nice clean break from this cheese. The curds cut up beautifully and shrank nicely in an expanding pot of whey. Placing the curds in the mold was a bit different than what I’ve experienced before. All of the molded cheeses that I have tried before are pressed. Not so with these guys. They just settle into the molds under their own weight. You create a mold sandwich. Layer one is a cheese board. I don’t have any at the moment, so I improvised with a foam plate. Layer 2 is a cheese mat. I used sushi mats. Layer 3 is the mold itself, which you fill with curds before addling layers 4 and 5, another cheese mat and foam plate.

The start of a mold sandwich. The curds willl be ladled in next.

The molds site for an hour and then get flipped. All the while, they continue to release whey and compress. The curds knit together into a single, solid mass. You flip them several times, incubating an hour in between each flip.

Before the first flip. You can tell that the molds haven't been flipped yet because there's no imprint from the cheese mat on the surface of the curds. Between the molds hangs draining goat cheese that I made last night.

After the final flip, the cheeses are unmolded and sprinkled with salt. After it dissolves, they are sprayed very lightly with the mold mixture that’s in the sprayer bottle. There will be a couple more minor steps this week, but mostly it’s now down to aging for a couple of months.

Unmolded, salted, spritzed with white mold and ready for aging

I’ve been writing this blog entry as I have been making the cheese. At this point, my biggest surprise is how easy this one has been. Hard cheese involves a lot of very fussy temperature control. Mostly done in a sink full of warm water. In many cases you have to increase the temperature by a degree or two a minute over a half hour or 45 minutes. It’s my least favorite aspect of cheese making, so I enjoy not having to worry about that here. Having been through the whole process, the Bible verse that I chose to lead in on now seems really hyperdramatic. This was way easier than I expected. At least so far.

I’ll blog about the results later this spring.



At 21:49, Blogger Ur-spo said...

that looks so much fun.

At 05:34, Blogger Tommy said...

so do tell, where do u store the cheese for aging.

as always...great to read the blog

At 06:40, Blogger BentonQuest said...

Ok, I will admit it, I am a cheese Luddite. I like just grabbing a package from the store cooler and noshing!

But good luck! You are a far better man than I!

At 08:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me:I bought this cheese Wednesday and it is already moldy!
Hubby:Didn't you know that cheese gets it's flavor from the mold?
Me: YUCK! You can eat the mold. I'll starve.

I love when you post about cheese, your my cheeseman!

At 12:14, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Spo- It was lots of fun

Tommy- Some of my cheese gets aged in an unheated part of my basement that we're using as a wine cellar. I'm aging these cheeses in an old bar fridge that's in my basement. I can set it to 45°, which is what Cambmbert should be aged at.

Ben- I would have thought that the Luddite version would be the low tech one where you make your own. But whatever. The main drawback to making your own cheese is that it's very time intensive.

Butterfly Girl- So I take it you won't eat blue cheese, either. You do know what the blue is, don't you? Should I warn you about drinks like Campari and Snapple Strawberry Kiwi?

At 12:14, Blogger Homer said...

Rennet- animal or microbial? I have to read the cheese packages at Trader Joe's to get the microbial ones.

At 15:38, Blogger rodger said...

Your basement is going to smell very interesting in a short while.

I remember visiting a cheese factory in Napa Valley many years ago. They specialized in ripe cheeses and after spending an hour in their basement, I was too sick to my stomach to try the samples afterward.

Yours look really good, I can't wait to hear how they turn out.

At 19:06, Anonymous Mark H said...

See, that's why you have LONG winters in Chicago, so you can stay inside and make cheese! We are going to require a cooling machine before we move to this stage. We have no basement, nowhere temps stay steady except in the fridge which is too cold. Thanks for reminding me of that next cheese toy we must get.

At 19:07, Blogger Lemuel said...

I enjoy your posts on your cheese making.

At 21:00, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Homer- This was animal rennet, though I have also used vegetable. A lot of microbial rennetis transgenic.

Rodger- I haven't had any problems with the basement smelling yet. But I am getting into the smellier cheeses here, so you may be right.

Mark- I'm aging these in an old bar fridge set to 45.

Lem- Thanks.

At 21:36, Blogger Chris said...

Wow that looks great, I've never seen it in steps before, thanks for sharing! You slice a piece and I'll pour the wine!

At 21:41, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Chris- Sounds goo. I;ve made winde before, too. It's also a lot of fun.


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