Gossamer Tapestry

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

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Camembert on a Winter Saturday

What better way to spend a very cold winter weekend than by making cheese? I love the fact that even a fairly involved cheese like Camembert has such simple ingredients: milk, bacterial culture, mold culture, rennet, and salt. I've previously blogged about the milk that I use for this cheese. This milk requires planning ahead, as it's only available every other week. I order the milk on a Monday, and pick it up a week later. Then I need to keep it in the fridge until the following weekend, because the process takes too long to do in the evening when I get home from work. It's about 8 hours start to finish- though this is mostly long periods of letting it sit, interspersed with brief bouts of activity.

The bacterial and mold cultures do a lot of complex things to the milk (including imparting a lot of the good flavors that will be present in the cheese). I use two species of mold in my Camembert, Pennicillium candidum and Geotrichum candidum. Together these will help form the rind, particularly the white, powdery coating on the outside of the cheese. The rennet is a solution of enzymes, that include a mixture of enzymes that degrade proteins. They clip the long molecular chains of casein, the primary protein in milk. When this happens, the casein transforms from a fairly spherical form to a more linear chain. These chains do not stay in solution well, but form a gel-like semi-solid network. That's the curd. The milk in the photo above has already been converted into curd.

Traditionally, rennet was a mixture of digestive enzymes obtained from the lining of a cow's stomach. I use rennet obtained from a fungal source, so my cheese is OK for vegetarians.

When the curd first forms, it's a single custard-like mass in the pot. I use a long knife to cut it into cubes. Most recipes then involve a period of very gentle stirring. As the curds are stirred, the shrink and give of liquid- that's the whey.The curd cubes become progressively less fragile through this process.

When the curds are ready, I let them sit for a few minutes and settle to the bottom of the pot. This lets me pour a lot of the whey off of them. I ladle the curds into plastic molds. The molds have open tops and bottoms, and small holes all over the sides. As the curds sit in the mold, more liquid is given off and drains awhey (sorry). The curds knit together into a solid mass. For five hours, my role in the process is to flip the molds over hourly. At the end of this time, the rounds of unripe cheese are unmolded, lightly salted, and moved into a wine chiller for aging.

I had my first ever molding failure on this batch. The upper right round of cheese fell apart during the first flip. It will still be good, but I won't serve it to guests (more for me!). This cheese will be ready in about 4 weeks. I wish I had been able to start this batch two weeks earlier in the milk purchasing cycle. Unfortunately, I will not have any home made cheese ready to take with me when I go down to Florida late next week.



At 12:19, Blogger Jim said...

And he makes his own cheese too, lol. Bring some of it along next time you come to visit Red Rock Canyon. And us (hint, hint!)

At 01:54, Blogger wcs said...

Extremely cool.

At 05:27, Blogger Lemuel said...

I always enjoy my mistakes while preparing food! :)

At 08:33, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Whey to go! ;)

At 12:29, Blogger robin andrea said...

Your cheese-making posts are always so interesting and informative. Someday I'm going to try to make a batch of cheese (something easy at first), and I'm going to check out your posts for inspiration.

At 00:20, Blogger Birdernaturalist said...

Wow, that's awesome. Something I'd very much like to do sometime.

At 02:15, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug and his chesse! You are almost as passionate about this as you are about butterflies! In fact, I don't know which one you like better! Good thing you don't have to choose! Have fun in FL!

At 07:01, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Jim- I'll have to take you up on that some time. I'll definitely have cheese with me.

wcs- merci bien.

Lem- It's one of the best things about cooking.

Dave- Groan- but no worse than my bad pun.

Robin- I highly recommend it. I'm more than happy to offer advice and encouragement when you try it.

Rich- Thanks. You should definitely give it a try some time.

Kathie- I agree that it's good that I don't have to choose, but if I did I'd still pick butterflies.

At 13:50, Blogger andy said...

Looks fantastic! Do you use any starter, or just rely on nature?

Camembert has turned into my nemesis cheese - something ALWAYS goes wrong, whether it be flipping, ladelling into moulds or drying out during maturation.

I blog about my cheesemaking too at: http://handyface.wordpress.com

At 22:47, Blogger Ur-spo said...

no cheese? we will have to do the Cheez-Whiz again all thanks to you,.

At 16:14, Blogger Will said...

You are NOT sorry for "drains awhey" and you know you aren't, nor should you be. :-)

My verification word is chill -- rather appropriate for this topic.

At 09:49, Blogger BadgerBear said...

Totally cool. I'm impressed!

At 11:34, Blogger jojo said...

Goats milk!! did you ever try it for your cheesemaking? i'm curious how it would stand up when you make camembert. I tried once. :( outcome horrible and i haven't tried it again. but i don't think it was the milks fault. Partly too timely. partly the hot florida humidity. Mostly, me.

I stumbled on to your blog from Pure FLorida. :)

At 13:37, Blogger Doug Taron said...

jojo- Hi and welcome to the Tapestry. It's always good to encounter another cheesemaker on line. Don't be too quick to give your milk a pass. I have found it very difficult to find goat's milk that is suitable for cheese making. If you are purchasing the goat milk at a store, you are most likely buying milk that has been ultra-pasteurized. The process changes the chemistry of the main milk proteins to the point that they will not make proper curds. I don't yet have a good source of goat milk, so I have been limiting my cheese making activities to cow's milk. Even then, I get much better results when I use raw milk than I get when I use milk from the grocery store.


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